Monday, June 4, 2012

Hip-Hop, Scholarships and Wealth


From the outset let me say, that I'm not a fan of hip-hop, rap or whatever it happens to be called. I'm just not. There may be some songs that I like, but believe me, by the time I get around to knowing who actually 'sings' the songs they're pretty much yesterday.

So when I say the controversy surrounding Sean 'P.Diddy' Combs' son's football scholarship is the most ridiculous thing I've ever heard, its not because I'm a fan.

Justin Combs has received a $54,000 scholarship from UCLA and it has some people apoplectic. Why? Because, the critics say, Sean is rich enough to pay for his son to go to UCLA or any other school he wants. And he is. And...so what?

Justin Combs was awarded a scholarship to play football. Football factories like UCLA are not in the habit of philanthropy - they lost EIGHT games last year. They have a new coach. When they take the field this season, no one will care that Justin Combs is P.Diddy's son. If he makes the team and gets on to the field, they will care if he produces!

It's interesting that no one is asking whether or not Donald Trumps' kids are 'qualified' to be a part of his empire. No one is saying that they are taking jobs away from qualified minority executives by working for their Dad. But the complaint that young Justin is taking a spot away from a more worthy, and much less wealthy student athlete when Sean has all this money.

Ridiculous.

Sean Combs is worth more than $400 million. Fabulously wealthy for someone who started out at the bottom of his industry. I may not be a fan, but you don't have to be to watch this guys fabulous rise as an entertainer. Criticisms that he gave his son a $360,000 car for his sixteenth birthday, are also out of bounds. Especially in light of the fact that his boy is graduating with a 3.7 grade point average at a private school and worked hard enough in football to catch the attention of Bruin scouts. This is obviously an exceptional kid.

Combs didn't make his money illegally. With all the problems I have with hip-hop, its not the first musical genre with its share of unsavory characters, or horror stories and it won't be the last. At one point, Sean was a part of a sordid narrative with Tupac and Biggie Smalls. But he's survived all of that to become a pretty well respected producer, actor and entertainer. One of the perks is to be able to give your children a better life. Is that distorting young Justin's values? Did I mention he has a 3.7 GPA and plays football well enough to get the attention of UCLA football scouts?! We might want the boy to be Mother Theresa, but he's a little young, so we have to appreciate him for where he is.

Listen, I'm not a fan of Mitt Romney's Bain Capital background. I don't think being a corporate raider qualifies you to be President. But, at the end of the day, its what he did to earn a living. Do you think maybe his children had some advantages that mine don't have? You bet! And we can't begrudge them those advantages. I can argue how much I don't like Bain Capital in the same way I don't like hip-hop. But they are both legal. And Romney and P.Diddy and their families live comfortable lives. My family lives a more comfortable life now than they did when I worked in a department store warehouse. It's why we work.

Here's what I think is important: are people who are successful, less compassionate? Are their values distorted by their wealth? What type of children do they raise? Are they good young men and women with good hearts, who will be good citizens? And, always from my perspective, will those who are successful find ways to create real opportunities and access for others less fortunate?

We all want to be successful. For some of us that will include money. But we have to be careful about denigrating people because they are wealthy or successful. What we really want is for all children to have what Justin Combs has: solid loving parents and options for their future. I just can't find anything wrong with that...

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