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SV-SM twists Golden Rule



Published: Sun, February 16, 2003 @ 12:00 a.m.



Today is an unofficial holiday for high school athletic programs that do their best to circumvent the rules anyway, anyhow, anywhere.

This was to have been the day that the Ohio High School Athletic Association was to hear an appeal by basketball superstar LeBron James and Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary on regaining his high school eligibility after having it yanked on Jan. 30 for accepting gifts from a Cleveland merchant.

Instead, officials of the most famous private school in the nation stood by and did nothing while the James family found a "free" attorney to sue the OHSAA in a Summit County court and get the ban temporarily rescinded.

Their argument was that the future NBA millionaire would be harmed by not playing in his final 10-or-so high school games.

Hypocritical message

In unveiling his latest court move, Ohio's greatest player flip-flopped from future millionaire to oppressed victim while coach Dru Joyce and Athletics Director Grant Innocenzi whistled softly and twiddled their thumbs.

Hypocrisy 101 -- no one teaches it better than Akron SV-SM.

The message that the school with the best high school basketball team in the nation is sending to its students is simple: We will abide by the rules of our governing body unless we don't like them.

Then we'll sue for special treatment.

It's an interesting twist on the Golden Rule that should be part of a Catholic school's agenda.

This is no knock against James' skills on the court. He deserves every penny he'll be tossed for being the NBA's top draft pick in June and the shoes he endorses and whatever else (Hummers, free auto insurance) he's asked to pitch.

As the parent of a high school athlete, what fries my bacon is how James, his handlers and SV-SM want it both ways -- to be high school champions while living the life of luxury that amateurs aren't suppose to enjoy because they haven't earned it.

No common sense

If James truly wanted to be the best high school athlete in the land, a little common sense was required. His mother, Gloria, reportedly is unemployed, yet her son wears the finest fashions, has all the high-tech electronic gizmos, has security guards at his side and a luxury vehicle.

Gloria's motto: If you've got it, flaunt it.

They've obviously got it.

The James family isn't even trying to pretend that money isn't already flowing into the family coffers.

Their actions are a slap in the face to athletes who play by the rules and parents and educators trying to teach the toughest lesson of all -- right from wrong.

SV-SM officials tried to win favor by claiming they are just a small private school who had no idea about the hoopla their prodigy's senior season would create.

Sounds good until you remember that SV-SM booked a farewell tour of the nation's arenas charging $30,000 a pop to boost its player acquisition fund.

Last weekend in New Jersey, King James proclaimed, "I just feel like LeBron James has got a big bull's-eye on him. I just have to stay focused and do the right things and play the right basketball."

Do the right things? Play the right basketball?

Why start now?

Most basketball fans don't care -- all they want is to see him play. They don't care if he's receiving gifts under the table or if his grade-point average boasts are inflated.

They also don't care that undefeated teams such as Poland and Lakeview in Ohio's Division II tournament have all-but-no chance of winning a state title against a professionally assembled touring machine.

LeBron James stopped being an amateur years ago. That his school has the gall to pretend he still is embarrasses us all.

As Akron native Chryssie Hynde once sang, "Way to go, O-Hi-Yo."

XTom Williams is a sportswriter for The Vindicator. Write to him at williams@vindy.com.




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