By Doug Oakley
HAYWARD -- As local media falls over itself in a worship frenzy for Golden State Warriors star Stephen Curry, a high school English teacher here has received death threats for questioning Curry's legitimacy as a youth role model.
Mount Eden High School English teacher Matt Amaral on Wednesday was installing a home security system after receiving death threats on his Facebook instant messenger account for an essay he posted on his Teach4Real blog titled "Dear Steph Curry, Now That You Are MVP, Please Don't Come Visit My High School."
You can view it at http://www.teach4real.com.
Hayward police confirmed Amaral reported the threats and that they are investigating.
Amaral posted the provocative essay in mid May as part of a 10th-grade English lesson to show how to write an argument and grab attention online. Despite the threats, he said it's been well worth it.
"I'm a teacher, and this is probably my greatest lesson," Amaral said. "My kids have witnessed this thing go to the front page of Yahoo! They've had television cameras in their class and heard me on the radio. It definitely started a dialogue about the role of sports in schools and about having a backup plan in terms of being a student. We know that 99 percent of the people interested in being a professional athlete are not going to realize that dream."
In the piece, he says it's unfair to tell kids they can be the next Stephen Curry because most of what makes him a star, aside from hard-won talent, was already decided at birth. Curry's height, the luck of having a former NBA star for a dad who could coach him from day one, and money are all things beyond their control, he said. A visit to the school would only reinforce unrealistic expectations.
"They already are very good at dreaming about being rich and famous, what we need them to do is get a little more realistic about what is in their control," Amaral wrote. "We need less of an emphasis on sports and celebrity in high school, because it is hurting these kids too much as it is."
An NBA spokesman declined to comment on the essay, and Curry's agent did not immediately return an email seeking comment. An email to the Golden State Warriors also went unanswered.
Since he posted his essay on May 14, Amaral and his school have been overrun with media seeking an explanation from the man who dared to question the legitimacy of their anointed hero.
Amaral said in his essay that a visit by Curry to his school would be a huge hit with the kids, but it wouldn't be good for them.
"What you won't see is most of these kids don't have a backup plan for their dream of being you," he wrote. "If you ask the boys on my campus what they are going to be when they get older, the answer will involve a sport. They will claim they are going to play in the NBA or NFL, and seeing you there will make them think they can actually do it."
"You see Steph, once you leave my school, the boys here are not going to run home and finish that essay, which is one thing they could do about their future that is in their control," Amaral continued.
Contacted at home on Wednesday as he was waiting for a technician to install his new home alarm system, Amaral said every kid on campus has read and debated his essay.
"They're stoked, they think it's awesome and they're 100 percent behind me," Amaral said.
But not everyone agrees including people like Jim Coplan, athletic director at Oakland Technical High School, where Seattle Seahawks star Marshawn Lynch and Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Josh Johnson went to school. Coplan said the two come to campus occasionally, and he is happy to have them as role models.
"If Steph wants to come to our school, he's welcome," Coplan said. "I think it would be inspiring for a kid to see someone with the level of success Stephen Curry has and then say to himself 'I need to buckle down and study in order to be a success.'"
He also said athletes as role models are the same as any other successful person who could inspire kids.
"We had Jesse Jackson at Tech a week or so ago, and he's a role model kids could point to and say this is what I aspire to," Coplan said. "We don't turn down bank presidents to come and speak to a class because not every kid gets to be a bank president."
Amaral said being an educator involves getting kids to think critically, consider unpopular views or go against the grain of popular sentiment. That's what he was trying to do with his essay.
"It would be easy to craft a letter to Steph Curry and say 'come to my high school,' but can you craft a letter saying he shouldn't come?" Amaral said. "Evidently I'm the only one doing that."
As Amaral was having his photo taken outside the school Thursday, the mother of one of his students stopped and gave him unsolicited props.
"I support this teacher," said parent Gabriela Delhoyo. "He's very good. The students say they want to go to the NBA, but they won't get there. A lot of students don't have a Plan B, but you have to have a Plan B. Everybody needs it."