Every time that you think tattoos have finally become completely mainstream there is an even that throws it right in your face that some people still look down on people for their ink. Or, in this case, two events in quick succession both hailing from the powerhouse of college football, the Southeastern Conference. First the athletic director of Alabama lamented athletes spending their money on "tattoos and rims" at a conference. Then the SEC sent out a tweet congratulating Alabama's Derrick Henry for being named SEC Offensive Player of the Year with a photoshopped picture that had removed the running back's tattoos. Which leads us to ask, does the SEC hate tattoos?
Let's start with the Offensive Player of the Year tweet. As someone who uses Photoshop on a daily basis there is one thing that I can assure you of, it takes a heck of a lot of effort to remove someone's tattoos from a picture. This was not an accident. Which leads one to question what the motive is behind the doctoring of the photo. It's not as if Henry is standing out from the crowd by having tattoos, it is completely commonplace to see tattoos on the athletes in a big time college program. One only needs to go back two years to find another SEC Offensive Player of the Year covered in ink, Auburn's Tre Mason.
Needless to say the conference has been catching flak ever since the tweet was posted yesterday as reporters and fans alike quickly noticed the missing ink. So far the conference has not released a statement explaining the photo, nor have they removed it from their Twitter feed.
The social media team for the conference can find at least one ally who probably loved the photo, Alabama athletic director Bill Battle. Battle was on a panel at an IMG World Conference of Sports on the cost of attendance at universities when he engaged in the following back and forth with North Carolina State's AD Debbie Yow, according to SB Nation's Steven Godfrey.
"You've failed athletes [in financial responsibility] when you see them on hoverboards," Yow said. "Or tattoos and rims," Battle responded.
The comments are thought to be in direct reference to the additional stipend athletes are receiving this year in addition to their scholarships. There has been an enormous amount of debate among those that run athletic programs since the decision to allow players to earn a little bit of pocket change (the stipends are between $1,500 and $6,000 a year depending on the university) for participating in athletic programs that bring in tens of millions of dollars in revenue. This is, of course, besides the point. These athletes are all over 18 and capable of making their own decisions about how they want to spend their money, these comments from Yow and Battle are completely ridiculous. There is absolutely nothing wrong with spending money on hoverboards and tattoos, those are the kind of things that college kids love. And as far as financial responsibility goes, not every cent that a person has needs to be spent responsibly, there is such a thing as fun. This seems to be something that these executives have forgotten.
Obviously, we love when our favorite athletes are sporting some ink. It's beyond time that uptight executives and conference officials caught on and realized there is nothing wrong with a college kid showing off some tattoos as he rushes towards a conference championship and beyond.