Go Gators! What's wrong with Tennessee, Georgia, Alabama, Auburn and the other Southeastern Conference schools? Where's the Baptist leadership in these communities?
The Campaign for Alcohol-Free Sports TV has to date recruited 228 members. (CSPINet.org)
The same question could be asked about Florida State University and the University of Miami, whose head football coaches are Baptists and have enormous influence in the sporting world and at their schools.
Why aren't more big-time universities willing to severe ties with the beer industry?
The University of Florida became the first SEC school to join the Campaign for Alcohol-Free Sports TV that has 228 members.
Other leading universities include Louisiana State University, Ohio State University and the University of North Carolina.
University of Florida President Bernie Machen said in April that "individuals who drink excessively are hurting themselves and others at a rate that is unacceptable."
Machen said, "I don't want any more kids to die."
He told Gainesville's medical society in June that "alcohol was a factor in 80 percent of the sexual assaults on UF students last year. Ninety-seven percent of criminal cases handled by UF student legal service were alcohol-related."
According to the Center for Science in the Public Interest, an estimated 500,000 college students under the influence of alcohol are injured each year. Annually, alcohol is involved in more than 70,000 college-related sexual assaults or rapes. Drinking contributes to 1,400 student deaths each year.
Machen apparently has the courage to see this problem and determination to address alcohol abuse on college campus. Unlike many other big-time universities, he is leading Florida to ban alcohol ads on any radio and television broadcasts that the school controls, as a way to diminish drinking-related problems and deaths.
Do the readers of EthicsDaily.com and their churches have enough moxie to weigh in on the alcohol-free sports TV campaign that CSPI is leading?
Here's what CSPI says, "The history of NCAA's alcohol advertising policy reflects an inappropriately close financial, personnel and policy relationship with brewer Anheuser-Busch."
"That company's mission—to sell beer—conflicts directly with college and NCAA efforts to come to grips with alcohol problems in higher education," said a CSPI letter to the NCAA president. "We urge you to adopt a voluntary ban on all alcohol advertising, including beer advertising, in NCAA telecasts."
A press release on the NCAA's Web site about a survey of college students and tailgating discloses the duplicitous relationship between the beer industry and the NCAA.
Terms like "tailgate," "safe tailgating," "tailgating," "pre and post-game parties," "fan behavior," "act responsibly" and "celebrating" are euphemisms for beer drinking. Yet the NCAA didn't have the integrity to speak the truth upfront.
The press release buries the word beer at the bottom of the release, and then only in reference to the beer industry.
The first quoted source in the release is Ronald Stratten, vice president for education services for the NCAA, a former marketing executive for Anheuser-Busch, according to CSPI.
CSPI said Anheuser-Busch funded the alleged college survey.
No wonder the NCAA dances around alcohol abuse on college campuses.
However, pro-health advocates have a unique opportunity, if they move quickly, to encourage the NCAA's executive committee to end the "practice of pitching beer during college sports."
CSPI encourages pro-health advocates to contact this committee before the first week of August.
EthicsDaily.com readers are surely members of the pro-health advocacy community, and will want to participate in this initiative.
Click on the CSPI's alcohol policy web site, where you will find readily useable resources for contacting members of the NCAA's executive committee. A sample letter is offered. The names, email addresses and phone numbers of the executive committee are provided.
Find your state and make a contact today. If your neighborhood university and/or alma mater hasn't joined the campaign, contact the president's office and ask them to do so. If they have, contact them with a word of thanks.
Sometimes the best we can do is offer a prophetic word of critique. At other times, we can make a tangible, practical difference.
Getting the NCAA's executive committee to make a good decision for safer campuses looks doable.
Robert Parham is executive director of the Baptist Center for Ethics.