- The Washington Times - Monday, March 4, 2002

Nolan Richardson claimed to be a victim of racism in Arkansas, if not in the nation's other 49 states, plus Puerto Rico and Guam.
He never could get a fair shake in Arkansas, no matter what he achieved with his basketball program, and never mind the abysmally low graduation rate of his players.
What does a class in botany have to do with trying to compete in the SEC?
Richardson just wanted a level playing field. Can't you understand? That's all he ever wanted. He just wanted to be treated like any other coach at the university, like the golf coach, the badminton coach and the tiddlywinks coach.
But no, the racists in his midst could not see beyond the color of his black skin. They did not respect his vast intellect. They did not embrace his command of American history.
They stuck him in a corner of the athletic department and whispered behind his back. They paid him a couple of bucks an hour and made his life intolerable, especially when his team was 13-14 this season.
"If I was white and I did what I've done here, they'd build statues to me," he said in 1994.
At the very least, as a white coach, they would have named a rest stop in Arkansas after him. That's what happens to most college coaches with big mouths and small minds. They get a rest stop or a highway or a building on campus named after them, and the rest of America rejoices in the celebration.
Richardson lasted almost 17 seasons at Arkansas, which is a fairly long time for someone who was in a miserable situation. He won lots of games, including the national championship in 1994. He led the Razorbacks to three appearances in the Final Four.
In the end, though, he was just another victim, just another put-upon person fighting the good fight against those who wanted to keep him down.
"My great-great-grandfather came over on the ship," Richardson said last week. "I didn't come over on that ship, so I expect to be treated a little bit different. Because I know for a fact that I do not play on the same level as the other coaches around this school play on. I know that. You know it. And people of my color know that. And that angers me."
A few days later, to assuage his anger, Richardson received $3 million and a gentle goodbye from the university. The university chancellor failed to reveal if there were plans to name a parking lot or something after the coach who brought so much joy and prestige to the school.
Please, Arkansas, just give peace a chance. Give this man a courtyard.
Victims have rights, too, and Richardson is a 60-year-old, out-of-work victim at the moment.
As hard as it was for him at the university, his was not a bad life. Richardson earned more than $1 million a year, counting his base salary and side deals. He had free membership to a country club. He drove around Fayetteville in style and comfort, in a sport-utility vehicle on loan from a local dealership.
It was a tough, tough existence, but Richardson persevered.
Somebody had to coach the basketball team. Somebody had to be the College Basketball Coach of the Year, as he once was. Somebody had to be on television and in the newspapers and feted from coast to coast.
You do what you have to do in this world. You get up each day and you push back against the inequities.
Even now, if Richardson were the white coach of the Monopoly board game team at the school, the university undoubtedly would have given him $6 million to go away. The university certainly would have named, at the minimum, a bus stop after him.
Instead, Richardson leaves the university with hurt feelings and a staggering level of self-absorption and ungratefulness.
Being born in this country was the best thing that ever happened to him. America, for all its imperfections, beats all the other alternatives.
Richardson's incredibly high standard of living is a testament to that, his capacity to bounce to another program, if he chooses, is another.
America is not merely the land of opportunity. It also is the land of a zillion second chances.
Before Richardson comes down with the racially induced boo-hoos again, he might want to re-evaluate his place in the world.
He probably would be surprised by the high number of souls aspiring to be a victim like himself.
After all, with racists like the ones in Arkansas, who needs friends?
One day, they even may name a dormitory after Richardson.


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