>Bessemer Academy

>Here in Bessemer, for those who do not read the sports page, is an assertion that Mark Freeman, the former football coach at Bessemer Academy, was fired not because of financial matters but rather due to racial problems. Former players said white parents were upset because Freeman recruited too many black players and gave them too much playing time. As reported in The Birmingham News .

Brandon Heavens, a player who is transferring to Jess Lanier and who is committed to Auburn, also said his family was concerned about racial attitudes among some people, presumably authorities, at the school.

Harris Gaston, a former player who is committed to Auburn said he thinks it was about the black players that Freeman was bringing to the school.

Tavon Arrington, a player who is transferring to Hueytown said he believes that racial considerations played a role in the decision (along with money).

Julie Kelley, headmaster at the school, said race is not an issue at the school.

But Julie Kelley is not the school board, and they are the ones that answer to parents.

From what I know Bessemer Academy is a fine school and provides a quality education for students without regard to race. Former students speak highly of the school and instructors.

But let’s not forget that Bessemer Academy was founded in 1970. Without question, race played a role in the decision of those involved in creating the school. In 1970, schools and parents in Alabama were reacting to busing of students and integration. I remember it well, because I was a student at Berry High School and students were being bused in from the Shannon area. And parents of Berry kids who lived in Vestavia started a whole new school system. Regardless of what anyone says, race played a role in the creation of that school system, Bessemer Academy and all the other private schools that sprung up around then.

I have no reason to believe that race still plays a role in Bessemer Academy’s mission.

But it is entirely possible that some “old attitudes” could still be present among certain parents, who, when disappointed about their son’s lack of PT, fall back on blaming blaming black players. If so, they forget that the goal is to win games. As a team. If these parents were, say, big donors to the program or such, the board certainly might yield to their pressure to get rid of Freeman.

This is crazy, though, because a move that decreases the chances of a media grabbing successful season (because the program is not likely to be as successful) does nothing to increase their kids chances of getting noticed by college recruiters. Let’s see, what did mom used to say, “Cutting off your nose to spite your face?”

At any rate, Freeman got screwed. The players got screwed. The reputation of Bessemer Acedemy takes a hit. The football program takes a hit. Let’s hope the kids, the students, learn from this.

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