Archive for Thursday, November 24, 2005

Commentary: Miami athletes are getting a bad rap

November 24, 2005

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Ten years ago in college, my friends and I had a ritual where we would end our stressful days with a heavy dose of "The Chronic."

I wasn't going through my Ricky Williams phase. At the time, Dr. Dre was considered the hottest rapper in the industry, and listening to "The Chronic" was our way of letting off steam.

For those not familiar with Dr. Dre's work, the overall themes in "The Chronic" are constant marijuana use is great, sleeping with numerous women is even greater and making money using illegal means at your disposal is preferred.

Countless doses of "The Chronic" never made me want to smoke marijuana, sleep with half the campus or become a gangster, not even once I realized the average starting salary for an entry-level journalist was $19,000.

So I can't understand why people believe that a bunch of Miami football players are misogynists, potential rapists and derelicts just because they recorded a racy rap song with their friends two years ago.

I listened to the song, which has become an instant Internet hit. It's entertaining and playful, but also full of swearing, obscene references to women and Penthouse-like descriptions of sexual acts.

Sounds like every rap song on Billboard's top 100.

Obviously, the players' biggest mistake was putting their jam session on tape. Although they were clearly just goofing off with their friends, college athletes must be aware they represent their university and team at all times.

"They were apparently entertaining themselves by creating a rap song," Miami athletic director Paul Dee said. "I don't know if they knew it was being recorded."

But if you think the Miami players should be punished and Dee should have done more than call the song "inappropriate" and "demeaning," then you must smoke the real chronic.

Maybe some of you don't know this, but when you see college football players listening to their iPods, they usually aren't listening to the latest Celine Dion. It's probably 50 Cent or Tupac, who both were former prisoners.

But the overreaction to Miami's rap song during the past week only points to just how uncomfortable some of us are with the marriage between sports and hip-hop culture.

David Stern didn't enact a dress code for the NBA because he has Armani stock. He did it because he wants the league to shed its hip-hop image, even though a large percentage of NBA fans avidly support the music and the culture.

Like it or not, the reason the Hurricanes are such a popular team nationally is because hip hop is a part of their identity. Rapper Luther Campbell's notorious link to the program helped make Miami trendy, so now when you watch music videos, you see somebody wearing a 'Canes jersey.

But there always is a double standard when hip hop is at the center of controversy. Only those who listen to rap - and apparently record it - are accused of actually condoning what they listen to.

But I don't see anybody calling Arnold Schwarzenegger's fans murderers. Nobody calls Kurt Cobain fans suicidal. And nobody thinks you're in the Mafia because you own Frank Sinatra records.

Because rap's roots are in the inner city, anyone who listens to it or records it is perceived as being dangerous.

But the music is only this generation's version of the comic book - a very explicit one. Those who listen to it know a lot of what is said is false bravado and tongue-in-cheek. Whether rap's influence is good or bad is another debate.

But to say Miami players are what they rap just isn't fair.

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