Do Athletes Have Special Privileges?

by Whitney Burkes 

Editor’s Note: The following story was written by a student in our Urban Youth International Journalism Program in partnership with Paul Robeson High School. The UYIJP is generously funded by the McCormick Foundation.

When a student gets in trouble at Paul Robeson High School, they are immediately sent to the Dean of Students, Ms. Maxwell. That is, unless you’re an athlete, in which case you will be sent to the head coach of your sport.

I can certainly understand how it appears that student-athletes get special treatment. However, the average fan or student doesn’t get to see the whole picture. All student-athletes are accountable for their behaviors/actions just like everyone else. The process is the same (discussion with the Dean) for everyone BUT for athletes, their coaches are notified of their behavior and they may no longer be a Robeson Raider. Every athlete that takes the field is expected to show high character, respect and leadership on the field of competition. The coaches expect the student-athletes to illustrate the same principles in class and throughout the hallways. When the expectation is not met, the student-athlete has to face the consequences from both Ms. Maxwell and their coach.

Some students at Paul Robeson High School feel that this is unfair.

“They [Athletes] get sent to their coach, and they get ‘talked to.’ If any other student gets in trouble, we go to Ms. Maxwell, and we get detention, suspension, or parent teacher conference. It’s not fair,” said  Myesha Riddle, 16, a junior at Robeson. 

Many other students are a bit more understanding, like 14-year-old freshman Ryan Riddle, who said, “They [Athletes] have to work hard and they get injured. There’s too much stress, they don’t need more stress added on.” 

I also spoke with Jamie Nichols, a 15-year-old sophomore who is a running back for the Paul Robeson Raiders Football Team.

“We don’t get treated with so-called ‘favoritism,’ mainly because when we do get in trouble, yeah, we get sent to the head coach, but there are higher consequences then what people think it is,” Nichols said. “But people are going to think what they think.”

 

I interviewed Coach Isaac Carter, director of athletics at Robeson.

A lot of students at this school [Paul Robeson High School] think that the athletes get special privileges not afforded to non-athletes, as a coach at the school, how do you feel about this? Are the athletes treated differently?

Coach Carter said, “If they get in trouble at school, they get the necessary punishment from the dean and then in practice they have to do extra push-ups or sprints.”

Basically they have to do more than the other players because they misbehaved. What non-athletes don’t see or appreciate is the “extra” work and preparation put in from their classmates to prepare for contests.  Student-athletes hold the responsibility of representing the school and its reputation in the community. They have a direct effect on the spirit of the building and the pride that is carried on by classmates, staff and alumni. When athletes are disciplined by their coaches, it can come in the form of reduction in playing time on the field. Most student-athletes would rather face the music with the dean than face the wrath of their coach!

Coach Carter said, “Sports can open doors… an education keeps them open.”

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