He may have once been as nasty as he wanted to be, but rapper Luther Campbell “does not pose a risk to the safety of the students entrusted to him,” and should be allowed to coach high school football in Miami, a state administrative judge has recommended, reports David Royse of the News Service of Florida.
Campbell should get the certificate allowing him to continue to coach, subject to a long list of conditions, Administrative Law Judge Robert E. Meale said Tuesday in what amounts to a suggestion. The Department of Education’s Education Practices Commission could still deny Campbell the certificate.
More than 20 years after his raunchy rise to fame as front man of the rap group 2 Live Crew, Campbell is seeking the state coaching certification. But the Department of Education turned him down in 2010, citing a 1980s gun charge, a 2003 plea deal that stemmed from a lewd performance in South Carolina, a charge of inciting a riot while DJing, and several other transgressions.
The agency had called Campbell’s criminal past “storied,” but Meale noted that most of his criminal history was made up of arrests for which the charges were dropped or for which adjudication was withheld. Two misdemeanors were relevant, he agreed, but they occurred more than 25 years ago.
Besides, Campbell, 52, has already been helping out in coaching football – and so far has been a model citizen, the judge said in ruling in favor of the rapper.
“For the past seven years, Petitioner has had significant direct contact with vulnerable youth without any reported problems,” Meale wrote in a 51-page order. “In light of this critical fact, the 1979 misdemeanor, 1986 misdemeanor, and Petitioner’s former involvement with 2LC and the adult entertainment industry lose whatever contrary predictive value that they might otherwise have.
“Simply put, Petitioner does not resemble the youth who committed the 1979 misdemeanor or 1986 misdemeanor or the man who performed with and promoted 2LC 20 years ago,” Meale concluded.
But Meale recommended that certain conditions be in place for Campbell to keep his coaching certificate if he’s granted one, because of the rapper’s past, the nature of his previous work, and because, he said, at his hearing Campbell didn’t seem to accept personal responsibility for some of the questionable elements of his history.
But mostly, Meale urged the education department to consider the person Campbell has been in the last couple of decades.
Campbell started the Liberty City Optimist youth football program in the troubled area of inner city Miami in the early 1990s, and, Meale noted, put about $80,000 of his own money into the program, which now serves about 6,000 boys and girls, and includes a variety of sports and other programs. His wife, an attorney, runs a cheerleading program affiliated with the football league.
“Although there have been some football-famous graduates of the program, such as Chad Johnson, the program’s larger success is that 90 percent of the first group of youth to complete the program started college,” Meale wrote.
Among those who testified on Campbell’s behalf was former state Rep. Hank Harper, who once was an intern for Campbell and who enlisted his help in get-out-the-vote campaigns. He testified that Campbell’s private persona was different from that of the famous rapper – and that his public image was largely an act for his business.
“Whatever image of garish defiance that Petitioner may have cultivated during his 2LC-era, by the start of (the 2000s), he was never arrested again on charges that resulted in an admission of guilt, a no-contest plea, or a finding of guilt, except for the child-support arrest,” Meale noted. And in that case – he paid support to settle the charge.
Campbell moved in 2009 from coaching youth football to working as an assistant at Miami Central Senior High, where his wife taught a law class. Later, he moved to coaching at Miami Northwestern under temporary approval issued by Miami-Dade County. But he needs the state certificate to continue.
Meale even credits Campbell with helping Miami Central improve academically, noting that he was involved in an effort to bring students’ grades up and the school was an F school when he started coaching and was a B school when he left. Northwestern also improved academically.
Campbell also argued in his petition that the players’ parents aren’t really concerned about his past – in fact, it’s the opposite, with players mothers knowing him from “when he was a DJ on the street corner.”
Meale recommended that Campbell be on probation for five years, with his certificate reviewed every year. He also would have to notify the state if he were to perform or produce any “sexually explicit song.”
In defining whether a song would be explicit – the judge said it would include any song “that would be inappropriate for the football team weight room.” He also noted that Campbell – who is currently in charge of the football weight room at Miami Northwestern – doesn’t allow 2 Live Crew music to be played.
The Education Practices Commission could accept Meale’s recommendation, amend it, or choose not to accept it, said Cheryl Etters, a spokeswoman for the Department of Education. If the commission were to deny Campbell the certificate, he could appeal to the First District Court of Appeal.