(The Root) — There are a number of things you could say about Justin Combs, a celebrity's son who plans to attend UCLA on a football scholarship.
You could say that he graduated from upstate New York's prestigious Iona Prep with a 3.75 GPA. You could mention that he headed the school's African American Society. You could point out that he turned down scholarships from Illinois, Virginia and Wyoming.
Or you could be like Los Angeles Times reporter Kate Mather, who opened her story in Friday's paper like this: "When Justin Combs turned 16, his father, hip-hop mogul Sean 'Diddy' Combs, gave him a $360,000 silver Maybach."
Apparently a school isn't supposed to award an athletic scholarship to a student whose father has a net worth around $550 million. Critics of UCLA and Diddy blew up the Internet this week, saying that Justin Combs shouldn't receive a scholarship and/or his family shouldn't accept it.
"UCLA's athletic department needs to consider the fact that perhaps there is another athlete on the football team who could perhaps really use this scholarship," UCLA student Neshemah Keetin told CBS Los Angeles.
Mandi Woodruff, writing for BusinessInsider.com, said "some consumers are raising questions" and think Combs should turn over his $54,000 scholarship to someone less fortunate.
We heard some of the same carping in November when the news first broke. But thanks to UCLA's official announcement, it resurfaced again this week, leading to some incredibly shoddy journalism from CNN, Britain's Daily Mail and LA Weekly. Those outlets made it appear that cash-strapped UCLA was squandering taxpayer funds on a multimillionaire's son.
UCLA responded, attempting to stem the tide of ignorance. "Unlike need-based scholarships, athletic scholarships are awarded to students strictly on the basis of their athletic and academic ability — not their financial need," the school said in a statement. "Athletic scholarships, such as those awarded to football or basketball players, do not rely on state funds. Instead, these scholarships are entirely funded through UCLA Athletics ticket sales, corporate partnerships, media contracts and private donations from supporters.
"Each year, UCLA awards the equivalent of approximately 285 full athletic scholarships to outstanding student-athletes. The scholarships are used by the UCLA Department of Intercollegiate Athletics to pay students' tuition and fees, as well as room and board. In this respect, UCLA is no different from the overwhelming majority of Division I institutions."
Plenty of athletic scholarships are awarded to kids whose parents are far above the poverty line. If the children of wealthy athletes, entertainers, entrepreneurs or lottery winners are good enough in their chosen pursuit to merit a scholarship, they should be eligible just like children of the poor.
Besides, landing the child of an international celebrity is probably worth the scholarship's cost in publicity alone. Adding affluent parents to the university family is great, even more so when those parents are famous , too. The school can't hit up anyone better when it's time to fund new facilities or programs.
But it's really not about Diddy; it's about Justin. Unlike his $360,000 car, the UCLA scholarship isn't a gift. It's something that he earned through hard work and dedication.
And his father's bank account shouldn't be held against him.