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Saturday, February 23, 2008
Thoughts on the IU Player Boycott

What should we make of the almost-boycott by six senior members of the IU Basketball team? The six, including star forward D.J. White, did not show at practice Friday, to protest both the dismissal/buyout/force resignation of Head Coach Kelvin Sampson in the wake of allegations of major NCAA rules violations and the hiring of Assistant Dan Dakich, rather than assistant Ray McCallum, as interim head coach. Ultimately, it fizzled and all six traveled with the team for today's game against Northwestern (of course).

I am of several minds here. On one hand, we rightly applaud players who speak out in support of their coaches. And I have criticized judicial opinions that allowed players to be punished for speaking out for or against a coach. And I mentioned Hoosiers, where Jimmy Chitwood is depicted as a hero for standing up for Coach Dale against an entire town that wanted him fired. And I also have suggested that players should be given greater freedom when the coach who recruited them departs (at least when it is the coach skipping town on his own).

On the other hand, a school must have the ability to fire or discipline a coach whose willful (and repeated) misconduct has doomed the program to major NCAA sanctions. Perhaps the seniors, who will not be around when the hammer comes down on the program, are not concerned with that. So they were defending their coach--but in a way that inhibits any effort to make and enforce NCAA rules. Should they be applauded in the same way we applaud Jimmy Chitwood? How much say should players have in this type of situation?


I'm not sure what the correct response is, but the situation is familiar: employees criticizing their employer in public. In general this is corrosive to the workplace atmosphere, but success in the entertainment industry depends significantly on public perception of the product, even more than on the quality, and the rules are different. The public likes to scrutinize business decisions, and is happy with any information about the organization, including about disagreements. In this case, allowing the players to criticize the organization is probably better PR than disciplining them.

Like in most other jobs, a team of entertainers is usually assembled man-by-man, so everyone has to be professional and work together. I'm sure the players are professional enough to do that even if they disagree with the hiring decision, just like they must be able to play even if they disagree with coaching decisions.

Blogger Lior -- 2/23/2008 3:58 PM  

So much for the civil disobedience on this one....

Anonymous Anonymous -- 2/23/2008 8:15 PM  

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