In many contexts USF is still a relative upstart in the world of big-time college athletics. So, it’s noteworthy that the Bulls were prominently mentioned in “Sports Illustrated’s” 50th Anniversary Issue. Among all the chronicling of a half-century’s worth of prominent players, big games and notable trends.
That’s the good news.
The bad news is that SI focused on the female basketball player who, as a recent convert to Islam, had wanted to take the court and represent USF in a Muslim head scarf, long pants and a long-sleeved shirt. Ultimately the student, Andrea Armstrong, left the team amid an unfortunate, if predictable, backlash of negative public opinion.
Included in the SI piece was this quote from Ahmed Bedier, a spokesman for the Council of American-Islamic Relations: “Had Andrea been a Buddhist, Jew or even a Satan worshipper, she would not have sparked this kind of controversy.”
That’s probably true unless, of course, the Satan-worshipping power forward was holding out for a devilishly customized look. Or she wanted to wear a Gators’ jersey.
Needless to say, these are extraordinarily sensitive times for all post-9/11 Americans. We can’t mandate that ethnocentrism be purged; xenophobia be banned; or common sense be uniformly applied.
But we should be able to say to public university, scholarship-subsidized athletes: You can wear your religion on your sleeve — of your uniform.