Hey, it’s ‘only’ women’s basketball

I saw this line in a column today: “Was it worth stirring so much controversy over a scholarship release for a women’s basketball player?”

This was, of course, in regard to the controversy that’s turned into a full-fledged embarrassment for Kansas State about not releasing Leti Romero. I know the author, who certainly isn’t a bad guy, just someone who – I think even he would admit this – doesn’t care that much for writing about women’s sports.

He is now making the case that it’s time for K-State to “do the right thing,” and give Romero her release. More and more K-State fans are starting to come around to this point of view, too, even some who were stalwart – at first – in supporting the athletic department standing its dubious ground on a dumb decision.’

And some of these fans are phasing it much like the columnist did: “It’s not worth the bad PR over a women’s basketball player.”

But guess what? That very attitude is a big part of this whole issue in the first place. Let’s be frank. Stating it that way is basically saying, “Like all women athletes, she isn’t that important anyway. So why did we make such a big fuss over this?”

Look, I’m pragmatic and realistic: I know that a lot of fans that follow and media that cover college sports do tend to “value” the athletes differently. But athletic departments have the absolute responsibility to NOT do that.

Every college athlete is a human being. Someone’s child. They’re all young people trying to get a college education. Or _ again being pragmatic – at least use their college experience to propel themselves toward their future occupation. They all deserve the same treatment and respect from institutions that _on their most fundamental level _ are supposed to be about educating and nurturing young adults.

I think Kansas State’s administration did not think that completely denying Romero her release would be a big deal, because all involved seemed to assume no one would really pay much attention.

I know they thought they had good reasons for their decisions. But they didn’t truly make SURE they had those reasons, because they didn’t look ahead to having to publicly defend what they did.

They left their decisions and their conduct open to be second-guessed because they didn’t do that second-guessing enough themselves while going through this process. They didn’t spend enough time thinking, “Are we really doing the right thing? Have we really had thoughtful and honest dialogue with this student-athlete? Have we truly tried to understand what she’s experiencing and saying to us? Have we put ourselves in her shoes?”

If the honest answer to all of those questions is, “No,” or “probably not,” or “maybe not,” or even “I’m not sure” … then the next question is, “Why?”

Perhaps because at some level, she was being thought of as “only” a women’s basketball player.


About mvoepel

Mechelle Voepel covers the WNBA, women's college basketball and other college sports for ESPN.com.
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