Column: The star of Alabama goes to court to go to the field


Maori Davenport had to go to court just to return to the field.

How ridiculous it is to get there for the high school basketball star of Alabama.

Fortunately, a cruel and unjust ruling by the state leadership was suspended Friday by a local judge, just hours before Charles Henderson High School in Davenport appeared in court for a match against Carroll.

It was only a temporary win, but at least that allowed Davenport to play for the first time since November.

We can only hope that the judge will rally to Davenport when he hears the facts, although it is not clear. But more importantly, this ridiculous case should serve as a lesson to all high school administrators:

The rules are certainly necessary, but those who execute them must always try to do their best for the children who play the games.

This mantra can not be found in this case.

"I believe in rules. But I also believe in a fair and reasonable application of the rules, "said ESPN analyst Jay Bilas, who lobbied for Davenport. "High school teachers, coaches and administrators are supposed to raise their kids, not keep them.

Davenport's senior season, which should have triumphed in the final round with her teammates Charles Henderson before leaving to play Vivian Stringer at the Rutgers Basketball Hall of Fame, was turned upside down by a simple mistake of writing.

Last summer, Davenport played for his country at a youth tournament in Mexico City, a huge honor for a still high school player. As usual, USA Basketball sent a modest allocation check of $ 857.20 to all participants.

This was not a problem for players who were already heading to college since the NCAA allows such payments. But USA Basketball did not check whether this applied to high school players such as Davenport, who could not accept money under the amateurish rules of the Alabama High School Athletic Association.

The Davenport family has deposited the check. Then, about three months later, after learning that the payment was against the rules of the law, they themselves reported the offense and refunded the money to USA Basketball.

"The United States has acknowledged their mistake," said Tara Davenport, the player's mother and coach at Charles Henderson Middle School. "His father and I returned the money as soon as possible."

Case closed, no?


The AHSAA stated that any violation of the amateur rule resulted in an automatic one-year suspension, ending Maori Davenport's high school career. Charles Henderson, the reigning 5A champion, was also sentenced to lose his first four games, which Davenport played before surrendering.

Davenport appealed the decision, but two ad hoc groups of the AHSAA repealed its decision. Even more appalling, the association released a statement this week that coldly defended its decision, essentially blaming the entire Davenport family, the coaches and administrators of Charles Henderson.

For Bilas, it was the drop of water.

"This statement was full of lies and petty," he said Friday. "It does not speak well to anyone in the state of Alabama, especially those of the sports association of state high schools. It was a low-front thing. "

The AHSAA statement stated that Davenport had adults around her who should have known the rules. According to the newspaper, the August 15th payment was not reported until 91 days and only after the start of Charles Henderson's season, as this would imply that Davenport's family had only messed up when she was nailed.

"If exceptions are made, it will no longer be necessary to resort to an amateur rule," said the statement released by Johnny Hardin, chairman of the AHSAA's central control board. "The rules are applied in the same way to ALL athletes."

But Bilas pointed out that this was an extremely rare case. It did not even have to be decided after the money was refunded.

"There is no way that, when the rule was put in place, it was even considered," he said. "I do not know how many Alabama kids are playing for their country, but I guess it's not very many. Certainly, not many who still have eligibility for high school. "

Good thing, he added, the AHSAA law was not present when this US Airways jet was forced to make an emergency landing in the Hudson River. "I suppose they would have quoted Sully Sullenberger for sailing without a license."

The Davenport decision turned Alabama into a national shame, attracting universal condemnation from all corners of the sporting world.

DeMarcus Cousins, a state star of the Golden State Warriors, has asked that Davenport be allowed to play. Kobe Bryant called it "the most ridiculous thing I've ever heard in basketball for kids." The great tennis player Billy Jean King described the situation as a whole as "maddening".

"Forcing Maori Davenport to miss his last year of basketball in high school because of an error that was not even his fault is absurd," King wrote on Twitter.

The Alabama legislature, usually a bastion of law and order, even passed a resolution asking the high school association to reconsider its decision.

Davenport always seems a bit overwhelmed by the whole affair. And no matter what the judge finally decides, his senior year has always been tarnished.

It's something she will never find.

"I do not think I have done anything wrong," Davenport told The Associated Press during a visit to the Legislature this week. "I was confused and I was shocked."

She hopes no one else has to endure this kind of injustice.

"I just want them to help that not to happen to any other student-athlete in Alabama," Davenport said. "Let's be clear about the rules. Always communicate with each high school. In this way, it has no chance of recurring.

It sounds like a reasonable request.

Much more reasonable than we heard from adults in the room.