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August 8, 2013
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What started out seven months ago as seemingly harmless chatter about whether Jadeveon Clowney should sit out the 2013 season in order to safeguard his health for the NFL has taken a venomous turn in recent weeks.
The latest curious chapter arose Wednesday when reports popped up about the sale on eBay of a few hundred items of memorabilia purportedly autographed by Clowney.
Signing items such as jerseys, helmets, footballs and other paraphernalia is not improper under NCAA rules, so even if the autograph of Clowney was authentic, no potential violation occurred.
Sadly, though, some media folks quickly took the matter two or three steps farther by speculating about whether Clowney had taken money in exchange for his signature, as Texas A&M quarterback and Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel is accused of doing.
Soon, without a shred of evidence to support their position, some media folks delighted in treating the conjecture as proven fact and all but indicted Clowney for breaking NCAA eligibility rules.
Not surprisingly, some of them shrug off their unscrupulous behavior as "reporting" when it is anything but that. Actually, it's incredibly unfair to Clowney, who has done nothing wrong.
In the end, the South Carolina compliance office, which closely monitors the sale of such items on the Internet, halted the chatter a few hours later by reporting their investigation has found no wrongdoing by Clowney.
By Wednesday night, the commotion had died down and both Steve Spurrier and Lorenzo Ward expressed confidence Clowney had followed the rules and done the right thing.
The uproar was a painful reminder of the reports from a few weeks ago that Clowney had been contacted by rap mogul and agent wannabe Jay-Z.
Again, communications between a player and would-be agent are not improper under NCAA rules. Only when the player agrees verbally or in writing to be represented by the agent or accepts money is his eligibility jeopardized.
However, that reality didn't prevent a firestorm of guesswork about whether Clowney had actually signed a deal with Jay-Z. Again, there was no evidence he had. Many reports I read even suggested (wrongly) that any contact between a player and an agent was improper even though that is clearly not the rule.
The South Carolina compliance office investigated and found Clowney had not undertaken any improper contact with Jay-Z or accepted impermissible benefits, closing the matter.
In the end, the rancorous assaults on Clowney's eligibility ended with findings in favor of the player, surely disheartening those in the media I have a sneaking suspicion possess roguish intent about bringing the superstar defensive end down.
To those media types that fall into that shameful category, I proclaim enough is enough.
Pathetically, we live in a world today where some supposedly credible Internet and social media sites such as Twitter are frequently hijacked by baseless and rampant speculation designed for no other purpose than to artificially fashion controversy through misleading headlines in order to drive web traffic to specific sites and increase advertising revenue.
Rumors, hearsay, theories and chitchat are today packaged as if they are hard news. It's a dangerous shoot first, ask questions a decade later mentality and regrettably Clowney has caught in the cross-fire on two occasions within the last month.
Why? Easy. Proving yet again my time-honored argument that many Americans would rather be entertained than informed, some in the national media and perhaps the local media as well weighing in on Clowney over the past few weeks have discovered the secret Hollywood scribes have celebrated for decades - salacious celebrity gossip sells.
Make no mistake, Clowney is a celebrity and as yesterday showed, almost anything goes, or that's what some writers seemingly believe.
Indeed, innuendo is intoxicating.
Were you stressed by Wednesday's nonstop hypotheticals about Clowney accepting money for signing memorabilia? If so, I have some free advice for you: don't be gullible, don't be na?, trust the players have been taught right from wrong and refuse to be a puppet in the malicious and disturbing manipulation of the truth designed merely to capitalize on Clowney's celebrity status.
Truly, the once comical insane Clowney circus has mutated into an appalling sideshow with the start of the 2013 college football season in sight.
After wading through the swamp of spineless speculation surrounding Clowney in the past few weeks, the 6 p.m. kickoff for the South Carolina-North Carolina game on Aug. 29 at Williams-Brice Stadium can't come soon enough.
When it does - and the moment comes for Clowney to line up at his defensive end position for the first time - the weeping and wailing by those in the national media that never wanted the moment to happen for various reasons should be heard for miles around.
South Carolina NEWS