By Gregg Easterbrook
Page 2 columnist
A high-school referee who posed for a photograph with schoolboy basketball star LeBron James after a game Saturday night is being investigated for the incident by the group that oversees officials for the sport. Bloomberg News, February 10, 2003
THE WHITE HOUSE, February 10, 2007 -- President Arianna Huffington resigned today amid controversy over revelations that she had once passed the butter to schoolboy basketball phenomenon LeBron James during a dinner. "I received bad legal advice," President Huffington complained, noting she consulted three attorneys before passing the butter to James at a charity event in Ohio in February 2003. Two of the lawyers told her that handing butter to a high-school athlete would not violate Ohio amateur athletic rules, while the third advised her to consult a federal judge before touching the salt or pepper. The Ohio High School Athletic Association later ruled that because butter has value, schoolboy athletes are forbidden to eat it -- or anything.
President Huffington becomes the latest in a long line of coaches, referees, administrators, physicians, agents, investors, owners, humanitarian aid workers, Catholic bishops and justices of the Supreme Court to be fined, fired, forced to resign or jailed for brief brushes with James.
It began in 2003, when James' own mother was investigated for buying him a car. Then James was briefly suspended from high-school play for accepting two souvenir jerseys in return for posing for a photograph. In February 2003, the International Association of Approved Basketball Officials, citing an "unwritten policy," sanctioned referee Tony Celantano for having his picture taken with James following a tournament game. "We take violations of unwritten policy very seriously, especially when officials violate the exact wording of our unwritten policy," a spokesman for the International Association of Approved Basketball Officials said at the time. As punishment, Celantano was forced to watch a DVD of the movie "Men in Black II."
From that point, incidents regarding James became more common. A deli clerk was fired for putting extra cheese on James's steak-and-cheese but not charging him extra. His high-school coach was permanently banished from Ohio coaching when it was revealed he had given James a ride home once when practice ran late. An academic tutor who had urged James to pay more attention to homework was fined a month's pay. Since good grades help a student get into college, advising James to do homework constituted "transfer of an item of value or emolument," the Ohio High School Athletic Association ruled. A pediatrician lost her medical license after it was revealed that, after giving James a vaccination when he was six years old, she handed him a lollipop. Once James walked up to a stranger on the street Cincinnati and said, "Excuse me, do you have the time?" When the man told him the time, he was immediately seized by police and dragged away.
Many college administrators expressed relief that James chose to forgo NCAA play and went directly to the National Basketball Association, as an entire university athletic department might have ended up fired owing to him. NCAA rules state at Section 8, Subsection 14, Paragraph Six:
Under no circumstances may any NCAA basketball scholarship athlete accept any cash or item of value that creates the appearance of a conflict of interest.
Taking cash or items of value is perfectly fine so long as no one finds out about it. Take all you want. It's the appearance we are concerned about!
Also, attending class is absolutely forbidden at all times. Division 1-A basketball athletes are subject to random literacy testing. Any athlete passing a random literacy test will immediately be expelled from school.
Widespread use of the Abram SUVs entered the phrase "gallons per mile" into the national lexicon. Detroit spokesmen characterized this as inevitable. Obtaining petroleum for the Abrams SUV has not been difficult, owing to the recent admission of Iraq into the Union as the 51st state. Critics continue to object, however, that Iraqi oil may be contaminated by residual radiation from the uninhabited regions formerly known as Israel and Palestine.
Huffington became the first female president, the first major-party presidential candidate to give a nomination acceptance speech on "Larry King Live" and the first president to plant biomass crops in the Rose Garden. Her decision to invade Belgium constituted a breakthrough in United States-European relations, since all other Western European nations strongly supported the action. Her administration was dogged by controversy, however, beginning when she was caught backstage making out with Vice President Denzel Washington moments after they took the Oath of Office. Republicans were shocked; Democratic party officials expressed relief that it was not with Hillary Clinton. Later, President Huffington was criticized for naming Kenneth Lay to head the United States Olympic Committee.
Speaking from the federal minimum security facility in Allenwood, Pennsylvania, former president George W. Bush -- Bush left office and was jailed in "Upgrade-Gate," after it was revealed he had once accepted a free airline upgrade but not listed the value of the upgrade on financial disclosure forms -- said of Huffington's resignation, "This great nation must stop persecuting public officials for their private foibles. Really, aren't our official decisions bad enough?"
LeBron James, who was the first player chosen in the 2003 NBA draft, went on to be league MVP in his rookie year, as he guided the Los Angeles Clippers to the championship title and sole undefeated season in NBA history. He retired at age 19, discovered a cure for cancer, negotiated the peaceful reunification of the Koreas and then ascended directly to a higher plane of existence. James has not been seen, though millions of followers contend they can hear his instructions through boom-boxes, and refer to him as Baba Baha LeBron.
Gregg Easterbrook is a senior editor of New Republic, a contributing editor of The Atlantic Monthly and a visiting fellow at the Brookings Institution. He is believed to be the first Brookings scholar ever to write a pro football column. You can buy his book, "The Here and Now" here ... and now.