By Steve Vivona
On April 20 director Spike Lee visited St. John's University to
talk to students on a variety of subjects, most notably the value
of a college education. His discussion was sponsored by the College
of Professional Studies Sports Management Department and hosted by
Professor Dick Barnett.
Mr. Lee, a man propelled to great heights as a result of his own
education and hard work, discussed how too many student-athletes
are extremely short-sighted when it comes to life after the cheers
have faded. In his opening remarks he lauded Professor Barnett, a
former Knicks great whose number was retired by the team in 1990.
"Too often athletes, in particular African-American athletes, wake
up one day when they no longer possess the skills or get hurt, and
they say, 'What am I going to do with the rest of my life?'"
The director of such notable films as Do the
RightThing, and Malcom X, Mr. Lee observed
that many of these athletes left school early to turn pro. "They
thought they would be young forever, but it doesn't work like
that." He went on to say that these athletes play the game from a
very early age devoting every waking moment to that dream of going
pro, at the exclusion of all else. Then around age 30-35 they often
find themselves devoid of their skills with no prospects.
"Dr. Dick Barnett was not like that. He had the vision to see
that sports is very limiting. No one plays forever. You cannot let
the sport define you. Life often begins after you retire."
Mr. Lee stressed that he sees too many young African-Americans
believing that their only options are to either become an athlete,
a rapper or a criminal to get ahead in life and be successful.
While he enjoys rap music Mr. Lee was severely critical of gangster
rap, which he said glorifies violence, objectifies women and has an
undue influence on many young African-Americans.
Mr. Lee is a graduate of Morehouse College in Atlanta
as are as his father and grandfather. "(During) these four years or
more here at St. John's you need to find out what it is you love,
not necessarily what's going to make you the most money." He added
that he was grateful to have the loving support of his parents and
grandparents, despite the fact he was entering a tough profession
fraught with disappointment. "You do not want be miserable 15-20
years from now because you chose a profession based solely on
Following his presentation Mr. Lee took questions from the
audience on a wide range of subjects, including filmmaking, current
events and African-American culture. He was presented with a
special award for his positive influence on the youth of today and
given a St. John's baseball cap and basketball jersey.