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Rutgers Leaders Guilty of Abuse of Power

by Todd A. Smith

Use Power to Serve Others

            Power can sometimes become intoxicating.  Powerful and influential individuals often believe their own press clippings and lord their power over those who cannot and will not fight back.

            Rutgers University athletic director Tim Pernetti fired men’s basketball coach Mike Rice on Wednesday, after ESPN obtained video from former NBA player Eric Mourdock, which showed Rice kicking, punching and hurling basketballs at his players.  In addition, the tape showed Rice insulting his players with profanity-laced tirades and homophobic slurs.

            Make no mistake about it, Rice should have been fired months ago and Pernetti, who resigned today, and President Robert Barchi deserved the same fate.  But what makes a person misunderstand what greatness and influence is all about, which leads to abuse of power? 

The answer is that most people mistake power and greatness with financial success, the type of car they drive, the house they live in, the way their spouse looks or their authority over others, when in reality true power and greatness comes from serving in the best interest of others. 

            Unfortunately, college athletics has recently been besieged with coaches and administrators who have little interest in serving their student-athletes or the younger children that they come in contact with, and are more interested in serving their own ego-driven desires.

            Christians throughout the world recently celebrated Easter, which commemorates the resurrection of Jesus Christ.  Regardless if one is a Christian or not, one can learn what real service is about through the life and teachings of Christ.

            Throughout history, various groups have become victims to abuse of power, from the enslavement of Africans and Israelites to the Jewish Holocaust.  In all cases, someone with dominion over another decided to use their influence for evil, which resulted from abuse of power.

            Many critics of religion use such abuse of power as their “proof” that there is no God, because after all how could a God allow innocent people to suffer at the hands of another human being without intervening.

            Unfortunately, this abuse arises because God gave mankind dominion over the Earth and the power to rule. 

However, man is supposed to rule using God’s rulebook and when that does not happen, it leads to abuse of power and chaos throughout society.  Such chaos includes, but is not limited to the oppression of minorities, mass murders, sexual immorality, etc.

            God does not always get the results from man that he desires, but he allows us to make mistakes and hopefully learn from the errors of our ways.

            In his book Kingdom Man, Pastor Tony Evans wrote, “When some men discover that they’re destined for greatness, given authority, and intended to rule, they see their identity as a license for others to serve them.”

            Although Jesus is Lord and Savior based on biblical teachings, before he was to die on the cross, “He poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet, and to wipe them with the towel from which He was girded,” according to John 13:5.

            And according to Evans, “At a time in history when people walked almost everywhere on dusty, dirty roads, it would be difficult to imagine a more tangible display of servitude than to wash feet.”

            Despite the fact that Jesus was so powerful, he did not use that power to put down his followers, but showed his disciples that true power and greatness comes from service.

            Rice and Pernetti were blessed, through Rutgers University, to not just put a competitive athletic program on the court or field, but to be a positive influence in these young men’s lives. 

Many college athletes, especially Black college athletes, come from single parent homes.  Some have been open about their college coaches being like father figures to them, showing them how to become a successful man as well as a successful student-athlete.

            Tom Crean was that second father figure to Dwayne Wade at Marquette University. 

The late Jack Pardee was like that for Heisman Trophy winner (1989) Andre Ware at the University of Houston. 

And former Georgetown University coach John Thompson, Jr. was able to resurrect the basketball career of Allen Iverson after his prison stint during his senior year of high school.

Rice and Pernetti had every opportunity to add their name to that prestigious list of servants and father figures, but because of abuse of power and selfishness they destroyed the trust that parents and Rutgers bestowed upon them. 

God gives us all a domain, big or small, to rule over and influence but we are to rule through service, not abuse of power.

If they are given another opportunity at some other institution or organization, let’s pray that the intoxicating fumes of power can be avoided, and replaced with an attitude of service and selflessness.

This article was published on Friday 05 April, 2013.
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