On January 22, 2008, a Roman Catholic archbishop said he is requesting that St. Louis University discipline basketball coach Rick Majerus for his comments that portrayed himself as a “pro-choice” individual.
The Archbishop, Raymond Burke, believes that Majerus is a representative of the school and that such public stances that are not in line with the church deserve consequences for the basketball coach.
Burke is being quite ridiculous here, and his stance is clearly against all rights providing free speech. Not to mention the fact that he is basically asking that members of an educational institution harbor their own personal beliefs and views in what is supposed to be an interactive and enlightening atmosphere.
It was during an interview with a St. Louis television station at a Hillary Clinton rally that Majerus was asked for his views on abortion. It would seem that an individual could answer that question without taking on professional criticism. However, Majerus does work for a religious university that obviously has its own doctrine of rights and beliefs. But at the same time, it cannot be expected that everyone at St. Louis University have the same views and opinions as those who run and operate the school.
This is just another example of the foolishness with educational backers approach their schools and their sports. This incident, although different in some ways, mirrors the actions of angry Athletic Department board members who constantly call for a coach’s job the second they lose a game, exhibit imperfection, or “dishonor” the school. The Archbishop Burke is coming across just as angry, livid, and preposterous as the people who flew banners across Miami Hurricane home games asking for the coach to be fired in 2006.
The head basketball coach is not a puppet of an educational institution. It is a freethinking, independent position, probably of the only of its kind in a university atmosphere, especially one with tremendous religious undertones. Rick Majerus’s job is to coach basketball players in such a faction that he represents the class and respectability of the institution. He is an employee of the school, and thus he should be held accountable for any ill-mannered activities he gets involved in that damage his character and the reputation of the school. However, his individual beliefs and practices are not subject to his employer’s scrutiny and should have no bearing on his professional standing with the institution.
Yet at the same time, if the Archbishop wants all of the school’s employees to share and voice the collective opinions of the religion that St. Louis University represents, then he should have made sure that they hired the puppet that he apparently wants, instead of a well-respected basketball coach who thinks and speaks for himself.