June 5th, 2012
Sports talk radio has been having a field day here in California surrounding Justin Combs, son of hip-hop star and business mogul Sean “Diddy” Combs, accepting a full-ride athletic scholarship to play football at UCLA. Apparently, sons of music industry giants aren’t allowed to do so. One article headlined “Taxpayers want Diddy’s son to turn over UCLA scholarship”noted that many of those who are calling for Combs to decline the scholarship money aren’t identifying themselves on the record. That’s not exactly transparent dialogue in this day of supposed online transparency. And, it’s not fair to Diddy’s son, either.
Let’s review some facts for a second:
> Justin graduated high school with a 3.75 GPA
> Justin received Division I scholarship offers from three other schools
> There’s no evidence that his offer from UCLA was in any way influenced by Diddy
> By most accounts, football scholarships are privately funded and therefore are not “taxpayer money”
> Justin does not appear to be one of the many trust fund kids out there riding their parents’ coattails.
Still, we live in a world of perception, fueled by information and misinformation delivered through communications channels that are too many to count. All the positive comments in the world from educational and sociology experts, the sports community, and the faculty at UCLA won’t silence the critics. Where some see a problem, however, what I see is opportunity for Diddy and, ultimately, his son. In this case, opportunity for Diddy to share in Justin’s success, send a message that he too wants to see others succeed like his son, and serve as an example to others who may someday be in the same position.
Here is my very own Diddy Opportunity Plan – and it even comes with excellent PR potential for all involved because I wouldn’t have it any other way!
> For every year that his son is attending UCLA, Diddy provides the equivalent amount of funds to a scholarship for disadvantaged kids.
> The scholarship would be called the Justin Combs “Strive For Excellence” Scholarship.
> Criteria would include those that mirror Justin’s path to success: GPA over 3.75, varsity athlete, extracurricular involvements, etc.
How do you like it so far? From my perspective, I see several positives that come from this including:
> If you can’t fight it, feature it – If you’re going to take the bullets that Justin and Diddy are going to take from the haters anyway, you might as well get something out of it. This would be an acknowledgement that there are kids out there who are deserving who actually don’t get scholarships, and Diddy would like to recognize Justin’s hard work and show pride in his son by helping others to attain his same level of success.
> It teaches his son another positive lesson – This sets an example for Justin that no matter how grand your personal success, you should always find an opportunity to give back in a positive way. It also teaches Justin to look for the silver lining and the opportunity in every situation. A very sensible business move? Sure it is. A little self-serving? So what. It’s still $54,000 that’s going to some lucky and deserving kid.
>It takes action – Leadership is defined by words and deeds. This actionable step says “I heard what people were saying out there. I understand but I disagree completely. Still, my eyes are open to the heart of the concern (not the merit which is unfounded) and as a leader I am taking action to do something.”
Diddy, we send you our congratulations on having a great son who has accomplished some great things. Seems like just yesterday we were also sending you shout outs when you rocked “It’s All About The Benjamins” way back in 1997. Well, it’s still all about those same Benjamins in 2012 – only you have way more of them now and many kids don’t. Here is our address at McGrath|Power when you are ready to talk about our plan and the communications component to get the word out.