Double Standards and Cancel Culture at the US Naval Academy: Football Team Edition

Charles Dharapak

Roger Staubach was arguably the greatest football player that the US Naval Academy ever produced. He is an honorable man and has served his country and given much back to the Academy over the years. He came of age in a different era, back when the mission of the Academy was crystal clear, and those who attended clearly understood and honored their service obligation after graduation. The mission of the Academy, as stated from the official website:

“To develop Midshipmen morally, mentally and physically and to imbue them with the highest ideals of duty, honor and loyalty in order to graduate leaders who are dedicated to a career of naval service and have potential for future development in mind and character to assume the highest responsibilities of command, citizenship and government.”

It hasn’t changed at all from the early ‘70s. The objective is to produce naval officers (and the occasional Army or Air Force officer). Period. It’s not to produce professional football players – or professional athletes of any kind, for that matter. Or anything else besides military officers. And most particularly, NOT to force social engineering claptrap like Marxist critical race theory on midshipmen. Except producing football players and implementing CRT training has appeared to subsume the Academy’s main mission these days.

Comradery, teamwork, and unit cohesion are extremely important elements in successful and well-led military organizations large and small. At USNA, this used to involve shared experiences, well-established and understood standards equally applied to all, and training and leadership that promoted those elements among midshipmen. This does not appear to be the case anymore. Take critical race theory training. Before continuing, please take the time to watch this excellent short video from Liz Wheeler that describes exactly what CRT is and how it promotes division and animosity among people:

The USNA Superintendent discussed efforts to “counter racial injustice” at the Academy (a major tenet of CRT) in an internal email that I detailed in this article. Here are a couple of pertinent quotes from his email to USNA staff:

  • Student leaders from the Midshipman Black Studies Club, National Society of Black Engineers, Midshipman Caribbean Heritage Club, and Naval Academy Gospel Choir have established a Midshipman Diversity Team. This team, under the guidance of our Chief Diversity Officer, CAPT Timika Lindsay, and with the support of our other affinity clubs, is developing a midshipman-led, comprehensive plan to identify midshipman-level shortfalls within our Naval Academy family with the goal of proposing a plan to resolve these issues of privilege, bias, and racial injustice.

  • Members of our Naval Academy football team stood up the Academy’s first Racial Equity Council which addresses issues of racial equity within our Naval Academy and local community to include a recent round table discussion with local law enforcement agencies.

That last paragraph is very important, as the football team is at the epicenter of the cancel culture at USNA. Football players at the Academy live virtually a separate existence from the rest of the Brigade of Midshipmen these days, and the rules are bent if not broken to accommodate them, too.

  • Football players are allowed to wear Blue and Gold track suits to their classes, not uniforms like the rest of the Brigade.
  • Academy height and weight standards are waived for football players during their period of eligibility.
  • Workarounds for service requirements after graduation have been made for football players drafted recently by NFL teams.
  • Speaking of “work-arounds,” a senior QB was allowed to resign from the Academy without the required service obligation even though he was guilty of an honor concept violation when he was caught cheating on a thermodynamics quiz.
  • Instructors have been pressured to pass football players in some courses without having satisfactorily completed course requirements, according to sources.
  • Many football players are repeat offenders in violating conduct rules and even the honor concept. The penalties, e.g., number of days on restriction, are generally reduced for players/varsity athletes but almost never for other midshipmen. An honor concept violation typically leads to separation from the Academy. At least one football player cheated in an online course this year (an honor offense), yet the transgression was essentially swept under the rug with minimized punishment.
  • When on restriction, football players don’t have to report in dress uniform as is the rule for other midshipmen; they report in their track suits – if at all! There have been numerous instances of players missing restriction musters for days without consequence (which result in severe disciplinary action if done by other midshipmen).
  • A very stark example of the divide between the football team and the rest of the Brigade revolves around meals [Note: anyone who has had kids knows that meals are a really big deal to high schoolers and college kids!] During the ChiCom virus crisis, the Brigade’s meals have typically been served in Styrofoam containers and are definitely not as high-quality as they normally are. Meanwhile, the football team receives gourmet meals (frequently steak and lobster) and eats them in a room segregated from the Mess Hall where the rest of the Brigade eats in one sitting.
  • The divide between varsity and non-varsity athletes at USNA is wide and deep. Varsity athletes, including the football team, frequently refer to others as “NARPs” (Non-Athletic Regular People). Imagine the reaction from members of the Brigade when a football player recently posted on the internal chatroom “Jodel” a picture of his half-eaten gourmet dinner and saying, “Y’all NARPs can have the shell.”

Then there was the recent decision to hold the entire Brigade without leave through the Thanksgiving period while mandating attendance at this year’s Army-Navy game on 12 December, as posted in this schedule from the Commandant on the internal chatroom Jodel:

This resulted in a torrent of responses on Jodel; here are two examples:

The “dant” is short for the Commandant, CAPT P.R. Buchanan, USN. The midshipmen know full well that the number one priority is the football team, that they are props for the viewing audience during the Army-Navy game, that there are widely known and observed double-standards in favor of the football team, and that their lives and schedules are of secondary importance to the football program.

Here is the most recent example. This past weekend at USNA was supposed to be the first “mostly-normal” liberty weekend, and so a massive number of midshipmen had family coming in for visits. (“Liberty” is Navy-speak for being able to leave the grounds of the Academy, within prescribed limits depending on seniority.) Yet, on Thursday night, the whole Brigade was told via a video message that they would be required to attend the 6pm football game versus Temple on Saturday, with both a march-on and march-back in formation. Maryland Governor Hogan had resisted the plan greatly due to concerns about virus-spreading, but a last-minute waiver was granted by the Maryland Public Health Director. Midshipmen who were greatly looking forward to spending time with family and friends over the long three-day weekend responded in force via the Jodel chatroom, with the added backdrop of an attempted suicide last weekend and also being told the same day that Spring Break was cancelled and the Holiday Break over Christmas and New Year was up in the air. But the show had to go on for the TV cameras during the football game!

And go on the game did. The Washington Post reported afterward that “the Midshipmen students were clearly thrilled to be in attendance, roaring for the crab race game on the video board and sprinting out of the stands to do pushups after a score.” And the USNA house rag, the Capital Gazette, blared this headline: “’It’s really neat:’ Midshipmen relish marching on, attending first Navy football game amid coronavirus pandemic.” However, the reality in the stands was somewhat different, where a strong feeling existed that the Brigade was being used as a PR prop. It seems that certain officers and members of the Brigade had the specific job of walking through the stands the entire game to yell at midshipmen who sat down in their seats and/or weren’t cheering enthusiastically. It also seems that the otherwise rigid USNA social distancing requirements magically disappeared at the stadium, too, as shown in the pictures linked below. Navy football über alles once again.

There is no question that football players cover the “physically” part of the USNA mission (“… morally, mentally, physically…”). They’ve been winning football games for years against other Division I schools. The morally and mentally parts are far more problematic. Many past and present football team members hovered around the 2.0 GPA mark. And many have missed the mark on the moral part, too, over and above the repeat conduct offenders alluded to above. Here are some past ignominious incidents involving the USNA football program over the years:

  • Football players received “favorable treatment” during a cheating scandal involving 125 midshipmen in 1992, as described here.
  • The Navy quarterback was charged with rape on-campus in 2006, as reported here, and was ultimately expelled from the Academy in 2007, as reported here.
  • Football players rented and frequented an off-campus house in 2012 leading to a sex scandal at a “Toga and Yoga party” reported here and here, among other questionable activities.
  • An Academy superintendent was terminated early for use of a “slush fund” for unauthorized perks for families of football coaches and senior staff and alumni, as reported here.
  • Numerous cases of sexual harassment and sexual misconduct by members of the football team (and others) dealt with both internally and publicly over the years. Here is one example. And here is a summary report showing the increased incidence of sexual assault at all of the military academies from earlier this year.

I think you get the picture. Moral rectitude seems to be of secondary importance if one is a member of the football team.

And yet the football team’s “Racial Equity Council” is driving the cancel culture train on campus. By the way, they actually met as a council with the Baltimore city police chief to discuss racial injustice and prejudice in policing – as if they represented the Academy and the Navy as a whole on the issue, in opposition to the police in general!

There is no question that the cancel culture has taken root in the football team. At Saturday’s Temple game, the team was not on the field for the playing of the national anthem (the rest of the Brigade was in the stands). When they did come out afterward, the team knelt before an American flag before getting ready for the kickoff. It might be standard operating practice for footballers at civilian schools to execute the “Kaepernick Kneel” while dissing the flag as the virtue-signaling price of entry into the NFL these days, but the Navy football team, all of whom are ostensibly in training to serve their country as naval officers? In my opinion, that’s a REAL “honor violation” that should result in separation. And it turns out that the team hasn’t been on the field for the national anthem for any of the prior three games, either.

Who is responsible for this ongoing travesty of declining standards and favoritism for the football team, as well as allowing their “woke-ism” to flourish unchecked? The USNA leadership over the years, of course, because the above issues did not just materialize yesterday. And the cancel culture that exists in the Pentagon and enables the likes of the USNA superintendent, commandant, deputy commandant, and others are complicit as well. These people need to be cashiered forthwith.

Football is big business at the Academy these days. Television revenues, corporate sponsorships, and donations from wealthy alumni are the big three that fuel Navy football and athletics at the Academy overall. Their money has paid for a lot of facilities, perks, and infrastructure over the years for both varsity and intramural sports, and that outside money has had a very damaging and corrosive effect on USNA leadership and on the Brigade of Midshipmen over the years, including at the two non-profits that pay the sports bills: USNA Alumni Association and Foundation and the Naval Academy Athletic Association. Sponsors want winning teams; so what if that means lowered standards, excusing athlete misconduct when possible, and providing perks that separate the team from the rest of the Brigade?

What is the tradeoff and cost? Midshipman graduates (the NARPs) become cynics when they should be motivated by the “altruism and enthusiasm of youth” and believe that they can in fact have an impact on and indeed change the Navy and the world for the better. What about the personal costs to those sexually harassed and assaulted? What about the education costs lost through expelled players? What about the damage done to USNA prestige? What about the other unknown costs associated with candidates that weren’t admitted to the Academy because slots were taken by the football candidates that received a “second look” to see if they could make the team? All of this to win some games and keep the money flowing. The USNA mission is subordinated to winning football games. When you dance with the Devil, you are inevitably going to get burned.

To summarize, USNA is a taxpayer-funded institution. The money garnered outside the system by the football program has nothing to do with executing the mission of the Academy. In fact, in placing the football program on a pedestal above other midshipmen while lowering standards and coddling players, the Academy’s leadership is destroying comradery, brigade cohesion, team-making, and collective spirit while engendering division and resentment in the Brigade and incurring the other costs mentioned above. Respect for the football team cannot be demanded; it can only be commanded. Because of the separate/lower standards for football players, USNA leadership is incapable of commanding any semblance of respect from the Brigade.

This cancer requires major surgery to correct. Here is the solution:

  • End the segregation of the football team and reintegrate them (and other varsity teams) back into the rest of the Brigade, removing all artificial barriers and special treatment
  • Reinstate and enforce uniform height and weight standards for all midshipmen; for football players, achieving the standards should be a condition for graduation
  • Return to the requirement for all midshipmen to attend classes in the uniform of the day (unless medically authorized otherwise for the duration of the injury)
  • Reinstate the service obligation upon graduation for all midshipmen – no exceptions
  • Require any midshipman drafted by a professional sports team to choose from serving in a to-be-negotiated military capacity after graduation, or to pay back the entire costs of education as a precondition for release from the service obligation
  • And lastly, pull out the cancel culture and critical race theory malarkey by their roots – most particularly from the football team – and get back to the basics associated with academics, high standards, and military readiness and training; that means getting rid of the current USNA leadership and all of the professors on the staff who are vested in and preach social justice and critical race theory claptrap

By the way, Roger Staubach lived the life of a midshipman without perks. His big treat after a baseball win (he was captain of the baseball team in 1965) was an ice cold 8-ounce bottle of Coke in the locker room above the Boat House. He also played basketball! He once received 15 demerits for skylarking when he and his roommate lobbed “water balloons” constructed by folding notebook paper Origami-style and filled with water into Tecumseh Court. He received restriction just like any other midshipman. He stood watch squad inspections, had a set of “grease shoes” (specially polished shoes saved for inspections), and attended Catholic Mass every day except when he traveled with the team. So yes, 2020 USNA football team, a return to regular order and discipline for football players (and other varsity athletes) can in fact be done! Roger Staubach showed the way.

The end.

[H/T: Trey and Al]