Bardo: 'There's a pattern'

Bardo: 'There's a pattern'

CHAMPAIGN — When Stephen Bardo was attending the University of Illinois in the late 1980s, he says he and some of his Flyin’ Illini teammates, most of whom were black, were racially profiled by campus and city police.

“We used to get stopped walking down the street because it was nighttime,” Bardo told The News-Gazette on Thursday.

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Earlier that afternoon, the former ESPN and current Big Ten Network college basketball analyst took to Twitter to voice his opinion on the situation involving current Illini Darius Paul, who was arrested early Tuesday morning for underage drinking and resisting a peace officer.

Among Bardo’s tweets on Thursday was this one: “I loved my time there but the community of Champaign is stuck in the 60’s. Racism is overt there. Needs to change.”

UI police Capt. Roy Acree said officers noticed Paul and another unidentified man walking across a parking lot shortly after 3 a.m. Tuesday and they “appeared to be acting suspiciously.”

That struck a chord with Bardo, who was reminded of his days at the school from 1986 to ’90.

“We used to get picked out of a group if there was a big brawl outside of a campus bar and we would always get singled out. It was constant back then,” Bardo said.

There has been some progress, Bardo said, but issues between young black men and law enforcement at the UI and in Champaign and Urbana are still prevalent. Bardo’s older son, Stephen Paul Bardo, who will graduate from the UI next month, has experienced racial profiling during his time here.

“I don’t think it’s as constant now, but it’s still there because my son was pulled off a bus before because some other black kids were fighting in the dorm and he was the only black kid on the bus so he got pulled off the bus and detained,” Bardo said. “It happens far more than people really know about because a lot of this stuff goes undocumented.

“I think the gap has closed. It’s much better now, but that community still supports racist activity. I’m in touch with black people who have worked there, grown up there, and there are examples of people that have been stopped, arrested, harassed for no reason.”

While Bardo didn’t excuse Paul’s behavior on the morning in question, he does question why he was targeted by police in the first place. “It sounds a little shaky, just doesn’t seem right,” he said.

“Do I condone him being out that late, drinking or whatever? No, I don’t. But he’s also 20 years old, he’s going to make mistakes. I think Darius’ father is a cop, so for Darius to run from a police officer, that indicates to me: 1. He was scared. 2. There was something he was trying to avoid and 3. He probably didn’t want to get in trouble with the team,” Bardo said. 

“For a young man who is as bright as Darius is, coming from a two-parent household with a father being a police officer, for him to be in that situation, there’s more to that than we know or are being told.”

The incident involving Paul prompted Bardo to strike up a conversation on social media, and it elicited plenty of reaction, some supporting Bardo’s claims and others rejecting them.

“It hits home. When it happened to me, no big deal. When it happens to your son and you see it happening to other black males like that, there’s a pattern,” Bardo said. “I took to Twitter because I’ve got a little bit of say-so on Twitter and people don’t like hearing about past athletes pulling out the warts of a place. 

“I don’t really care about that because I think for the University of Illinois to attract the top student-athletes, the top students, those students and athletes include people of color, and if they can’t feel comfortable in Champaign, if they don’t feel like they can go out without being harassed, that’s going to hurt the university’s ability to attract the top talent. So it all goes hand in hand.”

Paul, a transfer from Western Michigan who sat out the 2013-14 season, is the younger brother of former Illini star Brandon Paul. Brandon took to Twitter himself on Thursday to address the situation, initially saying he kept quiet about it because people have turned it into something bigger than it is. But then he made a statement.

“I understand my brother shouldn’t have been out that late drinking. Let’s not forget it’s a college campus, what underage kid isn’t out past curfew drinking? No excuses, there will be consequences for his actions,” Brandon Paul said. “I also understand that law enforcement must do their jobs, but their jobs don’t entail them to follow someone & then pursue them for no reason. Why did they feel the need to stop him in the first place? Reports say he ‘acted suspicious’ & ‘appeared to be trying to avoid contact with police.’ Even if true, I don’t know many kids (inebriated or not) that wouldn’t try to avoid contact with the police? (Some) of these cops look for reasons to get into these types of situations and it’s not right.”

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rleebaker wrote on April 25, 2014 at 9:04 am

Classic CYA. We all go through the "young and dumb" years. CYAing is expected of the immature but for adults of the "young and dumb" to defend the CYAs shows their own immaturity. He did it. Hello? The End. He will learn his lesson, maybe, then move on. If not, sooner or later? But CYAing won't help.

Illinois88 wrote on April 25, 2014 at 11:04 am

If Bardo has known since the time he played at Illinois that Champaign-Urbana is and always has been such a bad place, why did he send his son to college at Illinois????

illini81baller wrote on April 25, 2014 at 2:04 pm

Just because you found that he was drinking after you racially profiled him is not justification for racial profiling.  How hard is it to catch a drunk college student walking on campus at night. Also, I was told by a resident of CU that the Mayor attended rally supporting the background check of the President to verify his national origin and birth place.  Please tell me that was not so.  If so, the Mayor is setting the the tone for racial strife within the city limits in which he governs and his police force may be allowed to take liberties when it comes to stopping and questioning people of color.

sinfonian11 wrote on April 25, 2014 at 2:04 pm

That was former Champaign Mayor Jerry Schweighart who attended a tea party rally and made comments about the president's citizenship, not the current mayor, Don Gerard.

illini81baller wrote on April 25, 2014 at 2:04 pm

I’m glad to hear that! But how many of the police force was hired during his tenure and how many are still on the force? New Mayor may have some house cleaning to do. Let’s get back to the subject. We all know racial profiling exist. So much so that as a man of color I have had to teach my sons the “Way to Act” when being stopped or question by the police. How many Caucasian fathers have had to train their sons to put your hands in plain sight, ask permission to get your ID out of your pocket, give direct eye contact, speak clearly and use no slang, and to “overdo it” when it comes to giving the officer respect. The problem with this kid is he forgot his training. As a father here is some advice along with the advice above for all young men of color. Understand that any person of color looks suspicious to a white officer at 3:00 in the morning, party at home,move around when other people are moving around and that life is not fair. . . don't expect to be treated the same.

Sid Saltfork wrote on April 25, 2014 at 3:04 pm

I am a Caucasian father.  I taught my sons the same things you describe teaching your son.  Hands in plain sight.  Request permission before reaching for something in the pockets, or in the glove compartment.  Direct eye contact, and speaking when questioned.  Show respect, and compliance.  Understand that anyone looks suspicious walking around businesses, or private property after midnight. 

When one of my sons was 16, he was approached by officers in campustown.  He, and some of his buddies were drinking beer purchased off of a U of I student in an alley.  I was contacted by the Champaign PD, and I picked him and the others up at  the police station.  It cost; and it was embarrassing. 

My point is that the police in Champaign show no favoritism when it comes to the race of the lawbreaker.  All fathers of all races should have the "Way to Act" talk with their children.

football jingoists wrote on April 25, 2014 at 3:04 pm

Your ability to miss the point is impressive

Sid Saltfork wrote on April 25, 2014 at 7:04 pm

What is your "point"?  Come on, and impress me with your PC ability.

football jingoists wrote on April 28, 2014 at 8:04 am

My PC abilities are mostly limited to internet and email, nothing too impressive. When Mr. illini81baller described his experience as a man of colour, you countered with something like "well I'm white and I don't experience that so you're wrong" - Did you know that it's common for white people in America to not "feel" their race? Did you know that it's also common for non-white people in America to be made very aware of theirs? This is the point that I think you missed. Segregation only "ended" 50 years ago, makes it difficult for people to "just get over it" when there are so many living today who can still personally remember living through those times.

Sid Saltfork wrote on April 28, 2014 at 12:04 pm

Your reading what you wanted me to say.  All parents should have the talk on dealing with the police with their children.  It is an important talk that can make a difference in dealing with another person who is in a position of authority.

Your PC lecture is not "impressive", and neither are your reading skills.  However, your "white guilt" lecture is routine.  Euro-Americans are reluctant to discuss race due to being denounced as racists.  An open discussion of the topic is necessary to end racism on the part of ALL groups.  Many citizens were not Americans fifty years ago.  The majority did not have slave owning ancestors.  They have no guilt feelings about slavery, or segregation since they, and their ancestors had nothing to do with it.  They see things with contemporary views.

Now; go ahead and use the unanswerable denouncement of racist as you have been taught.

football jingoists wrote on April 28, 2014 at 1:04 pm

Counter the tired old "politically correct liberal hippie" play with the equally tired old "ignorant small town racist" gambit? Nah, we could go on and on forever with that and get nowhere. I think if someone says "these are my experiences as a black man", it's rude to respond with "I am white and your experience (opinion) is incorrect". You seem to think the blacks and indians need to forget the past and move on, while I think they make valid points worth considering, even if you and I personally had nothing to do with the circumstances leading us to here. Perhaps it's best if we just agree to disagree, grow up, and move on, eh?

Sid Saltfork wrote on April 28, 2014 at 3:04 pm

Agreed, and we need to move on.

townsend1306 wrote on April 25, 2014 at 4:04 pm

If you truly want to find the truth ? go to traffic court in Champaign County and see who you see in there !!! I got stop by the police 5 times for riding my bike on campus  twice by the same cop all Champaign Cops . So one of you people tell me how you look " suspicious walking across a parking lot " unless you are black ? and you people wonder why you can't get a 5-star recruit to come to Champaign they go everywhere but to Champaign even the name is racist, mascot.   A good coach can get one once in awhile but, even Bill Self could'nt get them compare to who he gets out of Chicago now, to when he was in Champaign ! Here is one of the classic one you hear from the Cops " A car like this was reported stolen" can I search the car. You think dressing up the Assembly Hall, with a new name, new inside, going to change your chances ? CHANGE THE WAY YOU ACT !!!AND THEN AND ONLY THEN WILL YOU BE ABLE TO START TO GET THE 5-STARS YOU WANT !!!!!!!!!!!!

Sid Saltfork wrote on April 25, 2014 at 8:04 pm

It is not worth it.  Look at the burglar athletes, and the other thug athletes in the past. Winning seasons are not worth the noteriety of criminal athletes. 

The young man at the center of this controversy is not a criminal.  He used poor judgement.  That could happen to any young person avoiding the police due to underage drinking.  However to blame it on the police via the outcry of racism is enabling racism in reverse.

townsend1306 wrote on April 25, 2014 at 4:04 pm

You tell it like is Steve Bardo, and they still don't believe !!!!!!!!!

mkillini wrote on April 25, 2014 at 6:04 pm

So, let me get this straight, only 5 star athletes that are African American are scared away by the racist vibes in the Community of Champaign-Urbana?  So all the other countless number of African-American athletes on the U of I campus make their decisions by different criteria.   How convenient is that?  

 Did Bardo get back on Twitter today and run his misinformed mouth about the African-American arrests on the campuses of Indiana and Ohio State?  Do those schools get 5 star athletes? 

Do the values of comporting oneself in a respectful manner, treating others with respect and being accountable for one's actions have no merit?  



townsend1306 wrote on April 26, 2014 at 1:04 pm

As a hole lot kids get arrested for going to school and doing dumb things how many are bringing millions of dollars to the campus ? and walk around wanting something to eat have to train year round can't play or work anywhere nobody can give you a  shoe OR MONEY TO HAVE A DATE but the coach makes millions the school makes millions, that the point but a kid can't even play a pick game with friends and lets not forget the NCAA makes BILLIONS, AND THEN YOU MAKE THE KIDS STAY IN SCHOOL SO THE SCHOOL, NCAA AND THE COACHES CAN MAKE MONEY. WHY DO THE OTHER SCHOOLS GET THE BEST OUT OF ILLINOIS ?


Sid Saltfork wrote on April 26, 2014 at 7:04 pm


     1)  Give student athletes a free pass on "doing dumb things" because they "are bringing in millions of dollars to the campus".

     2)   Do away with the NCAA, and allow professional university teams.  Pay the players; and drop the requirement of attending the university.

    3)  Recruit team players based on academic skills, and no felonies.  The players would have free tuition, housing, books and supplies, and tutoring.  Following their graduation; they could be recruited for professional athletics, or work utilizing their university degree.

I am sure that other options could be created.  The first two options are very doubtful.  The third option is the recognized goal for student athetes.  Otherwise; the athlete should go professional, and disregard the educational offer.

illinorm wrote on April 26, 2014 at 8:04 pm

Bardo is right.  I'm not saying the police are racists, far from it, but they have to ask themselves if they are "overly interested" in the actions of big, loud, black kids.  They would serve the community better if they focused more on their own professional conduct. 

WEarp wrote on April 26, 2014 at 10:04 pm

My experience growing up in C-U was that it was a strongly racist enviornment, but that was many years ago. I had a relative with CPD, as well as friends with CPD family and they reflected the norm of the time. I remember it as mostly a "those people" kind of thing where black citizens were viewed as an under-developed alien culture. Lots of nasty sentiments were frequently expressed when it was just us. Cliven Bundy's recent comments would not have seemed out of place during my youth in C-U. Frankly, Darius' indiscretion  is ridiculously mild compared to my numerous "wild kid" antics and seems unworthy of legal focus given..

Local Yocal wrote on April 28, 2014 at 10:04 am
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In the interest of solutions:

1) Pay the players and cap the salary at $25,000 a semester so that no wealthy school can buy up all the most talented, Yankees-style.

2) Lifetime scholarships. The athletes generate so much wealth for so many other entities that it is only decent to pay them back with as much time as they need to earn degrees.

3) Police catching underage drinkers and intoxicated pedestrians need to be treated as a public safety issue- not as a criminal matter that requires punishment.

4) To test for a racist bias, rosters of the last 10-15 basketball teams can be checked against the circuit clerk's website under both the criminal and traffic sections and if officers are showing no racial bias, then we should see white players ticketed and arrested equally to the black players. (You'd be amazed at how many traffic tickets Luther Head had,....)

Sid Saltfork wrote on April 28, 2014 at 12:04 pm

So the comparison of "white" players ticketed and arrested to "black" players would show "racist bias"?  Just the race with no comparison of economic background, previous arrests, or any other criteria?  Was Luther Head a good driver? 

Why not look at all athletes attending the university, not just basketball players?  Why not look at more criteria than just race?  How many brawls have previous "white" football players been arrested for in the past?  How many of them had previous arrests for the same thing?

What started with a young man being arrested for underage drinking due to walking on private business property in the wee hours of the morning has now moved on to the accusation of racism on the part of the community police, and the non- Afro-American community.

Maybe, the conversation will improve the community?  At least; it has allowed the accusers, and the politically correct to vent now rather than when the weather heats up, and more people are walking after midnight on the streets.

Local Yocal wrote on April 29, 2014 at 9:04 am
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Design the study as best can be done. The bias in the criminal justice system remains hard to hide.

This particular incident still needs no prosecution. Call underage drinking illegal, but usually it's handled with a ordinance ticket, and evading police? Is that the one everybody wants prosecuted? If Paul had complied with officer's request to stop and provide identifcation, he still would be facing an obstruction of justice charge if all Paul did was provide an accurate name.