Recent editorials from West Virginia newspapers:
The Journal on the firing of a police officer who posted violent comments toward police brutality protesters:
Obviously, Noah Garcelon had no business being a police officer in Winfield, West Virginia. Good for officials there for pressuring him to resign from that post.
Garcelon had a brutal reaction to nationwide protests involving the May 25 death of George Floyd while in police custody in Minneapolis. One officer already has been charged with murder in the case.
Last week, Garcelon reportedly posted on his Facebook page that those protesting Floyd’s death are “a bunch of animals.” He added that, “I’d see how many I could run over before my car breaks down.”
Within hours of the posting, Winfield officials talked with Garcelon and he resigned from the town police department. Too bad he was not fired.
We understand the social media seems to produce some sort of intoxication in people, prompting them to post comments they never would have made in face-to-face conversations. Still, statements such as those Garcelon made are automatic disqualifiers from law enforcement service.
Such behavior simply cannot be tolerated. We hope no peace officer or, for that matter, public official in any position in our area, would make such comments.
Any doing so ought to be handed a pink slip immediately.
The Register-Herald on Gov. Jim Justice's comments regarding former President Barack Obama:
Gov. Jim Justice said, without apology, that his comment this past week about President Barack Obama – the nation’s first black president – not being welcome to the state was just a joke. He laughed it off. Seriously. He chuckled. But what we heard was a white guy of a certain age and privileged life who was tone deaf to a national conversation about rampant, persistent and insidious racial injustice in the aftermath of – yet again – the murder of a black citizen by a white cop.
The governor embarrassed West Virginia just as he did this past school year when he called the Woodrow Wilson High School girls basketball team “a bunch of thugs.” Many of those girls were black, of course, and the governor never realized in his wildest imagination that “thugs” had become in current culture a derogatory label attached to black youth. In a word, racist.
The governor showed us who he was then – either unknowing or uncaring – and did so this past week to erase any lingering doubt. As onetime national poet laureate Maya Angelou wrote, “When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time.”
Justice, of course, is in campaign mode. The June 9 primary is just around the corner and he is being challenged from within his own party. He has been using the power of incumbency and daily press briefings to brag on the state’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic, to announce various federal grants to worthwhile projects around the state and to jump on the Trump train in a state in love with the president. All seemed to be going swimmingly. But then he stepped in it.
Justice, after excusing himself from his daily briefing to take what he said was a call from the president, said this: “I wanted him to know just how welcome he is in West Virginia. And any president, you know, we should absolutely welcome all but – maybe not Barack Obama. Nevertheless, we’ll welcome any president.”
Yes, of course, the governor was referencing in his customarily bumbling and stumbling manner the energy policies of the Obama administration, which did in fact hit coal states like West Virginia. Employment in the nation’s coal industry, of course, has been in decline since the 1960s because of technological advances but no one lets that mess with the popular if not overly simplistic narrative. Coal barons like this governor and conservative politicians like too many in this state have to have a straw man to vilify. So, yes, they cooked up the War on Coal campaign, which is nothing more than an assault on common sense. It may fit nicely on a bumper sticker, but it fails to pass any serious and critical examination of the facts.
And that’s what the governor was referencing, he said.
Meanwhile, protesters were marching in the streets of America, calling for radical change to criminal justice laws, policing procedures and police violence itself — most recently, against George Floyd, an unarmed black man who died after a white Minneapolis police officer forced his knee into Floyd’s neck, killing him in a matter of nine minutes. Among Floyd’s final words were “I can’t breathe,” hauntingly echoing the last moments of Eric Garner, another unarmed black man who died after a white police officer squeezed his neck for 15 seconds in 2014.
Floyd’s killing followed the killing of Breonna Taylor by police in her own home, the shooting of Sean Reed in Indiana, the shooting of Tony McDade in Florida, and the shotgun slaying of Ahmaud Arbery by a white father and son, the former a retired police detective.
Arbery had merely gone out jogging.
Beyond these killings, of course, is the coronavirus pandemic which has disproportionately taken more black lives than white.
The economic damage, too, has been more devastating in black neighborhoods along with inequities in education, transportation and opportunity. The consequences of all this? Black Americans have had to carry an unequal share of job losses and pay cuts.
But, hey, it’s just all a little joke about the nation’s first black president while protesters are marching in the streets of America, right, Gov. Justice? Didn’t mean any harm despite all of the evidence of systemic racism.
What the governor does not understand is that at the core of black anguish and rage right now is a fear among blacks that they can be killed anywhere at any time by anyone – especially by law enforcement. It is a fear black Americans have carried the past 400 years since the first slave ship unloaded its cargo on this continent.
But, hey, the first black president of the United States is not welcome in our state. He’s an easy mark. It’s just a little joke. Get it?
Our governor is a big man but he comes across as a small, self-aggrieved little boy when measured against the giants of those who have stood for the most vulnerable among us.
Be that leader, governor, and can the racist act. It’s not funny.
The Herald-Dispatch on funding for spring sports in colleges:
There was much excitement in Huntington a few months ago when Marshall University announced it was ready to build a long-awaited baseball stadium.
Site preparation has begun, but other than that, the project has stalled.
While that project is stalled, it’s a good time to consider the future of spring sports in college athletics. And, too, the status of minor league baseball in West Virginia. The two are related in a way.
Colleges and universities are facing a financial crunch. Costs go up while pressure builds to hold down tuition and fee increases. Few sports programs break even financially. Those usually are at the larger universities with huge fan followings and lucrative television contracts. West Virginia University is one of those schools thanks to its membership in the Big XII. Marshall is in a lower-tier conference. Athletic departments at those schools must be subsidized from student fees and other sources.
Which brings us to baseball and non-revenue sports — the ones that don’t benefit from ticket sales or selling broadcast rights. Financial pressures from the coronavirus pandemic and other sources are forcing schools to consider these programs’ futures.
Some schools have made cuts. According to Sports Illustrated, Furman has cut baseball, Old Dominion has cut wrestling and Cincinnati has cut men’s soccer. Brown cut 11 spring sports.
Last month, Bowling Green State University in Ohio dropped baseball. According to the Toledo Blade, half the athletics budget at Bowling Green comes from student fees. The department was told to cut $2 million in cuts as part of the university’s plan to prevent an overall $29 million deficit for the 2020-21 academic year. The baseball program was saved this week when alumni secured commitments to raise $1.5 million over the next three years.
Here’s where professional baseball enters the picture at Marshall. Some fans’ dreams for the Marshall baseball stadium was securing a minor league team to play there after Marshall’s season ended. That plan could have faced opposition from the West Virginia Power in Charleston, but the Power’s own future is in question as Minor League Baseball is reducing the number of teams it has. Major League Baseball no longer wants to support so many minor league teams, and most of West Virginia’s minor league teams could be contracted out of existence.
Not having the possibility of a minor league team could spell trouble for the financial justification for the Marshall baseball field.
Marshall supporters have waited decades for a ballpark near campus. It would be a severe disappointment if one is not built, but economic realities could work against it.
Meanwhile, universities must be ready to talk about the true cost of athletics. When state-supported schools ask legislators to maintain or increase their subsidies, they need to be up front about how and why they subsidize money-losing sports. Students graduate with loan debt, part of which goes to support sports they do not attend and, honestly, don’t care about.
Are non-revenue sports sustainable? COVID-19 and economic realities will soon force schools to answer that question.