The University of Georgia’s Board of Directors lost its motherloving mind this week when it learned that the athletic department had distributed birth control and liquor to a 38-year-old black man.
According to the Athens-Banner Herald, UGA Athletic Director Greg McGarity apologized to the board for the apparent oversight of providing multiplatinum rap artist Ludacris with a box of condoms. The love gloves were mandated in a performance contract rider that also promised Luda bottles of vodka, tequila and his own brand of cognac for an appearance at the Bulldogs’ spring football game on April 16. (Full contract available here.)
In what would appear to be a standard tour rider, Ludacris’s agreement promised that his dressing room would be stocked with toiletries, fancy towels, food, candles, etc. You see these kinds of riders all the time, going back to Van Halen’s infamous demand for a bowl of M&Ms with “ABSOLUTELY NO BROWN ONES.” ((Van Halen’s on again/off again frontman David Lee Roth has explained that the purpose of this requirement was to determine if crews in various cities were paying attention to the contract, which also had significant safety protocols for the band’s staging apparatus. If the band saw brown M&Ms in the bowl, that was a signal to re-check all of rigging on the stage.)) Ludacris’s rider contained a specific request for “1 Box of Magnum Condoms (ecstasy).” Not to burden you with complex legal terms, but this is something contract attorneys like myself describe as a, “Ludacris has a huge wiener and likes to get freaky,” clause.
In spite of the relative mundanity of this request,((Van Halen’s rider demanded a “large tube of KY jelly.”)) McGarity described it as basically the worst thing that ever happened.
“Few things in my professional life have bothered me more than this situation,” the AD said, according to the Athens Banner-Herald. “There are no reruns in life so we need to turn the page, learn from our mistakes and do everything we can to make sure errors of this nature do not reoccur.”
Really? Was it a “mistake” to give Ludacris condoms? This is a man who, by his own account, consorts with hoes in different area codes. Should we presume the 706 is not one of them? Would the Bulldogs prefer that Mr. Bridges rawdog?
Perhaps the issue here is that public money went to fund birth control on a college campus. Well, public money probably should be used for this purpose, and in the case of UGA, it actually is used for this purpose. Georgia Student Services has what sounds like a tremendous program called, “Condom Express,” which delivers contraceptives directly to students via campus mail. So, if Georgia is so readily giving out free condoms, why is its athletic director apologizing for giving out free condoms to a specific individual?
Maybe the fuss is tied to the implication that the pairing of booze and condoms necessarily communicates the presence of unseemly or nonconsensual sex. Given that college campuses are ground zero for rape culture, it’s understandable that a college board might want to be hypervigilant in avoiding the juxtaposition of alcohol and sex.
Nonetheless, the implication that a request for both alcohol and condoms is necessarily indicative of unseemly behavior is both wrong and wrong-headed. First, we should be lauding Ludacris for requesting prophylactics as a matter of course. I’m operating under the presumption that this is his standard tour rider (largely because the section for items in the band’s dressing room is crossed out). A performer’s dressing room is a home away from home. We shouldn’t fault Ludacris for always ensuring that birth control is close by. Second, we should not be scrutinizing condoms as somehow different than toothpaste or deodorant (which were also included in Ludacris’s rider).
That said, for all of the high-minded talk about how a university should properly frame sex, drinking and contraception to its students, it’s hard not to see something more insidious here. It’s especially difficult not to notice when a board of directors that is 90 percent caucasian is raising its eyebrows a little higher in scrutinizing the intimate details of a black hip hop artist’s dressing room. Perhaps when they see cognac and Magnums, they are concerned about sending the wrong message. But would they jump to the same conclusion if the request came from Macklemore?
Southern Hospitality, indeed…
Dave Brown is a writer and business attorney in Boston. He is categorically suspicious of requests made by Macklemore.