The Media Reaction to BYU and Brandon Davies

I don’t want to write about BYU dismissing Brandon Davies from its basketball team for violating the school’s honor code (by making love to a lady). I want to write about writers writing about it.

Specifically, ESPN’s Pat Forde, who we’ll use as a case study because he expresses an opinion I’ve seen a lot of in the media: that BYU was justified.

I can’t relate to the Brigham Young University honor code. But I can respect it.

Forde & company’s argument goes a little something like this:

Even if you think BYU’s no-sex rules and honor code are bizarre and not for you, the university deserves praise for abiding by its principles, and not allowing big-time college athletics or the promises of sweet Final Four money to interfere with what it deems just.

What makes this such a powerful testament is the fact that so many schools have cravenly abandoned their standards at such a time as this, embracing athletic expediency over institutional principle. It happens so often that we don’t even raise an eyebrow at it anymore.

Player arrests or other antisocial behaviors are minimized as youthful mistakes, with strenuous institutional effort put into counterspinning any negative publicity. Academic underachievement is dismissed as merely the price of being competitive in big-time athletics.

Yes, the NCAA is a disgrace as are many of its member institutions. But that doesn’t make it OK to kick someone off a basketball team for having consensual sex with an of-age partner.

The basic message is: we must admire BYU for sticking by its rules, no matter how ridiculous they seem.

Um, no.

Writes Forde:

“To me,” said J.J. Despain, sports editor of the Daily Universe, the BYU student newspaper, “it’s a testament to BYU holding to its own standards.”

Impartial observer, I’m sure. Definitely not a brainwashed religious freak. Look, it’s not admirable that BYU is standing by its principles – this is what institutions do, particularly religious or power-hungry ones. They make rules and they enforce them. It’s how they control people. Enforcing an insane or immoral rule or law only compounds a wrong with another wrong.

I can’t relate to Muslim states forcing women to cover themselves from head to toe. But I can respect it.

I can’t relate to the Catholic Church banning birth control for decades. But I can respect it.

I can’t relate to the Rwandan government going through with its plan to kill as many Tutsis as possible. But I can respect it.

Yes, Davies and all BYU players agreed to abide by the ridiculous honor code when they matriculated at BYU. But we all agree to a lot of things we don’t really mean in this society – laws we don’t obey, rules at work we don’t follow, and honor codes at schools that we treat as the sad jokes they are.

Now, some of these media types are making this argument without necessarily believing what they’re saying. They want to be contrarian, to get page views and attention. I’m looking your way, Jim Rome. (Bill Plaschke is just an idiot.) But I believe Forde really means what he writes in this piece, and that makes him amazingly wrong.



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Filed under Sports Has AIDS, The Dilemma

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