Last week it was really disappointing to read about to the early morning arrests of University of Oklahoma football players (including breakout sensation wide receiver Jalen Saunders pictured above) for possession of marijuana just hours after OU won a share of the 2012 BIGXII championship with a thrilling victory over TCU.
If these charges are accurate as charged (remember one can be arrested and charged and innocent until proven guilty), both of these young men must be held accountable. However, they should not have their lives and careers irreparably harmed for what sounds like a college level mistake that many have made during our youth.
What these and other student-athletes must come to realize is regardless of ultimate disposition of the case against them. Because they are high-profile student-athletes, their arrest and probable suspension from the upcoming bowl game against highly ranked Texas A &M will, among of other things, hurt their team, embarrass their families, tarnishes their schools reputation, and require massive amount of time away from school attending court proceedings.
So, hopefully this episode makes clear to both of these young men and to student-athletes everywhere that despite their elevated status in our sports crazed society that:
1) Putting yourself in situations and circumstances where breaking laws and team rules can easily occur is unnecessary and costly;
2) Due to their celebrity status (a perk of having superior athletic ability), student-athletes always have extra eyes on them so they need to be extra careful with their words, actions, posts, tweets, and decisions.
In closing, in my experience working with high school, collegiate, and professional athletes for over a decade. I found that athletes usually bounce back from adversity better than most when given the proper support and correction because of the years of coaching and correction for mistakes. So, I would not be surprised and sincerely hope that both of these players exhibit new found passion for maximizing the tremendous opportunities that their talents have earned them both on and off-the-field once this incident is behind them. Certainly this will be my sincere prayer for both players!
Damario Solomon-Simmons, M.Ed., J.D., a former NCAA D-1 student-athlete, is the managing partner of SolomonSimmonSharrock & Associates law firm and an adjunct professor of African & African-American Studies at the University of Oklahoma. His life’s mission is to inform, inspire, and empower and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or @solospeakstruth.