ESPN Commentator says BYU Not Guilty of “Institutional Racism”

Controversy continues to swirl around recent charges by sociologist Darron Smith that the enforcement of the BYU Honor Code has disproportionately targeted African-American male athletes.

Critics of Smith’s findings have contested the quality of his statistical data and pointed out that the most egregious “bait and switch” recruitment of non-LDS athletes of color—including procurement of women and alcohol to entice recruits—took place under former coach Gary Crowton, not current coach Bronco Mendenhall. (Smith’s Deadspin article was based on statistics compiled from public records of Honor Code enforcement patterns and interviews with non-LDS African-American former BYU athletes.)

This week, Smith’s critics were joined by former NFL player and ESPN commentator Vai Sikahema.

Writing for the LDS Church-owned Deseret News, Sikahema flatly rejected the idea that BYU was guilty of “institutional racism,” while recounting his own uncomfortable experience being pressured by Honor Code officials to indict other student athletes who had attended a recruiting party where alcohol was served. Sikahema also challenged Smith to interview current and former athletes of color who had a positive experience with BYU and the Honor Code:

“If Darron Smith wasn’t so hell bent on exposing BYU, the Church and the honor code office as racists, he’d find out that for every Thomas Stancil, Tico Pringle and Ray Hudson, there’s a Brandon Davies, Reno Mahe and Brian McDonald, the latter of which recovered from an alcohol-related probation, joined the Church and served a mission to Washington, DC.”

Sikahema’s full essay appears here.