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Posted at 05:01 PM ET, 05/31/2012

Diddy, his son’s football scholarship and the debate over how we treat celebrity kids


Justin Combs and his daddy, Diddy. (Stephen Lovekin - Getty Images)

Justin Combs, the son of Sean “Diddy” Combs, is going to UCLA on a merit-based $54,000 football scholarship. He announced that decision back in November, but it has suddenly became a massive media issue because CNN ran a story this week asking whether it was fair for the son of an extremely wealthy rapper/fashion designer/thrower of parties that require people to wear all white attire should get a scholarship like this one.

That segment came to Justin Combs’s attention, prompting him to tweet a response late last night: “Regardless what the circumstances are, I put that work in!!!! PERIOD.”

Naturally, everyone in the blogosphere has an opinion about this matter. (“Mo’ money, mo’ problems” . . . Notorious B.I.G. and Diddy/Puff Daddy were really right about that.) And so did some of the chatters in today’s Celebritology discussion.

“On the one hand, in a time of brutal belt-tightening at public colleges, it seems obscene to be giving out money to someone whose father is so fabulously wealthy, when it could go to more needy students,” wrote the chatter who initially raised the subject. “OTOH the case can be perceived as a matter of merit, since Justin seems to have earned the scholarship based on being highly qualified both academically and athletically.”

Indeed, to the chatter’s point, and as the CNN piece noted, the young Combs earned a 3.7 GPA at his prep school and fielded scholarship offers from other institutions. So the merit was clearly there, and this was a merit-based scholarship, not a need-based one.

But as another chatter noted: “This is how so many qualified university applicants [lose] financial aid. Not everyone’s parents pay for their college education. To assume that they would finance a legal adult’s pursuits is a disservice to everyone.”

At that point, I argued that a parent with Diddy’s level of wealth — like, I am going to spend $360K on a car for my son’s 16th birthday wealth — is equipped to help their kids with college on at least some level, and probably should.

But I also think that if a student earns a merit-based scholarship because they did the work to get it, then they should get it. We can’t treat the children of celebrities differently than we treat other kids, period. That means if the child of a famous person gets in trouble with the law, he or she should face the same punishment any other person would face. And, on the happier side of the spectrum, if the child of a famous person is talented enough to get a free ride to college, then he or she should be allowed to take that ride.

That being said, it probably would be classy of Diddy, at some point, to make a donation to the UCLA that would allow some potential students-in-need to get financial aid. But his son should not be denied the same opportunity another talented prospect might be offered, even if the notion of a one-percenter’s kid getting so much college cash seems distasteful in an economy where plenty of deserving students wind up with no help at all.

Over at Bruins Nation — a blog devoted to UCLA sports and, therefore, strongly in Combs’s corner — a post blasted CNN for its “lazy journalism.” It also raised a good question: “Is CNN trying to imply that any athlete who qualifies academically should not get a scholarship if his parents can afford to send him (or her) to school? That is simply ludicrous . . . Why didn’t they investigate every single athlete who comes from a wealthy family and question their scholarship?”

My guess is because that investigation would take a long time, and uncover oodles of examples of well-off kids who earned scholarships.

What do you think of this situation? Are you on the side of those who say, if Justin Combs earned it, he earned it? Or do you think that money should have gone to someone whose parents are not mega-moguls? Or do you opt for door No. 3: that Combs could have decided to enroll and play football at the institution of his choice, but deferred the money so that another potential player could take it? Weigh in by posting a comment.

By  |  05:01 PM ET, 05/31/2012

Categories:  Celebrities

 
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