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Wilbon Comes Around

Then he becomes an enabler. Not that it really matters...

When Michael Wilbon ripped OJ Mayo last year on PTI calling him a "punk" I was pretty stunned. Of all the people in the media who understand about growing up in difficult situations Wilbon was the last person I thought who would attack this kid.

The whole circumstance surrounding Mayo's so-called "recruitment" of USC certainly raised some eyebrows. I was one of those that was leery of this whole situation but I also admit that the kid won me over with his demeanor and respect towards others. That doesn't excuse Mayo if the allegations that have come out are true but outside of that he proven everyone wrong in how he was portrayed.

Wilbon has let the pendulum swing all the way over to the other side with his column on Wednesday.

One year after being pointedly critical of Mayo for bumping a referee in a game and for basically telling Floyd what would be happening with his basketball team, I met Mayo last Wednesday night at a Lakers-Jazz playoff game.

He was the nicest, sweetest kid you could hope to meet. Said hello and then hugged me, even though he'd seen me call him a "punk" on television. He was polite, engaging, answered every question with "Yes, sir" or "No, sir." He said: "I would just love for you to spend some time with me, just talking. . . . Could I have your card and just be able to call or talk to you? I've got the pre-draft camp [in Chicago] coming up, a whole new world."

I realized instantly I was wrong for attacking Mayo the way I had.

Thats fine, but if Wilbon had done a little due diligence before he made those remarks he wouldn't look like such an ass. I like Wilbon's work for the most part but he was way of base in characterization of Mayo. But Wilbon does Mayo another disservice early on in the piece.

If I'm 14 years old and poor, I'm accepting money as long as I don't have to do anything illegal. If I'm 14 years old and poor and everybody around me is making money off my athletic talent, and somebody tells me that I, too, can share in the wealth, I'm taking the money.

So as long as it isn't illegal its OK?

That's part of the problem, justifying Mayo's taking the money because he is poor only lets the vicious cycle continue. It also furthers the notion that players are coddled and the more coddled they are the greater the sense of entitlement they have that they can do no wrong. By justifying that it's OK Wilbon basically gives the OK for these predators to hang around potentially ruing the se kids lives.

There are laws on the books in a number of states about tampering with amateur athletes, its time that those states enforced those laws to at least try and ensure that there are penalties for this type of behavior.