Colorado baseball prospect Gavin Bell loves the game. On one social media account, he lists his location as “wherever the field is.” Being the proactive young man, like many other high school prospects, he decided to reach out to the coaching staff of Texas Wesleyan University to gauge his chances of finding a spot on the school’s roster. The response he got has made big waves.
“Thanks for the interest in our program. Unfortunately, we are not recruiting players from the state of Colorado,” read the letter from Texas Wesleyan head coach Mike Jeffcoat. “In the past, players have had trouble passing our drug test. We have made a decision to not take a chance on student-athletes from your state. You can thank your liberal politicians. Best of luck wherever you decide to play.”
Bell forwarded the response to his coach Alan Dyer, who then forwarded it to several folks connected to the local baseball community, among them Darren Mckee, a Colorado-based sports journalist and radio personality. “He sent it to six or seven of us like, ‘Can you believe it?’” McKee told Cannabis Now.
McKee didn’t know Bell, but he knew his coach Dyer. McKee has spent years fielding teams just below the high school level, and when his players moved on he would be in touch with the high school coaches, hence his relationship with Bell’s coach Dyer.
“I saw it and thought, that’s insane,” said McKee. “I mean it’s insane on so many levels. If you just want to talk about in a legal political thing, the state of Colorado voted on this. It wasn’t the legislature, it was the citizens. It didn’t have anything to do with liberal politicians.”
McKee noted that, in fact, many liberal politicians like Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper were against the effort.
“The thought that we’re all sitting around here in Colorado high all the time is preposterous,” said McKee.
“I mean, I understand the jokes,” he said. “There are probably three legal weed places within two miles of my house, but it’s a none factor here. It doesn’t matter. If you are not into smoking marijuana, and I am not into smoking marijuana, it doesn’t matter if Euflora is a mile down the street from me.”
McKee said he doesn’t drink whiskey either, but there is basically a liquor store in his backyard.
According to McKee, Bell is competing at the highest level in the state.
“We have kids who come out of local high schools in our area and play Division I and professional baseball all the time,” said McKee. “So the team [Bell] is on won the 5A [division], which in our state is the absolute top. He was in the system. My son plays down the street, I know how difficult this is. That’s what offended me the most, is that a coach would just so flippantly treat a kid like that who is just looking for an opportunity to play.”
After running through this tale of disgust in his head, McKee decided to screenshot the letter and share it with his Twitter followers, before he spoke briefly on the subject on his radio show. Less than 24 hours later, Texas Wesleyan had fired Jeffcoat.
The story picked up traction quick. As more and more outlets picked up the story, McKee’s initial tweet garnered thousands of likes and retweets. Texas Wesleyan issued a statement the evening of Feb. 28, after McKee broke the story in the afternoon.
“We are aware of the email sent by our baseball coach, and the comments he made are in no way a reflection of Texas Wesleyan University, its values or its recruiting practices,” read the university’s response.
They also noted the immediate commencement of an investigation into the charges. It was a quick one. The following afternoon, Texas Wesleyan held a press conference announcing: “Mike Jeffcoat is no longer an employee here… We do not tolerate discrimination. Texas Wesleyan values our students, values our student-athletes, and values our diverse and inclusive campus.”
Jeffcoat’s letter to Bell also raised the ire of longtime cannabis advocates and not just baseball aficionados. Mason Tvert of VS Strategies, who helped lead the effort to legalize marijuana in Colorado, was glad to see the university take action.
“The public’s attitude toward cannabis is evolving, but there are still plenty of bigots out there,” Tvert told Cannabis Now. “It is nice to see the university is distancing itself from this coach’s clearly outdated views and inappropriate behavior.”
Dr. Amanda Reiman, who lectures at UC Berkeley and works with the Drug Policy Alliance, said that she had “no words” for the higher education institution’s attitude toward cannabis.
“That a young person trying to further their education and career would be faced with discrimination that extends not to their own personal viewpoints, but the political decisions of the state they live in… but I guess it should be no surprise given the state of the country today,” said Reiman. “I am grateful that Texas Wesleyan took swift action in rebuking this coach’s behavior and removing them from the university.”
TELL US, have you faced discrimination for your state’s laws?