By Robert Taylor, Special to TrackAlerts.Com
There will be consternation, condemnation and apathy to the changing of allegiance by Shericka Williams, Kemarley Brown and Andrew Fisher. Some will even look at it and wonder why. After all, Jamaica like most Third world countries, has seen the selling off of its resources to foreign elements; massive brain drain from as long as I can remember; nurses and teachers seeking better pay elsewhere and even politicians seeking foreign national status while wanting to govern Jamaica.
This is not the first Jamaican to have represented other countries or change allegiance relatively late in their athletic development. In the past, Canada, England and the United States of America have benefitted.
This case might be viewed differently, I guess because of the difference in culture. Some will view this as more buying of talent rather than the athlete choosing to represent another country. To me there is no difference. Sanya Richards parents chose the US over Jamaica because they thought it would have been a more lucrative situation for her. Jamaicans have migrated and represented other countries before. Most migrated from Jamaica because of perception of better economic situation or possibilities. Is this different because the choice is to switch to a Muslim country for money? I would say no. I do not know the religious beliefs of these athletes and I doubt religion would have played a role in switching. I believe it all comes down to economics for them. Is this any different than the many that flocked to the US, Canadian and British embassies to get a visa knowing full well that if they succeed in getting the visa they have no intention of coming back to Jamaica? I do not think so. Money has always been a strong motivator and probably if the Jamaican government acknowledged this, they might be better able to correct the terrible imbalance in the high schools in how some do against others in the national exams.
The athletes’ situation is somewhat different because of how they played on the Jamaican psyche. When Jamaica athletes perform great on the international stage, it lifts the national spirit and creates more unity and shared joy. Bolt, Shelly-Ann, Veronica, Merlene Ottey, Donald Quarrie etc., have all raised the national spirit and pride with their performances on the world stage. Currently, with the exception of Shericka who has won individual and relay medals, the athletes that have switched allegiance have not risen to the level of the names I have listed. Shericka like Merlene Ottey before her, switched allegiances after she was no longer near her peak performances. Many might not care at this point, but I see this as a little bizarre. Instead of us celebrating the contributions these two ladies made to Jamaica recognition in track and field, they took their depleted talent somewhere else. My question is how will, or can Jamaica keep its top talents from changing allegiance. At this point Jamaica has great depth in their short sprints talent pool. Thus, the effect might not be that great. Nevertheless, I wonder what will be the reaction by Jamaicans if they mature to world beaters. It is not farfetched to see countries like Qatar using money from their massive oil wealth to buy high school talent for their country. Currently they have been through the continent of Africa scooping up extremely young talented football players, keeping them in a camp situation with top quality football coaches doing the training and developing of these young football players. They are doing this to ensure they have a quality team for the Qatar hosting 2022 world cup football.
As the current economic situation exists in Jamaica, it would not be a stretch to think that one day the Jamaica high school championship might be a hunting ground for those who seek Jamaica's rich talent in sprinting. The need for money is real where there is poverty. With the IMF draconian and insidious austerity measures that include devaluation of the Jamaican dollar (the single most useless and ineffective economic growth inducement for Third world countries), more probably will be induced to switch allegiance. Money is the medium that puts food on the table, drive expensive cars, support family members and give one a sense of accomplishment. The way athletics is at this point, making a living is very difficult and with the abundance of sprinters in Jamaica, earning a living can be difficult at best. This is why high school athletes should see themselves as student first. Reaching the top is hard, filled with challenges and the risk of falling short is high. A good education to go with athletic hard work is a fruitful balance. One will help the other or one can enhance the other.
Whatever the views many Jamaicans hold, the changing of allegiance is not more costly than the migration of brilliant minds, trained teachers and nurses or young talents to Western economic powers. The island of Jamaica loses in one way or the other. Presently, money transfer is one of Jamaica’s biggest sources of income. Sad, but it’s true. Brown, Fisher and Shericka, won’t, or might create a lot of anger but what will happen if a major or sure fire world beater decides to transfer? I won’t use the word defect because it carries a negative connotation in my mind. Then, the anger might run deep.
People seem to care when the lost is significant in their mind. For me, though I do not necessarily agree in changing of allegiance especially when it comes to my country man leaving, I am saying may the best be with you. At the end of the day I cannot say what is important for another. His or her responsibility is to self and family first. Some say country but how long has Jamaica accepted leaders who never see the long term outlook of the country as first and foremost?
**The views expressed in this article are those of the author (Robert Taylor) and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, trackalerts.com.