It’s probably time to pay attention when a United States senator goes out of her way to castigate a prominent university football coach while urging real leaders in “big-time sports” to “do a soul search on character.”
That coach is Bob Stoops, head of the University of Oklahoma Sooners, and the senator is Missouri’s Claire McCaskill, a Democrat and a former sex crimes prosecutor, who wrote recently about how surprised she was that Stoops had been selected by some Division I coaches as someone they would want their “sons” to play for.
The reason she was stunned, according to her widely circulated article in USA Today, was because Stoops had welcomed to his football program University of Missouri transfer Dorial Green-Beckham, nicknamed DGB. DGB was kicked off the Missouri Tigers football team after he allegedly pushed a woman down some stairs, McCaskill points out. No charges were filed in the case because the woman, according to McCaskill’s article, didn’t cooperate with police or prosecutors.
OU petitioned the NCAA to rule DGB eligible this year on grounds that seem to intentionally ignore the gory details of the case, but it was denied, and it’s unclear whether he will ever play for the Sooners or any college football program again.
In her article, McCaskill asks rhetorically, “But for Stoops to get the most votes from his fellow coaches as the coach they wanted to influence their sons?” She goes on to argue:
Unfortunately, that says it all. It is time for real leaders in the world of big-time sports to do a soul search on character. Every decision they make reflects on them in ways that a won/loss record never will.
McCaskill didn’t but could have also mentioned how Stoops has handled the case of 18-year-old Joe Mixon, an OU player who was caught on videotape July 25 hitting a woman in the face and fracturing her jaw. Mixon was charged with the misdemeanor crime of “an act resulting in a gross injury” and the university, with Stoops’ apparent agreement, suspended him for only one year from the team. Mixon has since been seen hanging out with the team. Remember, Mixon’s violence was caught on a tape that was viewed by media members, and he and his attorney have not disputed the video evidence.
All this comes at a time when NFL players like Ray Rice and Adrian Peterson have been kicked off their teams for violent actions. Rice was kicked off the Baltimore Ravens after a new tape surfaced showing him knocking out his fiancé with a violent fist jab. Peterson, a former OU player coached by none other than Bob Stoops, was kicked off the Minnesota Vikings after it was learned he whipped his 4-year-old son with a tree switch, leaving behind cuts and bruising.
“Got him in the nuts once I noticed,” Peterson apparently texted the boy’s mother, according to one article. Isn’t that sexual abuse as well? What if Peterson had struck a 4-year-old girl on her genitalia? Wouldn’t he be charged with a sex crime? Nonetheless, Peterson has been charged with “reckless or negligent injury to a child” in Texas where the beating occurred.
Those people who try to defend people like Stoops, Mixon and Peterson forget that coaches and star athletes on major college and professional teams serve as role models, a standard trope that is promoted through, among other things, jersey sales, television appearances and commercial endorsements. The media is culpable as well by creating a worship culture around star athletes. They make their money, too. Everyone gets their cut, except the victims of violence.
McCaskill does us all a great service for bringing out into the open and arguing against the violent behavior permeating what she calls big-time sports. It’s a sick culture—and that includes many sports fans—that tolerates this violence or dismisses it with a shrug or doesn’t remove the offenders from their pedestals.
Ken Burns’ new PBS documentary The Roosevelts, among many things, should remind us just how radical and extremist the Republican Party has become since the turn of the century.
It’s not difficult to imagine how the progressive politics of Theodore Roosevelt, a Republican president from 1901 to 1909, would be greeted today by conservative politicians, who advance the cause of states’ rights and corporate greed over the welfare of their country.
Roosevelt eventually wanted his “Square Deal” for people, arguing, “The effective fight against adequate government control and supervision of individual, and especially of corporate, wealth engaged in interstate business is chiefly done under cover; and especially under cover of an appeal to States' rights . . . “ That’s simply the antithesis of the Republican Party today.
Burns’ documentary is a fascinating study of Theodore, Eleanor and Franklin Roosevelt. Republicans must hate it because it exposes the contemporary paltry platform of this country’s right-wing reactionaries, who in their paranoia always see sinister motives in their country’s government. Theodore Roosevelt’s political philosophy was much larger than that.
Oklahoma’s Republicans, who dominate state government right now, are especially anti-federal government as evidenced by Attorney General Scott Pruitt’s legal actions against the Affordable Care Act and any number of recent legislative actions based on supposed intrusion.
The war here on the federal government always has its negative consequences. When the legislature and Gov. Mary Fallin recently scrapped some Common Core standards for schools because of supposed intrusion, for example, the federal government announced the state would lose its “No Child Left Behind Waiver” and may have to reassign some $29 million federal funding.
The most recent mess to come to light because of paranoia over the federal government involves state driver's licenses. In 2007, lawmakers passed a law banning the state from participating in a federal program called the REAL ID Act, which was implemented as an anti-terrorism measure. Now, we’re finding out that Oklahomans starting in 2015 won’t be able to use their state licenses to get through a federal government security checkpoint. Starting in 2016, Oklahomans also won’t be able to board an airplane by showing their state license. Instead, a federally approved document, such as a passport, will have to be used.
Obviously, the paranoia and resulting hassle and contradiction are not limited to Oklahoma. An article this week in The New York Times points out that despite the success of the Affordable Care Act in Kentucky, some residents there—even those who have benefited from so-called Obamacare—are supporting Republican politicians who want to do away with the new health care law.
It’s tempting to file all this anti-federal government sentiment here and elsewhere under “stupidity” or just argue that it’s Republican and corporate manipulation of low-information voters, but Burns' documentary reminds me that something more fundamental has changed among a major segment of the electorate.
More than ever, it seems impossible to me that we can bridge through words or arguments the great partisan divide or educate voters in some meaningful and large-scale sense. Perhaps, only incremental demographical developments—an increase in minority voters, for example, who reject racist politics—will make a difference and advance progressivism in the twenty-first century.
Theodore Roosevelt’s Republican politics at the turn of the twentieth century started this country on an enlightened course and his cousin, Franklin Roosevelt, a Democrat, showed us how government can be a humane force in our lives. They were two significant politicians from the country’s two largest political parties in agreement with the pressing issues of their time. They were united under the philosophical idea of progressivism.
The fact a Republican legislator in an extremely conservative state is pointing out the lack of government oversight of oil and gas wells exposes the dirty business of extracting fossil fuels.
Here’s the larger, local philosophical question right now: Can one acknowledge the positive impact of the energy industry on the Oklahoma economy while also arguing for stricter regulations and oversight protecting the environment?
State Rep. Steve Vaughan, a Republican from Ponca City, held an interim study last week on the issue of water contamination related to oil and gas wells. According to a media release, here’s what Vaughan had to say on the topic:
There are more than 22,000 producing as well as disposal wells in my area. Less than 50 percent have been tested for their mechanical integrity in the last four years, according to DEQ. I think we learned in today’s study that we could give some of our fish and wildlife guys and other agencies some power to report and shut down problematic wells. We could also give the Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality and Oklahoma Corporation Commission more resources to look into these wells.
The concern is whether oil and gas pollution is contributing to fish kills in the Salt Fork River and water well contamination in north central Oklahoma in Vaughan’s District 37.
Another pressing issue is that scientists claim wastewater disposal wells used in the hydraulic fracturing or fracking process are responsible for the state’s earthquake emergency. The state is now experiencing more 3.0-magnitude earthquakes than California. There have been so many earthquakes that it’s literally difficult to keep track of them. As I write this, the number could change. As of July, there were 258 3.0-magnitude quakes. I use that low number only because it’s cited in this excellent National Geographic story about Oklahoma’s earthquake swarm.
The larger issue is that all this points to the need to develop cleaner, renewable energy sources, such as wind and solar power and hydropower. Even those energy sources don’t come without their own negative environmental impact, but there’s no doubt the extraction of fossil fuels, along with carbon emissions, continues to critically damage our planet.