Sunday, May 25, 2014

Missing the Boat with Donald Sterling and Athletes...21st Century Solutions

     Here is how a social worker would work with the Donald Sterlings or other offending athletes.  I am addressing negative behaviors of the athletic community, but the same can be said of any community (celebrities, corporations, or CEO’s). Financial consequences and short bans from playing usually accompany misbehavior. Are these consequences effective? Social workers know they are not.

     Consequences are given by direct authorities of the athletic community or by our judicial system. These consequences usually center on fines and suspensions. Suspensions can be anywhere from one game to a lifetime suspension, but lifetime suspensions are rare. The NBA donates there fines to charities, but let’s be specific. How about when these offenders receive fines, they are required to pay a charity(s) directly associated with their offense? The NBA is the first to start this with Sterling's fines going toward promoting anti-discrimination and tolerance.  The NFL chooses only four charities (the Lombardi Cancer Research Center, Brian Piccolo Cancer Fund, ALS Neuromuscular Research Foundation, and the Player's Association Assistance Trust Fund), none related to actual violence, which is usually the reason of the offense. Why are the fines not given to evidence based programs for violence prevention or intervention?


Who has the power in these situations and what can they do about negative behavior?

   1. Judicial System Judges have discretion in their sentencing. Advocate for sentencing befitting of the act. Get creative with sentencing.  Develop sentencing guidelines with advocacy groups of the associated issue. There is a 35%  conviction rate of athletes accused of sexual assault compared with 77% of the general public according to the Los Angeles Times writer Maryann Hudson. If Judges could give alternative, meaningful, sentencing this might be higher.  
   2.  Sports Commissioners (i.e. NBA’s Adam Silver, NFL’s Roger Goodell, etc.) can tie in behavior clauses into contracts.  Commissioners need to meet as a group and make decisions about what clauses will be consistent with every contract. No negotiation with violence clauses.  They should be a part of every contract. The commissioners can develop a website to include fans as to the distribution of fines athletes receive. If the issue is violence, organizations can post their evidence based programs and fans can vote. Make the organizations part of the solution.
   3. Sponsors – There are some sponsors who drop athletes from their endorsement deals, but what about those they keep? Riders in contracts about negative behavior can allow endorsement deals to be void when athletes break the law. Sponsors can use the media attention to support their product because they reinforce values and ethics towards non-violence. The sponsor can give the remaining contract of the athlete to the corresponding charities and publicize their work. Or include the public by changing the profit of a footwear product of the athlete's to go to charity. Write this behavior clause in every contract.
   4. Other Athletes – Positive and negative peer pressure. Turning jerseys inside out is great team solidarity.  What about in the locker room? Taking other athletes aside to discuss how they handle stress, encourage counseling, or exert social pressure about what is not acceptable behavior for a person, can be effective ways of addressing the situation.  The most important thing is back up your words with behavior.
   5.  Fans – Fans are powerful. Organized bans of fanfare buying, writing letters to sponsors saying you will not buy X until action is taken, or organizing campaigns on social media addressing unacceptable behavior can make a difference. Money and perception tied together is an avenue to create change. Make your voice heard through social media outlets for alternative sentencing and sanctions impacting these athletes and their owners. Send shout outs on Facebook, make memes on Tumblr or tweet (#nomorekobejerseys) when you choose NOT to buy something because of negative behavior.

When Women Athletes Attack
     There are many less women who are in sports committing violent acts, but there are a few. When a female athlete commits a crime what happens to her? Tonya Harding committed a crime of clubbing Nancy Kerrigan’s knee. What was her consequence? She was banned for life from competing in the United States. Have you heard of any consequence this severe in football, hockey, or basketball? No. Extended prison sentences are the only thing holding back professional male athletes. 


     Below is a chart encouraging alternate sentencing for athletes. This excludes sentencing guidelines for assaults, sexual assaults, DUI manslaughter, and other behaviors punishable by prison time.

Volunteer Activity or exercise
Learning Outcomes
Acts of poor sportsmanship
AYSO soccer coach, finance and create a video/website/app about good sportsmanship
everyone plays, balanced teams, and positive coaching, prevention for future generations
Animal Abuse
Pet shelters, working with Animal Cops/Rescue, finance and create a documentary about animal abuse
Learning empathy, seeing the devastating effects of abuse and neglect
Assault – Male to Male. or Female to Female
Anger management classes, counseling, group therapy, finance and become a part of an advocacy group to address violence of youth in a school system, create anger management app
Education and empathy training, prevention for future generations
Assault – Male to Female, or Female to Male
Attend a 40 hour DV training, attend counseling,  group therapy, Anger management classes, Advocate with NASW about policy changes for DV in the national agenda, Finance and participate in a  documentary about an aspect of DV, become a board member of a DV prevention program,
Education and empathy training, prevention for future generations
Develop a video about consequences of driving drunk, hear from parents and friends of people who have died from drunk drivers, develop course for other DUI drivers with hands on experiences (donating virtual reality equipment etc.) Start a foundation for distribution of a free Breathalyzer.
Educate self and community about dangers to drinking and driving. Empathy and understanding of consequences.
Volunteer at the NAACP, volunteer at homeless shelters,
Develop curriculum for team based learning about racism with specialists, attend and facilitate program to companies about diversity, exposure to diverse situations across the "ism" spectrum, fund and develop free apps addressing diversity acceptance for kids
Education and sensitization of diverse populations, empathy development, prevention for future generations
Substance Abuse
Start a AA, NA, or CA group and continue it for a year, volunteer at homeless shelters, create free lectures and YouTube videos to community about struggles with use and abuse
Community support, personal understanding and recovery support
Use of drug enhancements
Run a support group for long term drug enhancement users. Create a website or app about the negative effects of this drug for kids, give reports on books about these drugs on a blog.
Personal experience with long term effects deters further use, prevention for future generations
    Technology adds to constructive alternatives to consequences and tracking of positive behaviors. All volunteer work can be tracked by GPS and taking photos on Snapchat, then sending them to a caseworker, athletic organization, or parole officer. This prevents people from hiring other people to go for them.  Many other ways of  If you have any additions, please place them in the comments section or suggest them on websites of owners, athletic organizations, or sponsor pages. Everyone can be proactive on any level. If we all acted on one of these, violence would be addressed through proactive means in sports. #athletesaccountable

Monday, May 5, 2014

Don't Mess with a Jedi Master

A not so long time ago, in a galaxy not too far away…five adult bullies decided to take a golf club and beat up on a young adult male with a cane. Clearly, these aggressors thought of the young man as an easy target. They stalked him after his college class to an empty parking lot. The motives for this beating were unclear. Clarity did come to these perpetrators of violence though. You see their perceived pray is the instructor or should I say Jedi Master, of our light sabering group.

                                             A few of us at a light saber training session

Yes, this young man has crippling arthritis in both knees and hips. Damp weather is crushing and pain meds are a consistent companion. The cane gives him balance and helps alleviate some of the pressure of walking. He chooses to overcome his pain with his passion, Star Wars. This Jedi Master does not come by the name lightly.  Shii-Cho, Makshi, Soresu, Ataru, Shien, and Jar’Kai are all forms of fighting mastered by this Jedi. He practices these forms weekly with his training ‘the art of light saber fighting’ to us fledglings. Yes, light saber technology is now at the point of feasibility for training, unlike a flying broom. If you get hit, you hurt, sometimes a lot. (You can get one Here!)

My initial response upon hearing he was in this situation was one of concern. That is until I heard the outcome. Five guys and a golf club attacked this young man. Yet, this Jedi Master was the wrong person to choose as a victim.  As the attack ensued, the perpetrators soon found out they were the flies and not the spider. His attackers fled with significant injuries from a wooden cane. The Jedi Master has a bruised ribcage, but significantly less damage than the snap of broken bones. The police were impressed by his defense.

                                The Jedi Master dueling another Jedi, both with two sabers

Culture is changing, geeks and nerds are not as vulnerable anymore. Technology has shifted the scales of what is cool and what is not. I don’t see many kids bullying each other with Xbox controls or Minecraft applications. Technology can empower populations as never before. We just have to think outside the box. How can we empower our client with ‘X’ issues? How can we empower the perception of powerlessness? Technology offers these options. What options have you created for your populations?

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Social Work Internships Optional?

 law student social media interns

Disturbing whispers spread across social media about making Social Work field internships optional.  Even more significant is the petition circulating to advance eliminating field placements. There was even a thread about if we really need internships in my dissertation class. Social Justice Solutions (SJS) posted an article supporting internships with subsequent support from educators outside our profession. Why is this even a question?   

After reading all these articles and posts it occurred to me, the reason for this push may be two fold. The first is lack of research on efficacy about internships in the social work profession, but I covered this in my response post on SJS. Here is an excerpt:

“There may be no quantitative research suggesting the efficacy of field placements in social work, but if asked, there are thousands of qualitative stories supporting the method. We only need to look at other professions where field placements are as essential to the curriculum as the content itself. Medicine, psychology, the sciences, and teaching, support internships through research.
I do agree we need to research field placements in social work as to “why” they are effective. Assessing standards of practice, critical and creative thinking abilities, self-regulation, value and ethical shifts, or diversity awareness have tremendous potential for research. There may well be a day when every profession has a field internship to integrate theory and practice.
One advantage missing in social work research, present in the other areas I mentioned, is funding. As more resources for research become available, the field of social work will blossom in their pursuits of evidence based practices. Social workers have a focus on their populations, and not research, partly because finances are not available to make a livable wage. Research is not on the agenda if most of our profession is a pay check or two away from our client populations.”

The second issue may be in the push to streamline education into an online or blended format. Education has never been more accessible to diverse populations. Adults now have access to earning a degree with flexible time options for education. Now here comes the rub.  In higher education’s push to increase education options, has this been at the expense of quality education?
Internships are not convenient. They cannot be done online. Squeezing in a 16 or 24 hour internship is difficult for anyone. Add full time work, kids, a partner, extracurricular activities, and for some this is the formula for a superhero or a choice for a different field. 

I empathize, I do. In graduate school, I had a partner, a baby, worked part time, and some months bills didn’t get paid, all to earn my MSW. We qualified for food stamps. I held 4 part time jobs, with a partner and two children during my PhD. However, I still believe we cannot afford to let go of internships. The benefit of my internship experiences started the foundation of my practice. Even though it was 21 years ago, I can still refer back to my internship for learning. I would not be the same practitioner without my undergraduate and graduate field experiences. My professional practice would not have the depth it has now. 

For me there is no question about field practicums. I would be a shadow of who I am professionally. I would not be the same person.  Don’t compromise the profession for an easier, softer, way.

Reference to Article: