From a young age I was exposed to the preferential treatment of athletes.
At my small high school on Long Island, being an athlete meant an automatic ticket into the “cool” friend group — the one that threw parties on the beach and consumed alcohol before we had our Sweet Sixteens.
And there was nothing wrong with that, and I didn’t expect anything else — that’s just how it was. School administrators allocated money to a new turf field or new team uniforms, and at the same time threatened to cut academic programs such as French.
I watched money being poured into athletics throughout my entire high school career — not just at my own school, but schools in the surrounding area.
I watched helicopter parents worship their child-athletes and defend them until their last breath. “Well my child is a football player and he didn’t have time to do the assignment,” was a common phrase in parent-teacher conferences.
Then I started college at a small, Franciscan university in Western New York with a declining enrollment and administrators who seem to think that sports, not academics, should be our claim to fame.
I’ve sat in classes for an entire semester where, on the very last day of class, a sports player shows up for the first time all year. He or she had been traveling the rest of the time, or at practice, and couldn’t make it to class.
In one of my international studies classes specifically, I watched a professor give a sports player yet another extension on an assignment due two weeks prior.
I’ve watched sports players walk around with textbooks that they don’t pay for because athletes in some sports do not have to pay for their textbooks. I’ve watched them eat lunch at places for free that others have to use Bona Bucks, additional money added to meal plans for certain cafes on campus, to pay for.
I’ve seen the favoritism of athletes for years. And not every school, every team or every athlete conforms to these norms – not everyone gets handed money, extensions on assignments or special treatment. I’ve met outstanding athletes who do not get scholarship money and who receive a 4.0 for the semester. I’ve seen hardworking athletes. I’ve seen respectful athletes.
But I’ve seen the athletes that get away with actions others face repercussions for, simply because they can run fast or swim fast or throw a ball well.
A prime example is Brock Turner, otherwise known as the Stanford student convicted of raping a woman and leaving her naked on the ground behind a dumpster.
What makes his case special? What does being an athlete have to do with raping a woman?
Nothing — unless the judge agrees that he is, in fact, guilty of rape but only punishes him with 6 months in prison, with parole.
Why? Because he has Olympic-level swim times.
If you’re anything like me, that sounds ridiculous. Why let a convicted rapist get away with such a meager punishment when, in comparison, the victim will be haunted for the rest of her life?
Apparently many other people, including the judge in this court case, don’t see it that way. Just take the “Brock Turner For 2016 Olympics” Facebook page [since deleted] that refers to the judge’s decision of a six month sentence as, “a tragic miscarriage of justice.” The genius that created this page believes that because this short jail sentence cuts into Turner’s precious swim practice, people should support his path to the Olympics.
I’m sick of seeing such preferential treatment toward athletes. Had Turner been a “NARP,” or a non athletic regular person, as so many athletes kindly refer to the rest of us as, the judge might not have been so kind when giving a sentence.