When Reverend Al Sharpton spoke at Rosa Park’s funeral, I was touched by his tribute to her courage and legacy – and I was inspired by the challenge he laid out for the rest of us:
When we leave here, we ought to make a Rosa resolution. You ought to make one commitment in her name to yourself. You ought to resolve that you are going to do something that makes a difference because we’re here because she made a difference.
On March 21, I’m headed to Sacramento to fulfill my own Rosa Resolution.
I’m going to climb the state capitol steps; I’m going to haunt its corridors. I’m going to speak to State legislators about a matter of great personal significance, while also suggesting a better path forward for the people of California. I’m going to speak with a passion born of tragedy, outlining the importance of passing a bill I’m proposing.
You might reasonably assume that no school would want the black eye that comes of playing violent, convicted felons on their teams. Surely, no coaches would want to put themselves in this situation, given that they’d potentially endanger other students and college staff. And given the moral codes of conduct and eligibility requirements to which college coaches and athletes are bound, it logically follows that dangerous criminals would be scrubbed from team rosters.
But I know now that none of these assumptions are true. That’s why Assembly Member Jay La Suer (San Diego) agreed to author this legislation, and that’s why I’m making this trip.
This legislation has its origins in a traumatic personal experience. Namely, in late 2004, my son was a victim of a vicious and unprovoked assault by several members of a community college football team. He suffered significant injuries, for which he required major surgery and ongoing medical attention. Thanks to San Diego investigators and the District Attorney’s office, three of the thugs involved in the assault were identified, prosecuted, and sent to jail on felony convictions. And thankfully, my son has healed.
Nevertheless, we remain appalled by what we learned about the coach’s conduct in the aftermath of that felonious crime. We are still upset about the hands-off, dismissive attitude we encountered when we approached the statewide commission on athletics, asking for their advice and proposing changes.
The actual assault occurred off campus and, speaking in purely legal terms, the college bore no responsibility for the actions of its athletes beyond their participation in school-sanctioned events. But when approached by a detective about the assault, the coach came to the defense of his players, telling the detective that the “spoiled white boys [victims] probably deserved a beating.”
Two of the three felons were arrested on campus, in front of the whole football team. This is a fact, confirmed by the football coach and the criminals themselves, in sworn testimony and other settings. The criminals eventually pled guilty to felony assault. This is not in dispute. But as they awaited their sentencing, at least two of the thugs were allowed to remain on the football team, playing game after game without penalty. Coach Jordan’s team actually won the National Championship that year, carried to victory on the backs of convicted felons!
When confronted by the news media, the coach first denied playing at least one of them, and then said, “Maybe if they were my star quarterbacks, I would have paid more attention,” and “I guess I figured if they weren’t in jail, they were all right [to play].
To my shock and dismay, I discovered that Jordan wasn’t alone in his cavalier attitude. When we approached the statewide commission on athletics about the incident — questioning the coach’s conduct and his athletes’ ongoing eligibility–officials said that it was “up to each institution” to enforce the association’s moral codes of conduct and to monitor their rules for athletic eligibility. A spokesperson for the NCAA told me essentially the same thing.
This culture of complicity apparently made it easier for Coach Jordan to shrug off the charges leveled at his athletes, and to abdicate any personal responsibility. In citing this incident among others, the Los Angeles Times suggested that this wink-and-nod behavior is supported by a sports culture that promotes winning at any cost. But I refuse to accept the status quo, going forward.
And so it is that I’ve made this Rosa Resolution: I’ll work with legislators to create a law that governs athletes’ eligibility in similar circumstances. I’ll help pass a law that requires coaches and educational institutions to shoulder their responsibilities, instead of shirking them. In taking the matter beyond my front doorstep and to the steps of the state capitol, I’ll do what I can to help protect all citizens from situations like the one my family experienced.
Assembly Bill 2165 would prohibit student athletes from participating as a member of any intercollegiate team, or as a participant in any intercollegiate athletic event if, after enrolling in a public California college or university they (a) are prosecuted as an adult and (b) are convicted of a violent crime, such as murder, kidnapping, robbery, battery against a sports official, assault with a deadly weapon, rape, burglary, or attempted murder. I’m going to work tirelessly, fighting with all my might to ensure its passage.
I hope my Rosa Resolution is one that would make her proud.
Edited to Add: WE DID IT!!
Wow! It never ceases to amaze me what people will allow athletes to get away with. I’m sorry your son had such a terrifying experience, and I’m glad you are doing something to change the playing field for other “thugs” (what an apropos word!) Good for you!!
Thank you for your kind words, Sara; they mean a great deal to me. I do want to make a difference and hope that I can.
I’m so very proud of my son for getting through this ordeal with dignity, grace, and courage. I hope to live up to his legacy, as well.
I am so proud of you!
VERY proud of you.
When you come to Sacramento, I could drive down and have tea with you.
Would you like that? 🙂
Oh, I certainly would. That would be awesome!
I could definitely use the support — and hot tea with a friend, well, what could be better than that?
Email me, OK? Newport2Newport [at] gmail dot com
Wow. I’m so sorry this happened to your son, and I’m so proud of you for following through on this resolution. I am inspired to be on the lookout for a Rosa Resolution of my own.
I draw courage from what Rosa did, what Rev. Sharpton said, and what you’ve written here. Thank you! And if you need support with your own Rosa Resolution, I’m here for you, too.
Good for you – there is no place for violence in our society. Those thugs, as you called them, deserved to be severely punished, and their coach along with them.
I think that with the increased violence on television, and with the increase of the money and scholarships athletes get – sports are becoming more like a battle and less like what they should be – a game.
sports are becoming more like a battle and less like what they should be – a game.
It’s true. And unfortunately, it’s a battle to be won at almost any cost. But in this case (and I know it’s not an isolated example), the price was just too high!
Thank you for your support. It means a great deal. =:)
You are an inspiration to all of us for standing up for what is right and just and noble…unfortunately, ethics has been lost by so many persons in the pursuit of “wining at all costs” philosophy. I have been profoundly saddened and ashamed of the college’s response to what happened to your son and their failure to protect their own students from similar assaults. Thank God you are taking definitive action to help protect other students who are oblivious of the fact that they may be attending college with felons! Sincerely, Debbie
What an inspiring post to read on a Sunday morning! Good for you, I am touched by your resolution, and horrified that those players were allowed to play. No crime should be overlooked just because “they’re a great athlete.”
Thank you so much! I hope you’ll support me in your thoughts next week. 🙂
You might be surprised to know that MANY states, schools, and institutions lack legislation that would prohibit violent felons from playing on athletic teams. Follow that one to its logical conclusion…there’s more potential risk to public safety than we know and/or admit.
Melodye, I SO APPLAUD you on this very much needed step. I hope you make a BIG difference in athletes in colleges across the nation.
I do think this is an area that needs investigation; most of us have (now had) no clue that this wasn’t already a done deal. Carol
I do think this is an area that needs investigation; most of us have (now had) no clue that this wasn’t already a done deal.
I agree — and believe it’s true that “a 1,000 mile journey begins with a single step.” I’m walking the talk, with my feet headed north (to Sacramento). Maybe others, from other states, will eventually join me on the journey. Could be their own Rosa Resolution, who knows? =:)
Wow! I hope that you are successful in getting this done. I could not agree more with your desire to do some good for the country. I also must say that I really admire your “guts” and gumption to see this through to the end. Good for you!
I hope that you are successful in getting this done.
Thank you! I will report back, to let you know how it goes.
Your Rosa Resolution certainly makes ME proud…Good luck in Sacramento!
Thank you so much! I’ll report back with updates, to let you know the progress I make.
Melodye, dear friend, you are making a difference! Thanks for sharing. I hope you have a safe and successful trip.
I enjoy reading your blogs.
(((HUGS)))) Thank you, Kamilia!
Yes, you’re doing the right thing. Call it your ‘Rosa moment’ if you’d like. You’re a mother, first. Fierce, protective, determined, loyal, with unconditional love that moves mountains and passes laws. Your son’s lucky. Your community is lucky. As your friend, I’m lucky to see such good work in action.
You’re setting a good example to all of us.
You’re right that I’m a mama bear…everyone who knows me, knows this is the case. But the issue is bigger and broader than my family’s own needs, which is why I’m willing to invest the energy and time.
I appreciate very much what you’ve said; I’ll carry your words in my heart, to pull out when I need them the most.
Wow! This article is very moving and very well written. I think that a resolution like this should be passed in every state. I am sick of criminals being allowed to keep participating in every sector of our communities.
I really hope that your resolution is received warmly by those in Sacramento. I’ll be praying for you. You are very brave, as is your son.
Thank you, Sheryll. I will do what I can in/for my state. I do hope that others will follow, picking up the banner and carrying it to the steps of their state capitols, as well.
Let me add to the chorus of WOWS!
Wonderfully written piece (albeit sad) and I am so glad to hear of your fight to make a difference. I’m cheering you on.
Thank you so much, Susan! I appreciate your kind words about the writing, of course; more than that, though, I am grateful for your words of support.
I appreciate having a cheering section for the fight that lies ahead.
I sent a letter to both committees supporting the bill
I just wanted to let you know that I sent in a letter of support for AB 2165 to both committees. I hope and pray that this legislation will pass! You certainly are to be commended for your tough, courageous stance as a mother, citizen, writer and all around fantastic woman!
I’m sure your very BOLD efforts would make her proud. Few people would take the steps you’ve taken to make a difference after such a situation.
Cue respectful applause.
I’d wager your son is proud too, and thankful.
I so appreciate what you’ve said here. I’m humbled and grateful for your kind words.
I am so sorry about your son’s experience but glad that he has healed. I applaud you on your courage and efforts to help prevent the same thing from happening to other students. You are inspirational.
PS. Here’s to Rosa Parks and to everyone who finds their own Rosa resolution. I’ll be looking for mine.
Wow. I so appreciate your kind words — and definitely am grateful for your support. It’s not an easy task, to be certain, but nothing this important ever is.
When you find your Rosa Resolution(s), please call on me to support you in whatever you’ve chosen to do…
Bravo Melodye! You are an inspiration to all of us!
Thank you so much, Laura! When Governor Schwarzenneger signed the bill into law, I was ecstatic–but also humbled. Through the course of history, many people have given their lives over to important causes, and I believe we’re called to do the same.
AB 2165 Signing Ceremony | A Joyful Noise
[…] moment where my son received the signing pen from Governor Schwarzenegger. The day I made good on my Rosa Resolution. (Yes, I’m crying. Need you […]
Come Celebrate With Me! | A Joyful Noise
[…] an explanation about all this, if you’re new to the party, see “My Rosa Resolution,” a few posts […]
Comments are closed.