Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Another athlete arrest, why a yawn is not the right response!

The front page of the student paper reported the arrest of another member of the university of Florida football team. Linebacker Dee Finley was arrested for driving his scooter on campus around a barricade without a license and resisting arrest with violence, the latter charge has been reduced to resisting without violence because he attempted to ride off from the officer. If you are a Gator fan you might be tempted to yawn at this report. After all this is the 45 arrest since Ron Zook left six years ago. And surely this is one that doesn't hurt anyone so really officer, you are going to arrest a player for trying to get to practice at the stadium? You see there is no way to get to the player parking area and the locker rooms without going around one of those silly little gates. Hundreds of scooters and a few dozen cars do it every day. I am even guilty of driving around those barricades!

But I don't think a yawn or a wink is the correct response to this issue. If you are not a Gator fan, you want to have the kid kicked out of school in a slightly covert attempt at weakening the Gator team so that your team might have a better shot at a win. The only problem is that every program has its share of arrest stories and remember that not everyone arrested is guilty of a crime. We in Gator nation tend to forget that when it is a Seminole or a Hurricane or a Vol who gets arrested but we are quick to defend our own Gators who break the law. True if you break the law you deserve to be punished, but who would want their son or daughter punished for a traffic violation by a campus cop? The problem is that campus cops are duly sworn officers of the state and carry the same arrest responsibilities as other law officers. They just deal with a slightly less responsible segment of the population.

There is a problem with athletes acting like stupid little entitled brats for sure. But is not every athlete, only a small percentage of the total number of athletes on our campus. And most of those athletes don't really intend to behave that way, they just do! The vast majority of athletes are just like the vast majority of non-athlete students who go about their life trying to get through college without doing something so stupid that they end up as the butt end of a joke on a national radio or tv show. The problem is we tend to focus the spotlight on the few that do get in trouble to the exclusion of the majority that don't.

Our town runs a daily mug shot section in the online paper. I don't really know why but I look at it almost every day. Guess what I see? Almost every day there is someone who is college aged on it. Every day there are African-American males on it. Every day there are White males on it. Every day there are females on it from various ethnic groups. Every day there are old and young adults on it. The point is every day somebody is doing something in Gainesville that gets them arrested. If Dee Finley was a third year history students his picture would have been in the mug shots but not on the front page and not the subject of a national talk show, see Jim Rome! I know he is not just another student, he's a "Gator Athlete" and therefore not subject to the same rules as others. But wait a minute, wasn't another Gator Athlete just suspended for two games from the NCAA because people helped him survive when he was in high school? I know that we did fund raisers for my son's band when he was in high school that helped a lot of students who couldn't have paid for those trips by themselves. Did that make them ineligible to play in the band in college for two games. Heck no!

We want to make sure that athletes don't get preferential treatment but we don't give them equal treatment either. I can take any other student out for lunch and pay for it if I want to but I can't if they are an athlete. Any other student can make a mistake, pay for it, and move on without it being headline news, but not if they are a student athlete. I know not every student gets to be on national TV and play in front of 90 k fans and I get that they have additional responsibilities as well as additional privileges.

All I am asking for is that we respond to these types of stories the same way we would if Dee Finley were our son. We would be concerned for him and hope he learns from his mistakes. We would allow him to move on with his life after the legal procedures have been concluded. We wouldn't want him kicked out of class or school because of traffic issues. And we certainly would offer to drive him wherever he needed to go until he got his license back. Oh wait, we can't do that because he is an athlete according to the NCAA! Yeah, that's where fair ceases to be fair!

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