Members of the group Community Oversight Now say they have an unorthodox way to keep state legislators from tinkering with Tennessee’s community oversight boards.
Those boards, of course, exist, to monitor police.
Members of the Tennessee General Assembly want to place guardrails on those boards, which some people say have too much authority and might exist to retaliate against police.
Community Oversight Now, not surprisingly, is suiting up for battle.
The group’s strategy — discourage as many talented high school athletes as possible from eventually playing sports at Tennessee’s colleges and universities.
This, according to a press release members of the organization released Tuesday on their Facebook page.
The campaign will target the top-ranked football and basketball high school athletes in the classes of 2020 and 2021. This includes the top 300 football players and top 100 basketball players in the country that rank in recruitment sites such as ESPN 300 and Rivals.com. They also include first and second team all-state athletes in Tennessee and other Mid-South states, the press release said.
“The withdrawal of support means we are making a vigorous effort to steer these athletes away from Tennessee institutions and to accept athletic scholarships elsewhere,” according to the press release.
“The recruitment of top-ranked athletes is the bread and butter of Tennessee’s sports economy. For example, the University of Tennessee football team brought in more money ($106 million) than the University of Alabama football program in 2017 and its basketball program is ranked No. 1 in the nation. Successful athletic programs and the revenue they generate spill over into local economies and impact small businesses. The loss of two or three football players (out of a 25-member recruitment class) can adversely impact a program for years.”
The Tennessee Star reached out to all the state’s college athletics programs for comment Tuesday. Representatives from only two of those programs responded to our messages.
University of Tennessee-Chattanooga athletics spokesman Jim Horton said he and his staff members were not following the situation and had no comment.
Vanderbilt athletics spokesman Alan George also said he had nothing to say.
Under a bill introduced Monday, a community oversight board in Tennessee would not have any power to issue subpoenas for documents or to compel witness testimony.
As The Star reported Tuesday, State Rep. Michael Curcio, R-Dickson, is sponsoring the bill.
Also, under this proposed law, a community oversight board could not restrict or otherwise limit membership based upon demographics, economic status, or employment history.
Nashville-Davidson County voters approved a $10 million-plus oversight board in a referendum last year titled Amendment 1, prompting concerns from police officers.
Board members in Nashville will have access to police files and can interview officers and witnesses. They can also send reports with recommendations about allegedly problematic officers to Metro Nashville Police Chief Steve Anderson.
Also, as The Star reported, Nashville Fraternal Order of Police members said they have serious constitutional concerns about the new board.
But members of Community Oversight Now say Curcio’s bill “discriminates against African Americans, other racial minorities, and low-income rural communities.”
No one at Curcio’s office returned The Star’s request for comment on the Community Oversight Now campaign.