You’d think that rapper Luther Campbell is the most dangerous thing that can happen to Florida high school football players.
The state’s Department of Education has denied the former hip-hop star – who is now 51 years old and married to a lawyer – the chance to be a state certified coach. The state’s educational leaders claim that exposing high school football players to Campbell would be a safety risk for their impressionable young minds.
It’s admirable that Florida is zealously trying to protect the developing brains of high school football players. But going after Campbell, who ran unsuccessfully for Miami mayor last year, misses the point.
It’s not like 2 Live Crew’s music causes concussions.
This week, Administrative Law Judge Robert E. Meale, recommended that the state get over its reluctance to allow the former rapper a chance to be a certified high school football coach, which requires applicants to “maintain good moral character.”
“Moral character typically requires the balancing of the good and bad over time,” Meale wrote.
Campbell’s infamous early adult days as a rap star featured multiple arrests, but only two misdemeanor convictions, and music lyrics vulgar enough to trigger an obscenity prosecution that was eventually overturned by a federal appellate court.
But in the past seven years, Campbell has spent $80,000 to start a youth football league in Miami-Dade’s Liberty City neighborhood, a league that has provided athletic opportunity for 6,000 kids, Meale noted.
The former rapper has also served admirably as an assistant coach at two Miami-Dade County public high schools, most recently at Miami Northwestern, where he is the weight-room coach.
Meale noted that as a coach, Campbell mentors at-risk kids, doesn’t allow students to curse and forbids them to play his music in the weight room.
Among the state’s objections to Campbell is that his recording career may or may not be over. His last album was made in 2006, and it included vulgar song titles with references to the female anatomy.
So the judge recommended that the state allow Campbell to be certified as a coach, but under a monitored five-year probationary period, in which he would be required, among other things, to notify the state if he recorded or performed “any sexually explicit song that would be inappropriate for the football team weight room.”
The judge wrote: “The superficial appeal of this form of adult entertainment could undermine the hard, patient work of these students’, coaches, teachers, and parents in trying to shape them into responsible young men.”
Campbell’s appeal for state certification will go next to the state’s Educational Practices Commission, which could choose to follow or disregard the administrative judge’s recommendation.
Could the stakes ever be lower?