Quaking in their cleats

Sports blotter: "Bad timing by Newsweek " edition
By MATT TAIBBI  |  January 31, 2007

POOR SPORTSMANSHIP: Football players at Guilford College, once named the hottest school for “social conscience,” hurled punches and slurs at Palestinian students.

Way to go, Newsweek. America’s leading health-fad-and-campaign-dreck news mag named Guilford College, a Quaker school in North Carolina, the “hottest for social conscience” in 2006. Right on cue, the school became the site of the first ever football-Islam hate crime, opening the door to a whole new world of unacceptable beer-fueled behavior for America’s athletes.

At least five, and possibly six, members of the football team were involved in an altercation with three Palestinian students last week. The athletes were accused of beating the Palestinian students with fists, feet, and brass knuckles, and of yelling a variety of epithets, including “terrorists,” at them. They were charged with assault, battery, and “ethnic intimidation,” North Carolina’s name for its state hate-crimes law. The FBI is said to be investigating whether federal civil-rights statutes were violated.

In the wake of the attack, students erected a “community scarecrow” in the middle of the campus quad — an effigy with mop hair and a cardboard-box face upon which students were invited to “write your definition of community.” As yet, the community scarecrow has not inspired any new attacks, but one would assume this remains a possibility.

This appears to be the first post–9/11 sports attack against Muslims. Not that there haven’t been some ugly, racially charged incidents in our past. One that flew relatively under the radar was a November 2004 incident in which a number of Oregon State University football players assaulted a white National Guardsman, apparently for being married to a black woman. There was also Duke-lacrosse-team rape suspect Collin Finnerty, who was arrested for punching a man, apparently for being gay. And in 2003, there was an incident in Rockdale, Texas, in which a young boy with gender-identity issues committed suicide; it is believed he was attacked and urinated on by members of his school’s football team just prior to his death.

Guilford College has a long history of reaching out to Muslim communities around the world, and has taken in many exchange students from the Middle East. As a result, protests from the Muslim community have been somewhat stifled. Within the student body, however, there have been boycotts and candlelight vigils.

The three Palestinian students suffered a variety of injuries: one had a broken nose; another, a broken jaw. All have been released from the hospital. Meanwhile, the father of one of the accused football players has released a photo purportedly showing a bruise on his son’s back in the shape of a belt-buckle, and claims that the incident was more two-sided than has been reported.

Either way, six football players fighting three Palestinians, late, in prime beer-consumption territory on a Saturday night, sounds like pretty bad math. A hate crime scores an automatic 80 on our sports-crime rating system, but I’ll drop it to 70 pending the release of more definite information.

Bowling for time
Another week, another onetime major college athlete arrested for stealing video games. Lionel Sullivan, a 6’6” freshman at Bowling Green who was dismissed from the hoop team in December, was busted last week for attempting to use another student’s ID to buy an Xbox 360 and a pair of video games from the campus store.

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