Bill Battle Proves College Athletic Leaders Are Out Of Touch

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Bill Battle’s  says”tattoos and rims” bought by student athletes show a lack of financial understanding. This comment proves how deep the lack of understanding of the modern world goes for the leaders of college athletics.

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During an IMG World Conference of Sports panel on cost of attendance Alabama Athletic Director Bill Battle made a comment today that I am having trouble coming to terms with for so many reasons.  Battle responded to what I feel is a ridiculous statement from NC State Athletic Director Debbie Yow with an affirmation and a further comment that only made the sentiment worse.

Here’s what was said:

It’s just unfathomable that the leaders of college athletics in 2015 appear to be still thinking this way.   It’s hard to come to grips with everything that’s wrong with this train of though, so let’s break this down piece by piece.

First the point that Battle and Yow were trying to make is ridiculously off base and it really shows how far removed they are from the reality of the situation their athletes live in.

From that statement it would appear that Battle and Yow are still clinging to the idea that student athletes should be poor college students struggling to get a good education… meanwhile Alabama football made $81,993,762 last year.  When you make $81 million dollars you really shouldn’t be commenting on what the players are spending the $500 dollars a month you allow them to have on. Don’t give me the old “most will go pro in something else” either, they are already pros. When you make $81 million off them you don’t get to claim that they are amateurs. They are pros, they just don’t make money for themselves.  Bill Battle made $620,000 dollars this year by the way.

It’s doubly true that football and basketball players are pros not amateurs because there are no real practical minor league routes to the pros in those sports outside of college… unless you are LeBron James. It’s hard to argue that college athletics are not extremely profitable minor league sports, let’s just admit that truth.

Now we come to the part of the comment that is even more concerning and upsetting.  “Hoverboards, tattoos, and rims” these are the items that you are worried about?  It doesn’t take a genius to know that they are talking specifically about African American athletes here, who else could it be directed towards?  Mind you AJ McCarron is covered in tattoos too, but he’s a good boy from Mobile and the “rims” really does a fine job clearing up any remaining doubt on who you are talking too.

I am not African American, I am not trying to “stir up trouble” (which I undoubtably will be accused of), but I am not going to sit here and run an Alabama blog and not call out this comment.  It’s not 1965 and this is not OK.

So you are disparaging a certain race of athlete, who you barely pay, and you want to defend not paying them based on the fact that you think they don’t know how to take care of their finances.  I feel like this idiotic, hurtful, and going to damage Alabama’s reputation.

As for all the hate I will receive for writing about this and calling it wrong; if you are afraid to call out Alabama because all you want to see or hear about Alabama are good things then you aren’t doing Alabama any favors.  I want Alabama to be the best, so I have to say this can not stand.  I know some of you don’t care about any of this, you only care about the game, well do you think this will be good for recruiting?

Auburn’s AD Jay Jacobs said this:

Bill Battle is a good athletic director that has done a fine job keeping Alabama on track since Mal Moore.  In my opinion Bill Battle must apologize for this though, he just has to.  He has to say that he understands why that comment isn’t OK.  This type of stereotyping language is insidious and most damaging when we let it slide based on the fact that it was just an “offhand remark.”

Battle is a good guy and a good leader, but he needs to do more to understand the people he wants to lead.

I’m sure Bill Battle spoke before thinking in this case, but he needs to correct this mistake quickly.

UPDATE: Bill Battle did speak to AL.com regarding his comments. He said they were meant to be “frivolous and cute.” Battle went on to explain that the basis of his comments was “the Jim Tressel thing.” There was no apology or indication from Battle that he understood why his comments created such an issue.

I’m perfectly willing to accept that I might be reading too much into things, but “frivolous and cute” is the opposite of what I wanted to hear form Battle. I wanted to hear Battle say stereotypes are wrong and that he apologized, not try to minimize what he said by making it a joke. That’s the problem, that’s how you keep racism alive, you make it casual.