I'm a rabid Kansas basketball fan. Anyone who knows me even remotely knows this. This part of me no doubt annoys a number of my friends on social media who could care less about sports in general, basketball in particular, or the fairly culturally specific subset of basketball fans in the Lawrence, Kansas diaspora. It's one commonality I share with the state in which I grew up but with which I now share almost no cultural common ground. My non-Jayhawk friends no doubt just keep scrolling when they see me nerding out on Perry Ellis's soft post presence or the way one-and-done's are ruining the amateur game.
They probably don't even register the name Cheick Diallo when it litters my recent tweets and posts. Most of these resemble my fellow Kansans (and more and more college basketball fans in general) who have been following the gestapo-like way the NCAA has handled the eligibility of Diallo, who grew up in Mali but went to Our Savior New American High school in New York for the past three years. To briefly summarize for these friends: The NCAA has dubbed OSNM as "under review" as an eligible academic institution for potential college student-athletes, which could mean many things, any of which might be true because the NCAA hasn't ever designated what the term "under review" actually entails, and in fact hasn't ever visited OSNM before or since it declared the high school "under review." Plenty of graduates of the high school have gone on to compete in NCAA institutions, but the "under review" designation allows the NCAA to make judgments on a case-by-case basis. Or in this case it's allowed them not to make a judgment.
Now's probably a good time to mention that Diallo is fluent in three languages, has completed two semesters of college coursework, and has a 3.4 GPA. He's a one-and-done player, a product of the NCAA's relationship with the NBA which means he'll play one year of college basketball before turning pro. So in this sense, the NCAA has set up system by which Diallo's already completed all of the required coursework, but they still haven't declared him eligible. Just to be clear on that point: They haven't declared him ineligible either. They've done nothing, leaving Diallo to sit and wait while telling him nothing.
On this last point, the sitting and waiting part, Diallo is no different than any refugee from a war-torn, nation with a substantial terrorist presence (Mali, not Paris, is after all the most recent story of a large-scale terrorist massacre). It would be completely reasonable to respond by saying something along the lines of, "Cheick Diallo is an elite athlete who's lived a relatively privileged life. Isn't the comparison to starving refugees who've walked hundreds of miles with children in their arms a bit much?" Or, "Diallo has lived in the U.S. for three years. Isn't that vetting enough?" My answer: Perhaps, but not to the NCAA. To this bureaucratic, secretive institution, Diallo has been flagged as problematic, probably because he's African, and now the NCAA is combing his record for something, anything that might justify the flagging. (An interesting comparison could be made with Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk, a Ukrainian shooting guard who was a late-game addition to KU's roster last season and has since become a fan favorite. He had recently turned 17 at the start of he freshman year in college, and had a formal education equivalent to an American high school junior. Approved by the NCAA quickly and conclusively.)
No doubt another set of my friends just keep scrolling when they see me (and a growing contingent of their other friends) lashing out verbally against the absurd, heartless, and ethnocentric way many of our fellow Americans are treating the worst humanitarian crisis since at least the situation in the former Yugoslavia. Our elected officials are following suit; perhaps the most baldfaced play to our worst instincts was by Kansas Governor Sam Brownback, whom many of my folks back home paused from lambasting to agree with him on this point (Well played, Sammy boy!).
I shared a post last week explaining why you can't be a Christian and be in favor of denying sanctuary to Syrian refugees. I'm going to up the ante for my Kansas friends and say this: You can't be a fan of Kansas basketball this season and be in favor of denying Syrian refugees. Even more to the point: You cannot complain about the bureaucratic way the NCAA is handling Cheick Diallo's case and be in favor of adding another layer of bureaucracy to an already-bureaucratic US immigration policy for refugees, which is exactly what Congress is proposing with the "American SAFE Act" (quotes are absolutely necessary there). If you do, you are essentially asking the INS to be more like the NCAA - more secretive, more layers of bureaucracy, and more systemic bias against certain ethnic groups.
No doubt Diallo is going to leave one year of NCAA service with the well-founded opinion that he's been held captive to an American higher educational system that is fundamentally opposed to him, a hypocritical institution that blathers on about fair play and the student-athlete model, then pulls the chair out once it gets you to the table. If this is what you want, then fine. Own it, I guess. But don't pull this "It's only sports" nonsense and then come complaining about the "Soviet," "communist," fascist," or whatever NCAA. In the same sense, if you're comfortable living in a country that is xenophobic and averse to charity, that's also your prerogative. Just don't pull this "Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses" nonsense, because you obviously don't mean it.