September 30, 2009 7:53:00 AM
Danny P Smith -
Donald Jackson, the attorney for Mississippi State men''s basketball signee Renardo Sidney, has taken his fight to Capitol Hill.
In an attempt to get his client eligible to play for the Bulldogs, Jackson has requested intervention from the United State''s House of Representatives and Senate to investigate a pattern of racially selective conduct by the NCAA Enforcement Staff and Eligibility Center.
Those concerns have been raised as Jackson attempts to clear up Sidney''s status as an amateur athlete.
"The organization has attempted to cloak themselves in secrecy to hide from public scrutiny," Jackson said. "I have requested legislative intervention to address the disparities in treatment."
In a statement released by Jackson through an e-mail, he believes the NCAA has engaged in a pattern of selectively harsh treatment against African-American student athletes.
Jackson has spent recent weeks compiling and providing information to congress about ongoing NCAA investigations where the due process rights of athletes have been denied.
In the Sidney case, Jackson said the NCAA Eligibility Center has "refused to provide evidence of any violations, refused to advise either the student-athlete or his family of specific allegations of violations, refused to provide the family or himself with the standard of proof to which they are being held and has, in effect, demanded that the family prove their innocence."
Representatives of the Eligibility Center, led by former NCAA Enforcement Representative Bill Saum, have demanded Sidney and his family produce several years of bank records, income tax returns for family members (including grandparents), and cellular telephone records for every member of the family as well as other things.
MSU Associate Athletic Director for Compliance Bracky Brett said the school has cooperated on Sidney''s behalf and has provided the documents requested.
He said it''s up to Sidney''s family and Jackson to provide the information the NCAA wants so the process can move forward.
In recent months, Jackson and the Sidney family have provided financial records, including canceled checks, loan files from FDIC regulated lending institutions, leases, and documents establishing all of the family''s living expenses and the manner in which they were paid.
The Sidney case was transferred to Saum''s division on July 1, 2009, where cases are processed with virtually no legal protections afforded to the student athlete, from the Enforcement Staff where student athletes are afforded slightly more legal protection.
Jackson believes the intentional effort to limit the legal protections available to the student athlete have been racially motivated.
"In recent years, I have seen a pattern of increasingly hostile and intrusive investigative tactics by the NCAA staff," Jackson said. "These harsh tactics, which have included denials of initial eligibility based upon invalidation of grades from state sanctioned, regionally accredited institutions and illegal, intrusive amateurism investigations have been disproportionately directed towards African-American student-athletes and their families. This has culminated in the most intrusive, initial eligibility evaluation in history."
Jackson said race has been the one constant in recent investigations. He pointed to a study released by the Michael L. Buckner Law Firm that offered a picture of the manner by which race neutral NCAA legislation has been applied in a manner that impacts African-Americans in a selectively harsh way.
Jackson believes the Buckner study and his involvement in eligibility reviews have uncovered the pattern of racially selective conduct.
"The organization''s history in dealing with African-Americans in the enforcement and eligibility process demonstrates either an intentional effort to discriminate or a troubling indifference to the manner by which NCAA rules are being applied by individual NCAA staffers with little or no supervision," Jackson said. "Either way, the results violate federal and state law, and the only method for addressing these issue may be congressional intervention."