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January 07, 2002 - Image 4

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 2002-01-07

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4A - The Michigan Daily - Monday, January 7, 2002


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SINCE 1890

Editor in Chief
Editorial Page Editors

Unless otherwise noted, unsigned editorials reflect the opinion of the majority of the Daily's
editorial board. All other articles, letters and cartoons do not
necessarily reflect the opinion of The Michigan Daily.

<<I tell people
that I want to live
in a city where I
can buy underwear.
We have gotten to
that point."
- Former Detroit city council member Rev.
Nicholas Hood III to The Detroit News'
editorial board at last year's mayoral
candidate interviews, on Detroit as a "world
class "city, as quoted by News columnist
George Cantor in his Jan. 5 column.


t&V.M EPLL BeAK....

If you don't read my column, the terrorists have won

he things people
will do in the name
of "remembering"
or "memorializing" the vic-
tims of Sept. 11 are starting
to sound like they have
been pulled out of an
episode guide for TBS'
"Ripley's Believe it or
Not." Just add "in remem-
brance of the victims of Sept. 11" to any of the
segment blurbs and you'll see what I mean.
Here's one from Jan. 2: "Grand Master Zhou
has learned to harness the power of the mind
and body and use it to perform exercises that
push the limits. With the point of a sharp spear
nested in the soft tissue of his throat, and the
other on the bumper he will push a Volkswagon
Beetle" (in remembrance of the victims of Sept.
If you don't believe me, take this new stunt
from real life: On New Year's Day, "Josh and
Bill," two college graduates from southern New
England, left Los Angeles on foot and began
"The Walk for America." Their goal is to arrive
in New York City on the one year anniversary
of the Sept. 11 attacks. According to their mis-
sion statement, from the website www.walk-for-
america.org, "The Walk for America will be a
living memorial to Americans that have died at
the hands of terrorists - those who attempt to
intimidate us and dampen the spirit of our
What it really sounds like is that these two
guys were looking for an excuse to trek across
the country. And now they've found a nice way
to get both corporate and private sponsorship.
But perhaps their intentions are more genuine
than petty cynicism would first suspect. Perhaps

Josh and Bill had been spending sleepless nights
all fall wondering what they could do to memo-
rialize the victims of Sept. 11. Maybe Josh - or
was it Bill? - was suddenly struck one day
with the solution to the patriotic conundrum.
That solution: Go on a really, really, long walk.
Contributions can be made via the Walk for
America website to the new "Walk for America
Scholarship Fund," a fund that will "ensure that
money will not be a factor in preventing depen-
dents from furthering their education."
However, The Washington Post reported in
mid-November that the cause of providing
scholarships to survivors of Sept. 11 and to
their dependents (and dependents of victims)
has been a popular one. Bill Clinton and Bob
Dole have started and currently chair the "Fam-
ilies of Freedom Scholarship Fund," which has
a minimum fundraising goal of $100 million.
States, along with colleges and universities,
across the United States have pledged a com-
mitment to financial support of higher educa-
tion for survivors and dependents as well.
Virginia Governor Jim Gilmore's request that
instead Americans donate $1 to funds for
Afghan children has gone largely unnoticed.
With more than a hundred million dollars on
the way to the bank and countless promises of
scholarships from schools across the country,
why are Josh and Bill walking 3,500 miles to
raise money for a cause that doesn't really need
their help?
Maybe it's because everybody feels like
they need to do something. But it's time for this
country to realize that, in a large way, that
something has already been done. The grief and
the prayers and the actual remembrance - but
not the stunts pulled to incite that remembrance
- will go on for a long, long time. What we

need to ask, however, is how has it happened
that all of this remembrance, nominally about
the memory of victims, has become about us?
The Live Brave Coalition asks that people
continue to live their lives as before Sept. 11. "I
will fight terrorism by staying open 24-7,"
declares a New York restaurant owner in one of
the advertisements funded by the group. Live
Brave was founded -by Christopher Galvin,
CEO of Motorola, who writes, "I am exception-
ally proud of the work Motorola is doing to help
right the world after the September 11 terrorist
attack. And I am confident that our expertise in
security and wireless technology will continue
to make the world safer. Technology will help
us craft the next chapter in the world history. It
will be about safety and security and heroism.
And all of us must be about authoring it. That is
what living bravely means."
Maybe living bravely is about safety and
security and heroism. But here it seems to be
mostly about Motorola.
In November, Roy Rivenburg of the Los
Angeles Times reported that Martha Stewart
had asked her employees to give up the tradi-
tional large office Christmas party and host
smaller gatherings in their own homes. When
some people were reluctant, "Stewart fired off a
memo: 'To me, the terrorists have certainly suc-
ceeded if so few of you participate in a compa-
nywide effort to get together."'
It's terrifying that people would use Sept. 11
and what's worse, the memory of the victims,
for their own purposes. Unfortunately, it's
become a fundamental (but largely unnoticed)
feature of the American patriotic landscape.


Johanna Hanink can be reached via
e-mail atjhanink@umich.edu.

Sympathy for the devil

Although we find the Daily's Dec. 12 editor-
ial "Athletic Freedom: Contracts inhibit free-
dom to protest" noble, its premise is based in
unrealistic idealism; as editors and chairs of the
Daily's editorial board, we must respect the
Daily's laudable precedent of supporting free-
dom of speech and the majority vote of the
board, we also have a responsibility to point out
errors in argument when appropriate. Now is
one of these times.
In the editorial, the board argues that the
University's athletic apparel contract with Nike
stifles a student athlete's right to protest the
shoe-giant. There are, however, some pertinent
points the Daily overlooked in its argument.
When the University re-signed with Nike for
an exclusive seven-year partnership last year,
the fine print prohibited the University or its ath-
letes from doing anything to deface -
the Nike "Swoosh" logo, or any- If Sti
thing else to defame the company. actiVis
This makes sense. When two part- to refos
ners enter into an agreement, it is they
logical that one partner will not do ConsI
anything to harm the other. envirc
Such logic gets called into
question when people are affected thoug
by contracts that they had no role in Nike b
negotiating, as is the case with stu- SuCh aJ
dent athletes. Perhaps then-Presi- part
dent Lee C. Bollinger and others Ann /
involved in contract negotiations
can be barred from covering the "Swoosh" in
public, but certainly not the athletes - right?
These types of good-faith arguments rest on
the idea that student athletes are forced to play.
Loss of scholarships may be seen as an implicit
threat, but that line of reasoning is tenuous at
best. The fact is that student athletes voluntarily
sign on to a contract of their own with the Uni-
versity when they decide to play -- and a
major provision of the contract between the Uni-
versity and student athletes is the granting of
certain managerial decisions to the University.
Among those is the decision on what to wear
and how to wear it. This isn't an infringement of
civil rights - it's a protection of property rights.
In agreeing to outfit University sports teams,
Nike is offering its product not just as clothing
but also as advertising. The argument extends to
this as well: Private advertisements have no
nlace in a nhlic institution. The University.


lic and private - across the nation. Through the
contract, Channel One outfits schools with tele-
vision sets in every classroom in exchange for
schools allocating 12 minutes per day for
mandatory viewing of the news program. Chan-
nel One has essentially become part of the cur-
riculum, and students are "forced" to watch the
news program - including the advertisements
for the likes of 7-Up and Gatorade. Channel
One is owned by the private Primedia, Inc, and
officially aligned with ABC News.
The Channel One situation is a close analo-
gy to the current Nike contracts. In exchange for
some merchandise (televisions and sports uni-
forms, respectively), the relative government
institutions assure the corporations of visibility
(in the classroom or on the playing field). Nei-
ther case infringes on the civil rights of students.
So why does Nike become an issue?
In the soap opera-like drama that unfolded in
the months and weeks before Bollinger and Ath-
-- letic Department Director Bill Mar-
dent tin re-signed with Nike, the
S Wish University was left without an ath-
n Nike, letic outfitter. When the University
"iust re-signed with Nike last year, one
or the of its arguments for doing so was
that the shoe-giant provides Michi-
iment gan athletic teams with quality
which apparel. Student athletes, the Uni-
came versity argued, would rather be with
OWerfui outfitted with shoes and other gear
er in from Nike, rather than from another
rbor. retailer
Unfortunately, the deal left
many student activists with a bad taste in their
mouths, since concerns over Nike's labor prac-
tices did not seem to be fully considered by the
University. Nike's use of sweatshop labor in
developing nations was - and still is - a valid
sticking point between the University adminis-
tration and student activists, who demanded that
the University use its contract to force Nike to
align itself with strict labor codes.
Since then, Nike has become the Dr. Claw to
student activists' Inspector Gadget. To the
Daily's editorial board, the freedom of speech
issue is an extension of activists' desire to vilify
Nike at any and every turn. Whereas the labor
rights issue are noble and admirable, the free-
dom of speech issue ends up looking like nit-
picking - and worse yet, nitpicking that
doesn't have any legal grounds.;
Furthermore, the freedom of speech issue
would have some weight if it came from those


protest. If student athletes are adamant about
their rights to protest Nike - by covering up the
"Swoosh" or, as a stronger statement, quitting
the team - the University would be compelled
to listen and figure out a way to wean itself off
of Nike.
Unless labor activists infiltrate the ranks of
the football, field hockey or swimming teams,
this will never happen. While student athletics is
unfortunately more about making money for the
University and increasing institutional prestige
these days, we cannot expect student athletes to
be civil libertarians. Since we as a community
expect our student athletes to perform in the
arena, stadium, field or pool for the betterment
of the University, we cannot expect athletics to
be a forum about the First Amendment. The
Daily's editorial board believes otherwise.
Student activists are myopically attacking
Nike without considering the much larger issue
of the economics of intercollegiate athletics,
which warrants close examination. Intercolle-
giate athletics have, in recent decades, become
much more about budgets and profits than about
the actual athletic competition. If student
activists wish to reform Nike, they must consid-
er the environment through which Nike became
such a powerful partner in Ann Arbor.
This is not a totally foreign concept. Even
former University President James J. Duderstadt
has been outspoken on the subject. He believes
the corporatization of intercollegiate athletics
has been a detriment to the educational missions
of universities. Once the larger issue of universi-
ties' dependence on corporate sponsorship is



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