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Archive for Thursday, September 7, 2006

Keegan: Guns, athletes bad mix

September 7, 2006

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Earl "The Pearl" Monroe, one of my five all-time favorite basketball players (Bob McAdoo, Jack Marin, Brandon Rush and Dwyane Wade), told me he once was on the verge of leaving the NBA in favor of the renegade ABA.

Monroe said what stopped him was something he witnessed in the locker room of the team wooing him. After the game, the players showered, dressed and reached above their lockers for loaded pistols they took home with them. Apparently, loaded handguns frightened one of the all-time great NBA players. They frighten me, too. Are we alone?

You know what else frightens me? The lack of shock and horror expressed over the recent arrest of Texas cornerback Tarell Brown on misdemeanor drug and weapons charges. Brown was with a teammate and former teammate. All three players were charged with possession of less than two ounces of marijuana after their weaving car was pulled over by cops. The marijuana news was not what horrified me, and I wasn't surprised when the attorney of Brown said he passed a drug test. The result of reserve linebacker Tyrell Gatewood's test was not released.

The circumstances didn't paint these guys as experienced college pot smokers. If they were, they more likely would be doing it in a dorm room with towels stuffed into the crack at the bottom of the door to keep the powerful scent from escaping into the hallway. They would have air freshener at the ready and would be spraying it wildly after the first knock on the door. By the time the second impatient knock sounded, they already would have stashed the rest of the goods into a pair of folded socks, which then would be placed at the back and bottom of the drawer. On their way to finally answering the door, they would stop to admire the goldfish, get lost in thought, reawaken at the next rapping on the door and magically remember why they were on the way to the door in the first place.

Anyway, it's not the lack of outrage over the marijuana that floors me. It's the firearm. When cops approached the car, Brown reportedly was asleep with his hand on a loaded handgun that was in his lap. What good possibly could come from that? The attorney for Brown and Gatewood said that the cops used a weapon on the two players.

"Tarell and Tyrell were both Tasered twice in the chest," attorney Jamie Balagia told the Dallas Morning News. "There were no charges of resisting arrest filed. So what was this? A situation where you have a couple of black males, so they get Tasered? If there's a videotape of this arrest, we want it made public. I was a police officer for 13 years, 12 of them in Austin, and I can tell you the next step up from a Taser is a bullet to the chest. So I want to know what prompted these officers to use something that is one step away from killing these young men."

It seems a curious reaction. It seems the presence of a gun would be more motivation for using a Taser than the race of the people in a car in which one occupant visibly was armed. According to Balagia, the car and gun were registered to Gatewood. Balagia also said the weed belonged to Aaron Harris, the former player.

Texas coach Mack Brown suspended Brown and Gatewood, a move that Balagia said was motivation for him to go public with the Taser information.

It's a darn good thing Mack Brown suspended the players, or who knows how many people would think it's OK to drive around in a car with a loaded gun.

Curious to find out whether there is anything in KU's student-athlete handbook relating to firearms, I placed a call to KU associate athletics director Jim Marchiony. Although there isn't anything that specifically spells it out, Marchiony said, the handbook does state that all athletes are "expected to abide by all university policies."

That policy, in part, states: "The university prohibits students, employees and visitors from possessing, carrying or using weapons on property owned by or under the control of the university. Violations of this policy may result in disciplinary action, up to and including dismissal of employees or expulsion of students."

The university can't control what the students do off campus, but coaches, who have the authority to impose curfews, certainly can institute a policy that prohibits athletes from possessing guns anywhere, any time, regardless of whether they aren't breaking any laws. Period. Let's hope every coach in America, save the archery instructors, uses the UT football players' mess as motivation and implements such a policy, if it doesn't already exist.

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