Tuesday, December 29, 2009

The Lost Boys of Sudan

Read this article from the Boston Globe.

Go ahead. I'll wait.

Now, answer me this: are you surprised?

You shouldn't be.

It is a well known fact that big time basketball recruits are regarded as commodities. Too often, their handlers, their AAU and high school coaches, and many times even their families see them as a cash cow, a way to make a few (thousand) dollars.

And these are american kids that know full well their legal rights.

You're surprised that the people running the basketball mills would have no issue taking advantage of some naive kids from Africa?

For american kids thinking about playing college hoops, basketball is a way of life. For the african kids talked about in the Globe article, basketball is a way out of a life. They aren't necessarily using basketball as a means to making a substantial living. They are using basketball as a way to distance themselves from the atrocities that occur in their home countries, with the hope that one day they can pay for their family to follow suit. Take a look at these stories touched on in the Globe:

One of 11 children - he never knew his father - Muo recalled armed militia repeatedly raiding his Sudanese village in the middle of the night when he was a child and dragging his mother to jail.

In 1998, as the fighting in Sudan's decades-long civil war surged closer and several relatives were murdered, Muo's mother fled the country with seven of her children and settled in a refugee camp in Egypt. Muo, then 12, was consigned as an indentured servant to an Egyptian family whose matriarch regularly beat him.

"I cried, but I had no choice," he said. "We needed the money to buy milk for my brothers."


Luony’s family fled Sudan in 1997 after his father, a soldier in the People's Liberation Army, was murdered during the long years of civil unrest, which has claimed more than 2 million lives. Walking four days and nights across scorched plains and crocodile-infested rivers, Luony narrowly escaped a murderous militia - his uncle died in a hail of gunfire before he reached Ethiopia.

"After they shot my uncle, they tried to kill us," said Luony, who was 8 at the time. "We ran and hid behind some trees, and they didn't find us."

For the next eight years, Luony was confined to a refugee camp where malnutrition and violence were endemic.
You think those two really cared where they ended up here? You think they hesitated in making the trip to the States? You think that they thought to research to people and the company that brought them over?

Or did they jump at the opportunity to get an education and make a better life for themselves and, maybe one day, their family?

And their "sponsors" take complete advantage of that, controlling their players with the threat of deportation.

Matt Norlander hits the nail of the head:
The recruits only get a certain amount of time and chances to cash in on their dreams, and given what is detailed above, you can’t fault them for trying to take advantage when the carrot is dangled. Some people don’t have sympathy for these young men who are plucked from their homes for a chance to make a living off of God-given ability. That’s fine. What’s not fine is the small amount of press that’s given to this saddening subject.
Couldn't have said it better myself.

The last thing I want is to see this pipeline closed; there is nothing wrong with bettering your way-of-life through basketball. But it would be nice if the process of getting these recruits here was cleaned up. Hearing the awful stories about what the "Lost Boys of Sudan" have lived through is bad enough. We don't need to put them through more turmoil when they get to the States, only to send them back to the Sudan when things don't work out.

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