Big Ten Football was canceled. Big Ten Football was uncancelled. Starting next month, the Ohio State Buckeyes will officially start their 2020 season. In a year that everyone would love to forget, college football is resuming, albeit in a fragmented fashion, and Buckeye fans are excited.
OSU professor, Mathew J Mayhew, was one such excited Buckeye fan. On September 24th, Mr. Mayhew penned an article in the pages of Inside Higher Ed, extolling the virtues of college football and its wider impact on the community as a whole. Here are a few quotes from that article:
Although many concerns remain about the health and safety of players and spectators, we happen to agree: college football may be an essential element of our functioning democracy.
Essentializing college football might help get us through these uncharacteristically difficult times of great isolation, division and uncertainty. Indeed, college football holds a special bipartisan place in the American heart.
This election season has demonstrated how stifled, polarized and dangerous our political differences have become, and college football can remind us of respect — even in the wake of deep disagreement. We can root for different teams, scream at the players, argue with the refs and question the coaches, but win or lose, at the end of the day, we leave the stadium, watch party or tailgate with a sense of respect for the game and the athletes that train so hard, leaving it all out on the field every time. Indeed, if a player is injured, the entire stadium usually applauds, not just fans from one team.
In addition, football players become beloved community figures beyond the boundaries of the stadium or campus. Football gives players a platform to make statements about issues they care about. We have seen student athletes taking part in protests and making demands for racial equity. We have seen student athletes kneel to protest police brutality. Colleges and universities should take many more steps to empower athletes to engage with the community. Depriving them the opportunity to play doesn’t accomplish that goal.
What Mayhew is arguing, and correctly so, is that in a time where we agree on very little-sports have the ability to bring us together. There should be nothing controversial about this. In fact, it’s something we should embrace. Except that in a world where reality seems to be slowly unraveling, this was deeply controversial and Mayhew was forced to participate in a Stalinist show trial-complete with a self-flagellating confession.
For those who are unfamiliar, beginning in 1936, Joseph Stalin orchestrated a purge of all those he deemed to be a threat to his power. As part of that purge, Stalin staged elaborate show trials where the outcome was already determined. During these trials, the accused, in order to spare themselves from further punishment, would issue public confessions.
I am crushed by the weight of all that was revealed here,” says Ter-Vaganyan. “I am crushed by the speech of the State Prosecutor. It is very hard to bear when, by the whole course of one’s crime, one finds oneself in the position of an enemy, of a fascist being tried by a proletarian court. In such a moment it would of course be hypocrisy if I did not say one thing: I would like to have the opportunity of exerting every effort to fill the abyss, the chasm, which separates me from my former comrades. I bow my head in guilt before the Court and say: whatever your decision may be, however stern your verdict, I accept it as deserved.
While the Soviet Union and Stalin may have passed from this earth, it’s methods are alive and well-particularly in the halls of higher education.
Five days after Mayhew published his original article, he wrote another apologizing for the first.
It doesn’t. I was wrong. And even worse, I was uninformed, ignorant and harm inducing.I recently led a piece in Inside Higher Ed titled “ Why America Needs College Football.” I am sorry for the hurt, sadness, frustration, fatigue, exhaustion and pain this article has caused anyone, but specifically Black students in the higher education community and beyond.
Who knew that telling everyone to put their differences aside for a few hours is now racist and harmful to black students, but Mayhew explains:
I learned that I could have titled the piece “Why America Needs Black Athletes.” I learned that Black men putting their bodies on the line for my enjoyment is inspired and maintained by my uninformed and disconnected whiteness and, as written in my previous article, positions student athletes as white property. I have learned that I placed the onus of responsibility for democratic healing on Black communities whose very lives are in danger every single day and that this notion of “democratic healing” is especially problematic since the Black community can’t benefit from ideals they can’t access. I have learned that words like “distraction” and “cheer” erase the present painful moments within the nation and especially the Black community.
Just to be clear, this is real. It was written by an actual educator at a school for adults. There’s so much wrong with this that it is hard to even know where to begin. So let me start here. One of the ways human beings are separated from the rest of the animals is by our ability to reason. We are able to take facts and evidence and follow it to its conclusion. It’s how we find the truth of things, and if the facts and evidence cut against our preconceived notions-how we change our minds. The problem with where we are now in America is that we arrive at the conclusion first and work backward from there. If we find any evidence or facts that disconfirm the conclusion-we must ignore them. All that matters is maintaining the conclusion and narrative.
Consider Mayhew’s statement that black men put their bodies on the line for Professors Mayhew’s enjoyment because they are property of whites like himself. Except this ignores the fact that these athletes are there voluntarily; are compensated in the form of education; can leave anytime they want-and are auditioning for a job that will pay them millions of dollars. It also ignores the fact that it’s illegal for humans to be property. We fought a war over it. If Mayhew indeed owns them, as he claims-shouldn’t he be in jail? Why isn’t this monster turning himself in if he’s so sorry for his part in the slavery of the OSU football team? Because the conclusion has already been established, intellectual consistency be damned. Mayhew is white and therefore racist. His skin color tells us so-no other evidence needed.
To really begin the long process of antiracist learning, I am designing a plan for change, for turning the “I am sorry” to “I will change” — for moving Black Lives Matter from a motto to a pathway from ignorance and toward authentic advocacy.
Compare this to what said during the Moscow Trials.
I would like to have the opportunity of exerting every effort to fill the abyss, the chasm, which separates me from my former comrades.
The similarities between the two are eerie. Just like Stalin’s trials almost one-hundred years prior, Mayhew is being made to publically confess his sins against the party’s orthodoxy and perform penance.
This begs the question: Who are the judges in this kangaroo court? The OSU students? The student-athletes? BLM? Actually, it was Mayhew’s coworkers, the OSU faculty.
Rather than make excuses, I should talk about which facets of the article that I have recently learned are harmful — through my students, wider social media community and distinguished academics like Donna Ford, Joy Gaston Gayles and Gilman Whiting.
All these professors teach black studies. A lucrative field if your Ibram X Kendi
The speaker is Ibram X. Kendi — the author of How to be an Anti-Racist.
The $20,000 price tag means the district paid Kendi more than $300 a minute. https://t.co/qCR2QMRvCi
- Jon Levine (@LevineJonathan) September 29, 2020
But as useful as lesbian dance theory, for the rest of us.
The important thing to note is this: None of this antiracist propaganda currently infecting the nation-is based on any real evidence. It relies solely on projecting the past into the present. What happened to black people 200 years ago-is happening today. Professor Mayhew mouthing, “Black communities whose very lives are in danger every single day” is not true. At least as so far as whites are concerned. Facts like the police are 17 times more likely to be shot by a black suspect; blacks are significantly less likely to be shot unarmed by police than whites are; or far more likely to be shot by another black person-are actual quantifiable data that cut directly against Mayhew’s confession. It doesn’t matter, because if Mayhew, and other cowards like him, want to be a good communist antiracist-they must allow themselves to be swept away in the purge of legitimate academia. Is it any wonder the New York Times once declared not so long ago, “ College is for suckers “?