Sidney Painted Into a Corner
Receiving improper benefits isn’t Renardo Sidney’s biggest issue.
Renardo Sidney never seemed like a fit for Hollywood, so it was only natural that his story wouldn’t have an ending made for the silver screen.
At first glance, his trek almost seems like it translates into a typical script. A young phenom outgrows his humble roots and moves west to Los Angeles. His fame grows there, but so too do his appearances in the scandal sheets. And in the end, the only move is the return home for the prodigal son.
But if the credits rolled right there, they would be missing one of the most final and important acts: bureaucracy. Although paperwork might not sell in summer blockbusters, Sidney’s story can be told without it.
The NCAA recently declared Sidney “not eligible due to non response” for providing insufficient evidence of how his family was able to pay at two houses in Fairfax after he moved from Mississippi, according to the Los Angeles Times. The NCAA gave the Sidney family until September 2 to turn over the financial documentation but said that they did not receive the documents they requested.
If the NCAA is after income returns and bank statements, it might be a while. Donald Jackson, the attorney representing the Sidney family, told the Clarion-Ledger that he sent out a packet of financial information but refused to send either income returns or bank statements because they were private. And if Jackson has to take his case to court in order to get Sidney an injunction to play for Mississippi State, he said he was prepared to do that.
With every side having a lot at stake, it’s easy to see how this could get ugly—and litigious—very quickly.
Sidney is hardly the first recruit to have a highly publicized fight for his eligibility and he won’t be the last. Similar questions have surrounded Lance Stephenson following his appearances on a web-based reality series. Both of their examples have shown that staying clean might be the hardest part of being a top recruit in the modern prep basketball landscape.
Even if Sidney gets his day in court, he’ll have to answer plenty of questions about his murky past.
Why and how did he move from Mississippi after his freshman year to play at then-powerhouse Artesia High School, a transition financed in part by shoe mogul Sonny Vaccaro?
Why was an executive from Reebok, which also employed Sidney’s father, present at Sidney’s first collegiate commitment ceremony in May when the star center announced for USC?
And why were the Sidneys so secretive about a non-profit that helped bankroll the summer club L.A. Dream Team?
Sidney is innocent until proven guilty, but his associations have certainly marred his image in the public. The complete lack of transparency surrounding the motives behind his camp’s various moves have given him an aura of unconscionable behavior. And if life is about making connections, the Sidneys have employed a scorched earth strategy in most of their basketball dealings to this point.
Maybe Sidney’s family has all the documentation it needs to fight the case. And maybe they have all of the answers to those lingering questions. If they do, Sidney deserves a clean slate and a chance to play. Reputation alone shouldn’t stand in between an 18-year-old and his eligibility.
But his family’s secretive nature is at least enough to raise a few flags. Why wouldn’t he and his family do everything they could to preserve his chance at a college scholarship, securing the safest possible route to a lucrative professional contract? If they have the documents to erase any questions of wrongdoing, as Jackson claims the family does, then they should take the path of least resistance.
Taking the matter before a judge would just further tangle an already complicated situation. Even if a judge gives Sidney an injunction granting him temporary eligibility, any games the center played in would be subject to forfeit later if he is later deemed ineligible.
But given the messiness of Sidney’s four years in high school, there’s no reason to believe that this won’t end with the banging of a gavel. But maybe that this actually was a Hollywood story. After all, court room scenes make for great drama.