Parental Advisory: NBA, NCAA Don’t Belong In The Child-Rearing Business

By: 04.11.12
Shabazz Muhammad

Shabazz Muhammad (photo. Hoophall Classic)

As soon as U.S. legislators get around to declaring the first Thursday and Friday of March Madness federal holidays, I have two more suggestions for basketball’s national calendar: Let’s move Mother’s Day and Father’s Day to April 11 and April 29.

Split them up however you want. The point is that these two dates – National Signing Day for high school hoopsters headed to college (April 11), and the early-entry deadline for college underclassmen considering the NBA Draft (April 29) – bring out the parental instincts in even the childless among basketball fans and media.

You won’t find more examples of unqualified adults who were never asked accepting the roles of parent, mentor and guidance counselor to young men and women they’ve never met. Two days that should be reserved for real families celebrating the accomplishments of their sons and daughters are too often ruined by unrelenting second-guesses and unprovoked lectures.

Of course, this is the American Way. We’ve grown into a nation of condescending parents who self-certify ourselves experts in every field. We’re so quick to tell people how to live – especially people who have some notoriety – it flies in direct contradiction to the individuality and freedom of choice we claim to defend so fiercely.

That told-you-so mentality drives us to tell high schoolers that they’re choosing the wrong college, and to tell college athletes that they’re going pro too early or too late. And that’s when we’re not telling pro athletes how to conduct their free-agency business; telling coaches how to manage the game and the locker room; telling GM’s how to build championship teams; telling owners how to spend their money; telling refs how to see real-life events in super slow-mo; telling the truly talented athletes how to be great at something most of us weren’t even good at beyond middle-school recess; and telling generally everybody in sports how to be a good spouse, parent, teammate and human being.

The worst examples still involve the amateurs, because it’s not like we can stand behind the flimsy justification for pro athletes that paying a miniscule fraction into the machine that pays their salary gives us carte blanche to talk about them as bad as we want to.

Frustrating as it is to watch, though, I’ve grown used to fans and media believing they know exactly what’s best for every point guard and small forward in the country. What bothers me now is the NBA and NCAA’s parent-like rules and bylaws that take the “adult” out of “young adult,” and how these organizations get away with treating grown-ups like children.

I find it curious that at the same time America has branded Ozzie Guillen a political traitor because he admires a few qualities of communist icon Fidel Castro, we gleefully pour our capitalist money into the billion-dollar dictatorships that are the NBA and NCAA.

[RELATED: The Single Biggest Myth About The NBA Draft Age Rule]

I find it curious that at the same time we annually express our collective disgust with Augusta National Golf Club for its discriminatory policies toward women, protests aren’t nearly as strong against the NBA’s discriminatory policies toward young people.

Don’t be seduced into believing one is okay and one is not. IBM CEO Virginia Rommety, the woman at the center of this year’s Augusta controversy, has been no more a victim of bias than Shabazz Muhammad, the top high school basketball player in the U.S. who is barred from the NBA because he’s only 18 years old.

Muhammad cannot control when he was born, just like Rommety cannot control how she was born.
Rommety worked to develop her skills and rise in the business world to a position where she meets every qualification for Augusta membership but one – she’s a woman. Muhammad has worked to develop his skills and rise in the basketball world to a position where he meets every qualification for an NBA roster spot but one – he’s an 18-year-old. The only difference is that while Muhammad can eventually become NBA-eligible at 19, Rommety can’t change her genetics.

Other than that, is one abuse of power worse than the other?

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