I'm still off the Day Job on paternity leave, but when my old AOL BlackVoices editor asked me to write a contrarian piece for The Grio about Diddy's son Justin Combs receiving a football scholarship to UCLA, I said, why not? Baby girl was sleeping. I can write snarky pieces about pop culture fluff in my sleep. The money was good. Sign me up.
The piece went up the next day and got a lot of comments, which I figured would bode well for my goal of getting more freelance work in the future. With 3 mouths to feed and a wife with a Master's Degree in Internet Shopping, I need the money. Let's get it!
A couple of days later, something really weird happened. I took a long nap after dropping my son off at school, and when I woke up, my Twitter timeline, email, and voicemail were blowin' up.
Strangely, my (admittedly fluff) piece had been picked up by Reuters and used as the basis for a larger story about the blowback UCLA was taking for giving the kid the scholarship. Mind you, my Grio piece wasn't saying the kid didn't deserve the scholarship, just that since his family can afford the scholarship, he should walk on, and free up the athletic scholarship for another player. Basically, take one for the team (since you can afford it) and make the team stronger since they get a 2-for-1 deal. Whatever. That's all, and honestly, I didn't even care that much about the issue.
But it goes without saying that when a major news organization picks up your opinion piece and uses it to prove a pointness point, then someone actually does care about the issue.
I don't typically quote news stories this heavily, but sheeeit, my name's in the damn story. I sorta feel entitled.
Justin Dior Combs, whose father topped a Forbes list of hip hop's wealthiest this year with a net worth estimated at $550 million, comes to the California school from the private, Catholic Iona Preparatory School in New Rochelle, New York.Fast forward a bit. The story's been covered on CNN, ESPN, The Tom Joyner Morning Show, and the Huffington Post. People as diverse as Russell Simmons, Dick Vitale, and Roland Martin all weighed in, all disagreeing with my point. Heck, even Diddy's Kid himself took to Twitter to (indirectly) bash me.
The younger Combs' scholarship to attend the University of California, Los Angeles, and play on the football team will provide $54,000 a year toward his education, with that money coming from what the athletic program generates, not from taxpayers, the school said.
That has not stopped some critics from questioning whether the money might not be better spent.
The younger Combs, in response to a CNN story about his scholarship, took to Twitter on Tuesday to say that he earned the scholarship. "Regardless what the circumstances are, I put that work in!!!! PERIOD," he wrote.
"Regardless of what you do in life every1 is gonna have their own opinion," Combs, who played in nationwide high school all-star game in Arizona in January, said in a follow-up post.
UCLA said in a statement that unlike need-based scholarships for academics, the school's sports scholarships are awarded strictly on the basis of athletic ability.
"Athletic scholarships, such as those awarded to football or basketball players, do not rely on state funds," UCLA said. "Instead, these scholarships are entirely funded through UCLA Athletics ticket sales, corporate partnerships, media contracts and private donations from supporters."
UCLA hands out about 285 full athletic scholarships each year.
At the NBC News opinion website TheGrio.com, blogger Jay Anderson asked whether paying for his son's education should be the obligation of the elder Combs.
"By taking a scholarship that he earned, but could likely afford on his own, (Justin) Combs is taking a spot away from a player who might elect to go elsewhere ... which in theory would hurt the team as a whole," Anderson wrote.
And then, I got asked to go on ESPN Radio Los Angeles to discuss my PoV on the Mason & Ireland Show, which I did. The appearance went well. I stuck to my central argument (2-for-1, makes the team better) and even referenced other examples where kids of means decided to walk-on, rather than take up a spot, for the good of the team. Of course, this being talk radio and all, as soon as I hung up the hosts sorta flipped the script on me, and accordingly, caller after caller dialed in and ripped me a new one for being "jealous" and "hating hip hop". I can't say I didn't know what I was getting into, so I'm not mad. It's whatever.
So, what did I learn from all this?
Be careful what you write, even when it's lighthearted, because you might have to defend it at some point.All in all, a weird, weird day.
It musta been a sloooow news day at Reuters.
News travels fast in cyberspace. Really fast.
People sure get worked up about that amounts to nothing. I mean, seriously, do a Google or Twitter search on this. It's pretty astounding.
My skin's much thicker than I thought.
Sports talk radio is all about sensationalism and keeping ears glued, even when the topic of convo isn't all that important. At all.
Man, am I glad don't go by my government name on the internets. Very glad.
Question: What do you think? Did I hold my own on the radio? Does it bug you that a supposedly reputable news organization can take two lines from an opinion piece and turn it into a story "embroiled in a firestorm"?!?