Outside the Lines:
Splitting Hairs


Here's the transcript from Show 132 of weekly Outside The Lines - Splitting Hairs

SUN., OCT. 6, 2002
Host: Bob Ley
Reported by: Kelly Neal
Guests: NBA Hall of Famer Bill Walton; Robert Hughes, Dunbar High (Fort Worth, TX) basketball coach; and Todd Boyd, a professor of critical studies at the University of Southern California.

BOB LEY, HOST- October 6, 2002. Athletes make statements with their hairstyles, perhaps even defining their times. Some see certain styles as evoking hip-hop images of gangsters and thugs. Future Hall of Famer Jerry Rice even joked about his new do.

JERRY RICE- I'm a bad boy now.

LEY- In Texas, team policies prohibiting braids or cornrows now pit coaches against players.

JOE RUSHING, LANCASTER HIGH BASKETBALL COACH- I think it's a street look. And it's not an image that we're trying to portray.

ED KIRKLAND, LANCASTER SCHOOL BOARD- You can't control the braids on a person's head.

LEY- Some African-Americans claim the hairstyles are part of their cultural birthright.

KIRKLAND- It's important that my son's heritage not be denied him.

CARL LOVE, TYLER HIGH BASKETBALL COACH- When you're a coach of a team, you're not interested in culture. You're interested in a team.

LEY- Today on Outside The Lines, an emotional issue -- culture versus a coach's power.

When Bill Walton played at UCLA, he told John Wooden, the head coach, that the coach did not have the right to decide if Walton could grow facial hair, and Wooden agreed. But he said "I do have the right to determine playing time." I'll talk with Bill Walton in a bit.

Hair in conflict with team rules -- that's one thing. When Jason Giambi left the Oakland A's and signed a $120 million contract with the Yankees, he cut his hair and shaved his goatee, no questions asked. But for African-Americans, the question can involve culture, styles such as cornrows or braids descendants of the venerable Afro. Alan Iverson, an icon not just to the NBA but hip-hop culture, wears his hair in cornrows, and others are following suit, creating a clash between a player's heritage and the right of a coach to run his team his way.

It's a conflict playing out in several towns in Texas, and it is reported by Kelly Neal.

KELLY NEAL, ESPN CORRESPONDENT- A Friday morning at Lancaster High School in Texas.

JOHN TUCCI- Good morning, LHS. Today is Friday.

NEAL- Principal John Tucci runs through his morning announcements.

TUCCI- Tickets for tonight's football game are here on sale in the front office, west campus.

NEAL- The Lancaster Tigers are seeking their first win of the season under first-year football coach Andrew Jackson, a self-described disciplinarian.

ANDREW JACKSON, LANCASTER HIGH FOOTBALL COACH- Straight line means straight line back here. Let's go! Straight line back here!

NEAL- But Jackson cuts his players some slack when it comes to their sense of personal style. He allows them to wear their hair in braids or cornrows.

JACKSON- It's the perception of how the kids take themselves and prepare themselves. If they're neat, as long as the braids are neat, I have no problem with it.

NEAL- Joe Rushing does. The Lancaster basketball coach does not allow braids on his team, which is 100 percent African-American.

RUSHING- I don't perceive that as a clean-cut image.

NEAL- What image do you think it portrays?

RUSHING- I think it's a street look.

NEAL- "Street" meaning?

RUSHING- I don't know how I can -- I can -- it's just a street look.

JACKSON- This school is predominantly black, and there comes a time where you have to be sensitive to your community and your surroundings. And you need to take a step back and be able to adapt, to change rules.

NEAL- But Rushing's rules, which include bans on spiked and dyed hair, have remained the same for 23 seasons, despite the changing racial composition of his team over the years. But after almost 600 wins, he now hears the charge that he is racially insensitive. But he's not about to change his stance.

RUSHING- And it has nothing to do with race because I had hair issues when -- when some of my teams in the early years were predominantly white. We had hair policies back then.

NEAL- Among the players he coached, former Duke standout Thomas Hill.

THOMAS HILL, LANCASTER HIGH GRADUATE- I really learned how to play under him. You know, I've never once experienced, you know, the prejudice or any of those things, you know, that are kind of coming down on him now. And you know, it's preposterous. He's trying to teach his kids discipline, respect.

NEAL- Hill's younger brother, Lamont, also suited up for Rushing and went on to play at the University of Texas. While he abided by Rushing's rules then, as an adult he's changed his hairstyle and his opinion about what a coach should ask of his players.

LAMONT HILL, LANCASTER HIGH GRADUATE- I think you can wear an 8-inch Afro. I mean, if you carry yourself with respect and, you know, represent yourself the way your program and your coach wants to be represented, then I don't think your coach should have any problem with it.

NEAL- Fourteen-year-old De'Land Kirkland tried out for Lancaster's freshman team but didn't make it. Why do you think you didn't make the freshman team?

DE'LAND KIRKLAND, CUT FROM LANCASTER FRESHMAN TEAM- I think it has a lot to do about my hair.

NEAL- And not about your abilities?

KIRKLAND- No, ma'am.

NEAL- Rushing denies that braids had anything to do with the decision. Emery Newman is one of two students with braids who made the team, then agreed to take them out in order to play in Rushing's program. What do you think he thinks about people who have braids?


NEAL- Is that what he said, or is that what you think?

NEWMAN- That's what I think.

RUSHING- But it's a perception that's out there, and I think a lot of people do think that. And I think it's -- and it's an unfair perception to label kids with, but I think it's real and I think it's out there.

NEAL- Ed Kirkland is De'Land's father and a member of the district school board. He's filed a grievance, challenging a district policy giving coaches the right to regulate the dress and grooming of their players.

ED KIRKLAND- Tell me where it works that the braids are a direct relationship to how well my child plays basketball or how well he'll become an individual in the world -- in the real world. It's important that my son's heritage not be denied him.

RUSHING- If you're in a team setting, you're looking for team unity. You're looking for a uniform look. And I make no apologies for it.

NEAL- What if all the kids on your team wanted to get braids? Then they'd all look the same. Would you let them get them?


NEAL- Why not?

RUSHING- Well, I thought I've explained that. It's not an image that we're trying to portray. When they walk through the doors, if they have to give up something, they have to conform to rules. I think there's a lesson to be learned there. I'm concerned about my athletes when they graduate and when they enter the job market that they're not -- they're not marketable with this type of hair.

ED KIRKLAND- How can an individual who's Caucasian tell me what's best for my child after he gets out of school? I raise my child. He only coaches him.

NEAL- Coach Rushing's predicament made news throughout Texas, prompting another high school coach who faced a similar challenge to call him. There is one difference, though. The coach, Carl Love, is African-American.

LOVE- Take five. Get off the floor. You all suck!

NEAL- What's the rule say now? What specifically does it say?

LOVE- It says we will not tolerate cornrows -- well, initials, zigzags, cornrows, colored hair, and et cetera.

NEAL- When was "et cetera" put into the equation?

LOVE- "Et cetera" has always been in there to cover anything that might come up. Now, if you let one hairstyle go, then you got to let another one go. And pretty soon, you don't look like a team. You look like a rock band, and that's not what we are, you know? And all of my heroes are teachers, coaches, mayors, presidents, generals and those type of people. And when they start wearing those things, then we'll start wearing them.

NEAL- Some African-American parents feel as though it helps express their heritage. How do you respond to that?

LOVE- Well, when you're a coach of a team, you're not interested in culture. You're not interested in ethnicity. You're interested in a team. I don't pick my team based on their culture. I don't pick them based on their ethnicity or other interests.

NEAL- Love does allow players to wear braids in practice, but at a price.

LOVE- You wear your braids, you run 12 lines. And you know, you don't suit up if it's a game. So they understand, and they just comply with it.

NEAL- In Jasper, Texas, the price for violating the hair policy merely begins with on-field punishment. There can be more.

How do you administer the punishment?

DANNY LAUVE, JASPER HIGH FOOTBALL COACH- They stand at the desk and we swing the board.

NEAL- So they stand at the desk turned around?

LAUVE- Uh-huh.

NEAL- It's corporal punishment. Jasper football coach Danny Lauve administers a paddle, or "lick," as it's called, to a player's backside with this wooden board.

Is this tape put here to help blunt the pain?

LAUVE- No, I think it's just put there to keep it from cracking.

NEAL- Do you know how old this is?

LAUVE- I sure don't. It looks pretty old, doesn't it.

NEAL- Jasper football players have a choice between getting a lick from the paddle or performing this on-field drill called an "egg." Parents and players must consent to these rules, signing a waiver. Corporal punishment, which is legal in parts of Texas and in 22 other states, is permitted in the Jasper school system.

LAUVE- It's in our rules, and I'm here to abide by the rules. And part of the rules are -- you know, it's not a rule if we don't enforce them.

NEAL- The coach inherited the rules from his predecessor, an African-American. Those rules prohibit braids but don't have any specific language on Afros, leaving interpretation up to the coach's discretion and one player in the middle of a dispute.

For Corey Cauley, his entire season comes down to a mere half inch. That's how much hair he has to cut off in order to satisfy Jasper's football rules. If he fails to do so, he won't receive three licks or a 60-yard egg. He'll get kicked off the team.

Why won't you do anything about your hair?

COREY CAULEY, JASPER HIGH FOOTBALL PLAYER- I have trimmed it twice. I have patted it down. And I don't feel that there's a need for me to cut it.

LAUVE- And I hate to be picky with a half inch, but it's a deal where, you know, if you let a kid have a half an inch, he's going to take an inch. And you know, you just don't want to get into that. And there is a sacrifice to be a part of something special. Not every kid in Jasper can come down and be a part of athletics or certainly be a part of football. And we don't want a cancer in our dressing room, and this has been a distraction to our football team.

NEAL - It's an issue with racial overtones. Four years ago, Jasper was the site of an infamous racial murder when James Byrd, a black man, was dragged to his death behind a pick-up truck driven by three white men.

Does that incident make it a little more difficult?

BERNADINE GARLAND, JASPER RESIDENT- No. Because it's not about James Byrd, and it's not about the football team. It's about freedom of choice.

NEAL- Two weeks ago, members of the black community gathered at this church to discuss a potential legal challenge to the school's hair policy. After that meeting, Lillie Cauley, Corey's mother, defended her son's refusal to cut his hair.

What do you hope to come out of this?

LILLIE CAULEY, COREY'S MOTHER- That all the black Afro-Americans will be able to wear their braids or their Afros in school.

NEAL- How can this happen?

CAULEY- We all take a stand.

NEAL- Back in Lancaster, Coach Joe Rushing doesn't see it as a matter of culture but simply conforming to a team concept.

RUSHING- And I do consider this a petty issue. I mean, we're talking about hair here. I mean, you can choose to have it and not play basketball, or you can comply and play basketball. It's not earth shattering. It grows back.

LEY- Tomorrow night in Lancaster, Texas, the board of education considers its policy giving coaches the power to regulate players' hair. And in Jasper, Corey Cauley has been allowed to play football without further trimming his Afro. The school now says its policy is vague. And a week from tomorrow, at a board meeting, local residents will continue their fight to allow such hairstyles.

We welcome this morning Bill Walton, a member of the Basketball Hall of Fame and a new colleague of ours. When he was a three-time champion at UCLA, Bill Walton was clean-shaven, with a conventional haircut. When he moved on to the NBA early on, he had a beard and a ponytail. Bill Walton joins us this morning from Las Vegas.

Robert Hughes of Dunbar High in Fort Worth is the winningest high school basketball coach in the United States. He joins us from Houston. Todd Boyd, a professor of critical studies at the University of Southern California, is in Los Angeles.

Good morning to you all, gentlemen.

If I can begin with you, Todd? What would you say to the coaches who say, "Well, I'm going to say four inches, no more, on an Afro. No beads. No cornrows." What would you say to a coach like that?

TODD BOYD, PROFESSOR, UNIVERSITY OF SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA- I think that coach is living in a time that's clearly past. I think there was a time maybe, Bob, back in the '50s when that might have been consistent with the way of society, but I think in today's world, it's important to recognize that these coaches are not generals. They're not, you know, parents, even. They shouldn't be telling people how to represent themselves. Instead, they should be coaching.

I think for a long time, the image of Vince Lombardi was a sort of preeminent image of a coach in American society, and this was very consistent with the Cold War in America, very old school, very conservative. But I think if you look now, the most successful coach, the image of the most successful coach is Phil Jackson.

And I think what Phil Jackson has done, as a coach, is allowed his players to be themselves and to express themselves. And this has, in my mind, you know, resulted in a very stellar record as a coach. He recognizes them as individuals, and he gives them the opportunity to express themselves. So this old-school way of thinking, in my mind, is no longer consistent with the way we live in America.

LEY- Well, Bill Walton...

BILL WALTON, 3-TIME NCAA PLAYER OF THE YEAR (1972-74)- Robert, I completely disagree here because you're making...

BOYD- Of course you would.

WALTON- You're making a gigantic jump here between the world of professional athletics and high school or scholastic athletics. And what we're looking at here is participating in high school sports is not a right. That is a privilege that you earn by conforming to the rules. And what we want from our coach is logic and fairness and reasoning. And he has to come up with rules.

Now, the biggest problem that I have with Coach Rushing at Kirkland High School is the fact that he allows players to try out with the cornrow, and then, if they make the team, then he makes them cut those cornrows off. And then I also disagree with Coach Rushing on the fact that here's a guy who was trying to explain his reasoning. All's he has to do is say, "Hey, these are my rules. I am the coach. If you don't like these rules, quit the team or go to the administration and get me fired."

BOYD- What's logical about someone's hair -- telling someone how to wear their hair, Bill?

WALTON- That is the coach's prerogative. You have chain of command. You have an authority situation here, where you come in -- I had these same battles with Coach Wooden on a constant basis. I lost every single one. He said, "Bill, I admire and respect your individuality here, but if you want to keep doing this, then, hey, it's been nice having you. Thanks for coming."

BOYD- Well, Bill, I think...

LEY- Todd, if I could, let me bring in Robert Hughes for just a second. Robert, you have these...You have these rules. Why do you have them?

ROBERT HUGHES, WINNINGEST BOYS' PUBLIC SCHOOL BASKETBALL COACH (1,256-245)- We're talking high school athletics here. We're talking team. We're talking about a team concept. I had a mother ask me about 10 years ago, "Coach, what does hair have to do with my ability -- the ability of my son to make a lay-up?" And I told her, "Really, not anything. You can make a lay-up bald-headed or you can make one with hair hanging down to your waist." But it has to do with team policy. It has to do with following rules. It has to do with don't come to the team and decide you're going to change team rules. You can always not play. You can go to another school. But you can't go to a team situation and tell the coach, "Hey, Coach, you need to change this rule. I only cut my hair every third Thursday." This will not work.

BOYD- Well, I guess the problem with that is it's not a team decision, it's the coach's decision. You're making it sound as though the team has a democratic voice in deciding what...

HUGHES- No, this is...

BOYD- ... the style will be, and that's not the case.

WALTON- This is not about democracy! This is about the coach, and you know these rules coming in!

BOYD- But Bill, you were the one talking about a contradiction. If it's not about democracy -- we do live in a democratic country. Why should those democratic rules not apply in this situation?

HUGHES- If we're going to play a man defense, I don't want the team voting on "Well, we're not going to play a man defense tonight. We'll play it on Thursday night next week."

BOYD- And I think you're exactly right in that regard because that pertains to the game of basketball. I don't know...

HUGHES- This has to do...

BOYD- ... who these style issues...

HUGHES- ... follow the rules.

BOYD- ... pertain to the game of basketball.

HUGHES- Follow the rules has to do with how you play the game.

WALTON- The most important thing you do is the contribution you make to the team. And any time you take yourself out of that team concept, any time you put yourself above and beyond and away from the team, you are breaking down what you're trying to build here.

BOYD- But the team does not have a voice in this. The coach does. I think if more players were allowed the opportunity to fully express themselves, it wouldn't be one or two individuals, it would probably be a lot more. I mean, look at the NBA...

BOYD- ... throughout the league with...

HUGHES- Yes, do look at the NBA.

BOYD- ... cornrows, and they're often great players.

WALTON- This has nothing to do with the NBA. This is about high school...

BOYD- It does have something to do with the NBA because it has to do with America and one being allowed the opportunity to represent themselves in the manner that they would. It's not about the sort of dictatorial, didactic approach any more. Times have changed, and it's really difficult when I hear people with this sort of old-school philosophy assume that this is going to exist forever. Society...

... individuals should be allowed the opportunity to express themselves. And when you can convince me that someone wearing cornrows can't make a lay-up or can't hit a jump shot or can't, you know, stop someone on defense, then I can hear you. But...

LEY- I got to jump in. Got to jump in. Got to take a break and…Robert, I promise you a chance to respond, and Bill, as well, as we continue.

Next up, we'll consider the question of these hairstyles and any style that -- what makes them culture, as we continue Outside The Lines.

RUSHING- I want my kids to be perceived as clean-cut. That's an image I think we try to garner here. And it's not that we think people with braids are bad people or think less of them, but it's not the image that we want to be perceived as.

LEY- A coach's power and a player's hair. We continue with Bill Walton, with Robert Hughes and with Todd Boyd.

We've talked about a coach's power. Let's talk about the other issue raised in Kelly Neal's report, Bill. How much of this issue do you get a sense is racial, and how much of it is generational -- old school, new school?

WALTON- I don't think either of those issues come into play here, Bob, because this is about the power and structure of a team. And the jump that we're trying to make, trying to make high school basketball into professional basketball, is a major mistake. They're completely different sports.

You have completely different power structures and relationships. And that coach has to have the power -- when you're a professional, you come in and you negotiate what all the terms of your working conditions are, the same way that we do in the world of broadcasting or any other profession. This is not a right.

When you have the whole issue of drug testing in schools and in high school sports, that comes down -- the Supreme Court has said, hey, that extracurricular activities like the band and like sports -- those are things that are subject to drug testing, where the right of being a student that you all have and that we all have to go to school -- that is beyond the lines.

LEY- But Todd, we've heard the voices of the people in that report saying this is perceived with racial overtones, this issue. How much of it, to your mind, is that a factor?

BOYD- Well, certainly, there's a racial component. I mean, when you talk about cornrows, you're talking about a very distinct African-American urban style, a style that actually emanates from the penitentiary and has most recently gained a great deal of expression in hip-hop culture. I mean, so it is racial.

I think it's also a class issue. You know, you have an African-American coach who agrees with these, you know, Draconian policies. And I think here we're talking about an issue of class. They, or this particular coach, doesn't want players looking like what are perceived to be thugs or people having been paroled from prison, or something like this... lower-class.

WALTON- How can wearing a uniform be a Draconian policy?

BOYD- Wearing a certain hairstyle.

WALTON- That's part of the uniform.

BOYD- It's not part of the uniform, it's part of a person's individual style.

WALTON- The rules are you have to do this, this, this and this if you want to be part of the team. The ultimate freedom, the ultimate power that we have as individuals is, "Hey, I quit. I'm not going to do this." It's more important...

BOYD- Well, why should someone be forced into this corner? That is Draconian. It's an either-or situation.

HUGHES- Those players that claim that they're trying to express themselves -- I want them to express themselves. Express yourselves by playing tough defense. Express yourself by getting double-figure rebounds.

BOYD- Why is playing tough defense...

HUGHES- Express yourself by...

BOYD- ... contradictory to getting...

HUGHES- I want this type of ...

BOYD- ... contradictory to wearing your hairstyle a certain way?

HUGHES- ... expression...

LEY- Robert --Robert, final question very quickly...

HUGHES- That, to me, is not part of the team concept.

LEY- Robert, how much longer do you think policies such as yours can endure?

HUGHES- I don't know. It'll last as long as I'm at Dunbar, though.

LEY- Gentlemen, thank you all very much. Bill Walton, Robert Hughes, Todd Boyd, thanks for a lively discussion this morning.

Outside The Lines is online at ESPN.com. The keyword there is OTLWeekly for our transcripts and streaming video. We look forward to your e-mails on this week's topic, "Splitting Hairs." Our address, otlweekly@espn.com.

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