Tyrann Mathieu Can Only Make Money For Other People

Today I got my copy of Sports Illustrated in the mail.

The cover story is on Tyrann Mathieu, LSU’s Honey Badger, who is presently sitting out the 2012 season after failing drug tests.

Mathieu’s fall from Heisman contender to ineligible player has been well documented since July. Television cameras have even caught him sitting in the LSU student section this fall, rooting for the team he isn’t allowed to represent. Now Sports Illustrated has put him on the cover of its magazine. The vast majority of the story is a rehash of the difficult background that Thayer Evans already wrote about last year for Fox Sports. That story was fabulous, an eye-opening account into an upbringing that most of us can’t even imagine.

But that story ran nearly a year ago, amidst the swirl of media attention that surrounded the LSU-Alabama BCS title game.

I linked the Fox Sports story at the time and encouraged y’all to read it in the days surrounding the BCS title game.

I’d say the same thing today. Read it.

But now SI tells that same story, a year later, with insubstantial new news included.

Except for a couple of paragraphs about Mathieu’s image potentially being used by a local Baton Rouge club.

“But what’s good for Era Nation may not be helping Mathieu. Several of the Era Nation videos promote events at a Baton Rouge club called The Palace. One in particular encourages viewers to attend an Era Nation party at the club on March 10, 2012. Mathieu appears in the video, and an event promoter says “the whole LSU football team” will be there. A flyer for the party has two photographs of Mathieu in his LSU jersey and describes the event as an “Era Nation Album Release Party For Tyrann Mathieu.” It also features photographs of former LSU standout Mo Claiborne and current LSU sophomore defensive tackle Anthony Johnson, who are listed as the party’s hosts. Johnson denied any involvement; Clairborne says he was aware of the party but did not attend.

In another video Mathieu is on stage at The Palace in front of a large crowd, using a microphone to talk about the club’s chicken wings and fries. Somebody closely affiliated with the club told SI that Mathieu received access to the club’s VIP area. “Every time he came, we let all the football players, like his teammates, in for free,” said the person. He added that Mathieu knew his photo would be used on the promotional flyer for the March 10 party. He identified Johnson and other LSU football players as visitors who received special treatment. Johnson declined to comment about receiving any benefits.

This is the only new news in the entire piece.

That’s it.

And this justifies a cover story in Sports Illustrated?

Especially when Mathieu’s eligibility wouldn’t even be called into question over these club promotions absent him receiving substantial amounts of money in addition to his image being used. There is no allegation in the story of any substantial money or benefit changing hands. And are we really surprised that football players, shocker, get in for free at local bars or clubs in their college towns? This happens everywhere and when it’s uncovered generally requires that the “offending” student-athlete pay back the cover charges to a charity.

Next thing you know Sports Illustrated is going to uncover that hot sorority girls on these same campuses also get to skip the line and receive preferential treatment once inside.

Is next week’s SI headline going to show a group of hot LSU sorority girls emblazoned with this headline: 

They. Get. In. Without. Waiting.  

(Full confession: if the sorority girls were hot I would probably buy this magazine on the newstand).

So the only “story” here is Mathieu’s image being used by a local club.

Are you noting the hyprocisy yet?

Sports Illustrated, the largest sports magazine in the country, is raking a college kid over the coals for allowing his image to be used by a club while at the same time using his image on the front of their magazine to sell more issues.

Think about this for a minute.

SI’s editors determined that the Honey Badger by himself, a guy who isn’t even playing this year, made the most sense to put on the cover of their magazine in the middle of a football season in which LSU just beat the number three team in the nation on its campus. Yet, despite that win, the biggest of the week in college football, SI chose to put a player who didn’t even play in that game on the cover of the magazine because his image was being used to get people into a club.

The irony and hyprocisy is truly mind-boggling.

This is absurd and hypocritical, the very essence of NCAA rule stupidity, crystallized in a cover shot story on “violations.” The only person on earth right now who can’t make money based on Tyrann Mathieu’s talents is Tyrann Mathieu. Sports Illustrated’s hypocrisy this week is an easy target, but situations such as these are endemic in major college athletics, the rich get richer off the labors of the poor. After all, when you break down its entire purpose, the NCAA’s only real enforcement job is to ensure that kids who have nothing when they start college, finish college still having nothing.

Remember, having rich parents isn’t an improper benefit.

This means the NCAA is the most anti-capitalistic organization on earth. Unless, of course, that capitalism inures to the NCAA’s benefit. Which it always does.

Yep, the NCAA makes totalitarian regimes seem downright fair.

Now put yourself in Mathieu’s shoes. 

Your entire life has been a complete struggle. You feel like the odds have been stacked against you since birth. And they have. Despite these odds you get to college, experience great success, become famous for your football talents before you’re 21, and then get popped for using pot, which gets you kicked out of school. But rather than take the easy route — dropping down to a lower division school and playing football until the 2013 NFL draft — you go to rehab, re-enroll at school while paying your own way, and hope that you’ll be able to play next season at LSU.

Tyrann Mathieu has already had a hard life. 

But, amazingly, he still picked the hardest possible route to follow upon being kicked out of school. 

That’s a much more interesting story, the refusal of a kid who was given nothing to take the easy way out.  

Can you imagine how hard it must be for Mathieu to watch LSU play this year, gaze up into the heavens and watch every football spiral into the air on a punt, knowing that it isn’t you waiting to catch the ball in front of 90,000 screaming fans?

It has to be pure torture.

And then, just when the media attention on your problems have started to pass, the largest sports publication in the country puts you on the cover of its magazine and alleges that you’ve received improper benefits via your image being used at a local club.

Yet by putting your image on the front of the magazine to sell more issues they’re doing exactly what you’re not allowed to do — make money off your image.

Wouldn’t you see the hyprocisy here and wouldn’t it make you mad as hell if you were Tyrann Mathieu?

How would you feel if you already believed that the odds were stacked against you?

I’d be pissed as hell. 

The fact that more college football fans aren’t pissed as well, shows how little time most of us spend thinking about the players we spend Saturday rooting for.  

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