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ESPN’s Jay Bilas: ‘AHSAA statement on Maori Davenport contains false and misleading assertions’

Criticism of the Alabama High School Athletic Association (AHSAA) continues to crescendo, with ESPN college basketball analyst Jay Bilas now publicly questioning whether the AHSAA lied in a statement on Monday.

The AHSAA released the statement in an attempt at pushing back on national backlash over its decision to deem Charles Henderson High School and USA Basketball star Maori Davenport ineligible for her senior season. However, with Bilas now adding an additional line of criticism to his already strong defense of Davenport, the AHSAA may have just opened up a new can of worms.

One portion of the statement specifically called out by Bilas as “false and misleading” reads as follows:

“It should be pointed out that a high school student from Illinois also received payment from USA Basketball. However, that student called her high school once she received the check and then returned the check to USA Basketball without cashing or depositing it. Here, the student received the check, endorsed it and it was posted to her bank account. Three months later, AHSAA was notified and the monies returned to USA Basketball.

A high school student from Missouri has also been ruled ineligible for this basketball season for accepting the lost wages payment from USA Basketball.”

In one tweet, Bilas said, “Today’s AHSAA statement on Maori Davenport contains false and misleading assertions. The Illinois player DID deposit her stipend check exactly as Maori did. She sent the money back, ruled eligible.”

“Did the AHSAA lie? Or just make an innocent mistake?” Bilas asked.

He also sought to emphasize that Davenport did indeed pay the money back immediately on being notified by USA Basketball of its error.

“Repaid as soon as the error was noted. Exact same timeline as the Illinois player. False statement by the AHSAA,” Bilas added in a separate tweet.

In another, he explained, “Maori did not knowingly sit on the check for 90 days. When alerted to the issue, her mom notified AHSAA, returned the money next day, just as the Illinois player did.”

This was far from the only “false and misleading” item that Bilas identified from the statement, also calling it “mean-spirited” multiple times.

In another tweet, he outlined, “Davenport’s mother is a certified middle school coach, not an AHSAA certified high school coach. There is an important difference. Was AHSAA intentionally misleading?”

Speaking to the AHSAA statement being “mean-spirited” in his view, Bilas tweeted, “The AHSAA attacks a high school principal on attendance at a meeting? Really? How low ball can you get?”

The AHSAA’s statement remarked, “Each year these Rules are reviewed multiple times during AHSAA sponsored and hosted seminars with the member schools and are available on the AHSAA website. A review of all Summer Conference and Principals’ and Athletic Directors’ Conference attendees show the Principal for Charles Henderson High School has not attended the 2016, 2017, or 2018 Summer Conferences or the 2016, 2017 or 2018 Principals’ and Athletic Directors’ Conferences.”

It was not clear what that portion of the statement had to do with the association’s action against Davenport, which occurred after all of the meetings listed.

“Today’s AHSAA statement on Maori Davenport not only contains false and misleading assertions, it paints AHSAA as a victim. If anyone is victimized, it’s Maori. Yet, she has conducted herself with grace and dignity. Perhaps the AHSAA should learn from her,” Bilas said.

He added, “This young girl has suffered enough. The adults at the AHSAA are acting like victims. Maori Davenport is the victim. Reinstate her.”

Bilas summarized his thoughts on the matter by tweeting, “I believe the AHSAA was wrong in its ruling, wrong to double down, and wrong to attack the mother, the principal and USA Basketball in its statement. The statement was factually inaccurate and mean-spirited. Principal attendance [at] meetings? Really?”

Sean Ross is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

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