Editor’s Note: This is part 2 in a 2-part series. In the first part, I detailed the moral and ethical obligations journalists have when covering the one-and-done rule. In this post, I shall detail the moral and ethical obligations columnists have when covering one-and-done.
In “What should journalists do about the one-and-done rule,” Wingert (2010) examined journalists’ reactions to the one-and-done rule and the moral and ethical obligations journalists have in regard to this rule. He concluded that journalists have a responsibility, rather than an obligation, to cover one-and-done. In this paper, he shall take that premise one step further, examining columnists’ reactions to the rule and the moral and ethical obligations while covering it. Wingert (2010) said, “The one-and-done rule initiated much fodder for sports columnists and commentators” (p.1). Some of the fodder includes the pros and cons of the rule, as well as various reactions to the rule from players, coaches and officials in the NBA and NCAA.
I believe that columnists, more than journalists, have a moral and ethical obligation to cover one-and-done for several reasons. First, anybody can write and submit a column to a newspaper. Journalism can be a vehicle for changing public policy. Columns, especially those written by people in power, are the best vehicle. Second, columns tend to have a ripple effect. That is, columns tend to garner responses on op-ed pages and, in recent years, in online outlets such as blogs and social media.
Highlighting the fact that columns are often written by those with power or prestige, four columns I shall use include those written by or include quotes from Michael Wilbon, a co-host on ESPN’s Pardon the Interruption; Dick Vitale, an ESPN college basketball analyst; Rick Majerus, a former coach; and Arne Duncan, the U.S. Secretary of Education. Given the status of these columnists, there is an obvious ethical obligation to cover the one-and-done rule.
Wilbon (2009) makes the argument for covering one-and-done — albeit subtly — while simultaneously making the argument against the rule:
And there’s a simple solution for coaches if they don’t want the “one-and-done” players in their programs: Don’t recruit them. Everybody knows who the one-and-done kids are. Every AAU coach, street agent, high school coach, parent and any kid who follows the game in his neighborhood knows who has every intention of putting his name in the draft pool after one season of college basketball. So obviously the college coaches know. If you think it’s a mockery, don’t take the kid. I admire Maryland‘s Gary Williams for just saying no, even if his boosters wanted him to resort to the quick fix (p. D1).
George (2008) has sentiments similar to Wilbon’s:
Parents are the first problem, primarily because they don’t act like parents. They act, too often, like agents. Next come the principals and athletic directors and coaches and teachers and youth recreation leaders who cut corners on grades or attendance or any other minimal requirement for juvenile hoop heroes, starting at middle school or even sooner. Add to that anyone who shields a kid from the rightful consequences of an illegal act, or even the reporting of it, and there’s a different set of rules for a different kind of athlete.
Note the similarities between the two columns: both emphasize covering one-and-done, especially at a local level, and both dismantle the culture that produces one-and-done players. Hyper-localizing is an aspect of journalism that journalists and columnists take into consideration, as newspaper circulation decreases. Wingert (2010) writes “localizing one-and-done brings the community together, heightens the journalism-public discourse connection, makes stories relevant and leads to community journalism” (p.8). Both George and Wilbon use hyper-localizing to great effect.
Despite the similarities, Wilbon’s and George’s columns have several noticeable differences. If we take Wilbon’s words as gospel, journalists and columnists, especially those who cover sports, know who the one-and-done kids are because “everybody knows.” If you are a sports reporter covering high school or AAU basketball, you should be able to spot the one-and-done kids and use your platform to cover the rule. Kovach and Rosenstiel (2008) add to Wilbon’s credibility, “Consider that in 2006, we knew of only one talk show in all of cable news that made any attempt to check its facts and correct them during the program. That show was Pardon the Interruption, a talk show about sports on ESPN” (p. 173). Not only does Wilbon have a viable platform to discuss the one-and-done rule, he rigorously fact-checks himself to make sure he’s spewing correct information about the rule.
If we take George’s words as gospel, journalists and columnists have a responsibility to report one-and-done. He said, “… anyone who shields a kid from the rightful consequences of an illegal act, or even the reporting of it…” implying that parts of the one-and-done rule are illegal and should be brought into public light via journalism. If they’re not, it’s as if we’re letting kids get away with crime. The headline of George’s (2008) column reads “O.J. Mayo saga reflects greed of adults surrounding him.” This headline implies two things: the one-and-done rule is more about money than education, which proves that journalists and columnists have an ethical responsibility to write about it; and journalists and columnists need to cover one-and-done because the adults surrounding the student-athletes don’t care.
In a column for the “New York Times,” George Vecsey (2010) cites U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, who had recently given a speech decrying one-and-done. Vecsey (2010) writes, “He (Duncan) pointed out that this rule leads to abuses — hot-shot players take as few as six credits for one semester and cruise into their first and only national tournament, then slip out of school after their final game” (p. B14). Examples of these abuses include, as reported by Wingert (2010), “Derrick Rose, a former University of Memphis basketball player, allegedly had a stand-in take the SAT for him, in order to gain academic admission to the university” (p. 3) and “O.J. Mayo is accused of accepting $30,000 in cash and gifts from an agent, violating NCAA rules” (p. 3). Vecsey (2010) also writes, “Under the one-and-done rule, some hot-shot coaches gamble on one spectacular season by a freshman,” (p. B14) which Wingert (2010) agrees:
Despite all of the negativity surrounding one-and-done, some journalists highlight the benefits of the rule and even defend it. Feinstein (2008) call the rule a “boon to college basketball” and Wieburg and Garcia (2008) note that one-and-done players are a “force on the college scene.” Marot (2008) adds that one-year players are becoming more commonplace in college basketball and “deep tournament runs often force underclassmen to cash in on the NBA’s big bucks.” He also calls one-and-done players such as O.J. Mayo and Michael Beasley “fabulous freshman.” Feinstein (2008) even deems one-and-done critics “silly and self-righteous people.” As an avid sports fan, I won’t deny that one-and-done has impacted college basketball; I’d be a hypocrite for saying otherwise. However, one-and-done has more cons than pros and does more harm than good (p. 4-5).
Vecsey’s (2010) column is an umbrella for covering the one-and-done rule. His source for the column is a person in high authority, the U.S. Secretary of Education, furthering the idea that journalists and columnists have an ethical obligation to influence public policy. Using the previous point as an umbrella, Vecsey (2010) makes sub-points that accentuate it. First, he details the abuses that come with one-and-done. Second, he calls one-and-done “enforced servitude,” (p. B14) showing that one-and-done isn’t necessary or healthy for player development; it forces players to do something they don’t want to do: go to college. Third, the headline to his column reads, “A Modest Proposal Says Colleges Should Educate,” accentuating two ideas: colleges should do their job (focus on education, not athletics) and reasonable people should support reforming one-and-done because reform is a “modest proposal.” Finally, Vecsey makes a point that Duffy (2010) also makes: low graduation rates. He says, “His (Duncan’s) second point was that graduation rates are wildly disparate. Why should some colleges graduate 100 percent of their players and others have a graduation rate of zero? He would set a standard of 40 percent, ‘which I think is still too low,’ he said. Don’t hit 40 percent? No tournament” (p. B14).
Duffy’s (2010) column features two ethical considerations regarding one-and-done. First, she says, “NBA Commissioner David Stern has expressed an interest in having 20 be the minimum age for NBA draft eligibility and I’m sure if he hasn’t already, he’ll be chirping in Secretary Duncan’s ear.” Apart from the link to Vecsey’s column (Secretary Duncan), this quote underscores the idea that journalism influences public policy. As Wingert (2010) noted, “Brady and Wieburg (2008) note that the rule runs through the 2010-2011 NBA season and NBA Commissioner David Stern will try to push for a two-year rule. It’ll be interesting to watch journalism as the one-and-done end date draws near to see how journalists handle it ethically” (p. 8-9).
The other point Duffy (2010) makes deals with race. She writes, “The AP reported that there is a large disparity between graduation rates for Caucasian students vs. African-Americans. Will the over all [sic] team’s racial makeup be taken into account?” As “March madness gone wild” (2009) points out:
The 65 March Madness teams have an average graduation rate of only 61 percent; 53 percent for African-Americans. (The rates don’t include “one and done” athletes who went to the pros before graduation, as long as they left in good academic standing.) Coach Calhoun’s Connecticut team had a graduation rate of 33 percent for the whole team and only 22 percent for its African-American players.
Sittler (2009) underlines how the one-and-done policy hurts the concept of student-athletes. He writes, “The Xavier Henry soap opera exposed three major ills in college basketball — the one-and-done rule, the anonymity of the Internet and the absurdity of the NCAA insisting its sports participants be called ‘student-athletes.’” Although the “anonymity of the Internet” is an ethical issue for journalists, I won’t delve into it. I find it interesting that Sittler believes that one-and-done and student-athletes are two distinct “ills;” I believe that they go hand-in-hand, thus I would consider them one complete ill. Wingert (2010) elaborates:
Students are denied the opportunity to receive a full, four-year college education and the memories that come with it… I agree with the latter half of the statement: one year in college helps a student mature and is better than no college; however, a student could be more mature and experienced with three or four years of college (p.1).
Burwell (2009) interviews former coach Rick Majerus, who comes to the same conclusion as Wingert:
How can you assume that an immature kid who has never learned even the most basic day-to-day skills about how to live and grow on his own, should be able to turn into an overnight millionaire without even knowing how to balance his own checkbook or how to send his clothes to the dry cleaners?
As if more proof was needed that the one-and-done rule demoralizes the concept of student-athletes and should be scrapped, Sittler (2009) continues:
In last Sunday’s KC Star article, it was Carl Henry who said about Xavier, “if he didn’t have to go to college, he wouldn’t do it.” Xavier added that he thought seriously about skipping college and playing next season in Europe because “you don’t have to take any classes.“ So riddle me this NCAA officials: Does Xavier sound like someone who is a candidate for your pretentious and often laughable “student-athlete” label? He doesn’t want to be a college student; he wants to be in the NBA.
Sittler (2009) concludes his column with two ethical points. First, he writes, “The majority of coaches, media members and fans agree with Capel. There remain a few holdouts, however, who are either naive or clueless when it comes to the amount of cheating the NBA rule has brought to the college game.” Sittler includes the phrase “media members,” which shows that he knows the ethical implications of the media’s coverage of one-and-done. Also, if the “majority of coaches” and “media members” know the ethical implications of one-and-done, it seems plausible that they could help change the rule, furthering the journalism-public policy connection.
Second, Sittler writes, “OK, fine. But while you’re at it, Mr. Commissioner, try also finding a way to see those players in a college classroom so the NCAA doesn’t look so foolish with its insistence on using its sacred ‘student-athlete’ baloney.” Again, he connects student-athletes with the one-and-done rule, and he shows how one-and-done undermines the traditional concept of student-athletes.
Burwell (2009) also has a take on the connection between the one-and-done rule and student-athletes, although he has a different take, “But the reality is kids and coaches have been making a mockery out of the concept of college ‘student athletics’ since they started handing out scholarships and championships nearly a century ago. It didn’t start with the ‘one-and-done’ rule and it won’t end abruptly if they ever abolished the rule either.”
Cherner (2008) interviews Dick Vitale, a college basketball analyst for ESPN, for his column. Vitale rails against one-and-done and its link to student-athletes. He says, “‘I’ve said it once, and I’ll say it again: The one-year, one-and-done situation is a horrendous way to go in the world of basketball. Academically, you wonder what these kids are doing after their eligibility is all completed’” (p. C3). The answer to Vitale’s last sentence is nothing, given the low graduation rates among teams with one-and-done players, as previously noted.
Armstrong’s (2010) column highlights the ethics of one-and-done — including media ethics — and its abuses. He writes, “There was a moral and monetary cost to such high living, though. Increased scrutiny of the recruiting process by the N.C.A.A. and the news media came as part of the package. Agents and their runners are more prevalent along the recruiting trail, and it is the one-and-done freshmen who elicit the greatest interest” (p. B11). The first thing to note is that he implies that the media have been a part of one-and-done. He also implies that the media should continue to cover one-and-done because “it is the one-and-done freshman who elicit the greatest interest” (p. B11).
I believe that columnists should cover the one-and-done rule and have an ethical obligation to do so because of the nature of columns. Columnists, just like journalists, have an ethical obligation to influence public policy, including the one-and-done rule. Every columnist I analyzed focused on some ethical issue with the one-and-done rule and why we should talk about it: low graduation rates, the student-athlete idiom and the abuses of one-and-done. Some of the columnists or their sources wield power or influence, further highlighting the journalism- public policy connection.
Armstrong, K. (2010, January 1). Short stays that produced lasting results. New York Times, B11.
Burwell, B. (2009, June 25). ‘One-and-done’ rule isn’t good for either players or NBA, Majerus says. St. Louis Post-Dispatch (MO), Retrieved from Newspaper Source database.
Cherner, R. (2008, May 13). Dickie V decries Mayo situation; do away with ‘one-and-done’ in college hoops. USA Today, C3.
Duffy, P. (2010, March 18). NCAA tournament ban for law graduation rates leaves open role of the coach. Retrieved from http://www.examiner.com/x-426-Sports Examiner~y2010m3d18NCAA-Tournament-ban-for-low-graduation-rates-leaves open role-of-the-coach
George, D. (2008, May 12). O.J. Mayo saga reflects greed of adults surrounding him. Cox News Service.
Kovach, B., & Rosenstiel, T. (2007). The Elements of journalism: what newspeople should know and the public should expect. New York: Three Rivers Press.
March madness gone wild. (2009, March 30). Christian Science Monitor, 8.
Sittler, D. (2009, July 2). Tulsa World, Okla., Dave Sittler column. Tulsa World (OK), Retrieved from Newspaper Source database.
Vecsey, G. (2010, January 15). A Modest proposal says colleges should educate. New York Times, B14.
Wilbon, M. (2009, June 25). The ‘one-and-done’ song and dance. Washington Post, D1.
Wingert, N. (2010, March 6). What should journalists do about the one-and-done rule?