The Lesson Of Character Continues To Be A Hard Lesson For Black Athletes

By Gregory Moore
Updated: May 1, 2006

Lendale White and Marcus Vick

Lendale White and Marcus Vick

SAN ANTONIO – Whether you talk to the young men themselves or their parents, it seems that for many top Black college athletes do not understand the importance of good character when it comes to getting that first ‘job’ in the professional sports ranks.

If Lendale White, Winston Justice, Marcus Vick and even Reggie Bush don’t understand just how important a good character is, then maybe this past weekend’s draft selection will help send the message home to other Black athletes with ‘questionable’ pasts; clean up your act or hope you got a good college degree to get that first job.

If Black athletes don’t think that having a good character isn’t essential to a good payday, then maybe somebody needs to talk to White, Justice and definitely Vick. Of the four names I mentioned in this piece, only one wasn’t drafted and he may never see the light of day of a NFL locker room as a player and that is Vick. Was Lendale and Winston jobbed by some past news reports? Sure they were.

Lendale was hurt by a false drug test report that said he tested positive when in actuality he didn’t flunk the test at the NFL combine. Winston’s legal problems scared off a lot of teams who needed a good offensive lineman. In reading various reports where the Philadelphia Eagles said that Justice’s past legal issues weren’t an issue, one thing popped in my head; bull[bleep].

Good players don’t drop into the second round if their character isn’t an issue. While the Eagles got the player they wanted in the second round and didn’t have to give him first round money, there were plenty of other NFL teams that could have selected Winston in the first round.

Yet for the three USC players mentioned, nobody isn’t hurt bad on their character issues. All three of these former collegians will have a bright future ahead of them. Vick, on the other hand, is now beginning to realize what being a jackass in college will cost you. There are seven rounds in the NFL draft and not a single team called his name.

Now his family and friends can say the league has blackballed him and they will probably be right. But whose fault is it when you go out and do idiotic things while in college such as driving with a suspended license, basically terrorizing another human being with a gun, and stomping on the leg of an opponent during the Gator Bowl? Try Marcus Vick as the person at fault; not the world. And here’s another blow to Vick’s ego; nobody talked about him in the Virginia papers on Monday morning. Hmmm.

If this weekend hasn’t proved to be a refresher course for Black families, then we’ll continue to see young men lose millions because of their misbehavior. Despite what some individuals may say is a White man’s mentality of trying to control black athletes, the reality is that you have to be held accountable for when you do stupid stuff and sometimes these things will have an affect on your first job interview.

MISSISSIPPI STATE’S RULE OF COMPLIANCE Give Mississippi State’s Sylvester Croom top marks in holding his ball players accountable for their action. If you haven’t read the latest on six football players who were accused of hitting a police officer, here the Associated Press story: “Six Mississippi State football players accused of assaulting an off-duty police officer pleaded guilty Thursday to reduced charges.

Cornerback Derek Pegues, safety Keith Fitzhugh, offensive tackle Michael Gates, quarterback Tray Rutland and defensive ends Charles Burnes and Quinton Wesley – all freshmen – were each fined $500 and received six-month suspended sentences for misdemeanor simple assault.

‘We are extremely pleased with the outcome,’ said attorney Jay Perry, who represents the players.

Police chief David Lindley and prosecutor Roy Carpenter could not immediately be reached for comment.

The players had been suspended indefinitely by Mississippi State coach Sylvester Croom.

Croom said he hasn’t decided if they will play in the season opener Aug. 31 against South Carolina.

The pleas came four days before the players faced a hearing on the charges. Had they been convicted of felony assault, they each could have faced up to five years in prison and a $1,000 fine.” Now whether you think 18-year-olds should be held accountable for their actions or not, the law says that once you turn 18, you are a consenting adult. You can be held legally binding to contracts, you can vote and you can do almost anything except possibly drink legally. In a case like this, Croom did the right thing by suspending the players and barring them from the team activities until this matter was handled.

And he has the right to not even put them back on the team if he wants to; something that I’m sure parents would say is harsh but that is his prerogative. These six players represent MSU and they should have realized that before this situation unfolded.

Accountability is something that should be applauded when head coaches decide to not have bad apples on their teams. Are these six players bad young men? Of course not but they made a very bad judgment in their lives.

Assaulting a police officer, or anyone for that matter, is just plain stupidity and these young men are lucky that the District Attorney allowed them to plea down. It could have been worse. They could be spending some serious time in jail and their college futures wrecked behind this incident.

THE DEFENDING CHAMPS AREN’T DESERVING OF TITLE To call yourself the defending champions of the NBA should mean something but when you look at how the San Antonio Spurs have handled their series with the Sacramento Kings, being called the defending champs isn’t very befitting.

As a matter of fact, right now this team could be the biggest chumps of the playoffs because it seems that they do not want to defend their title from 2005. Are they bonafide choke artists in their series? Not quite but there is definitely a large hack coming on Tuesday night that could spell disaster for them.

The Spurs have all the talent to defeat the Kings and should have done so this past weekend. Take game three out of the picture and say that the Kings did what they were supposed to do because they did. They won their first home game of this series.

Yet for the Spurs, this should have been a chance to go out there and play ‘Spurs’ basketball and that is something that this team hasn’t been doing in two months or so. Championship ball is played when you can go out there and keep a team at bay. The Spurs, as a collective unit, aren’t playing championship caliber basketball because they are forgetting to do what has gotten them to that level of play.

Sunday’s game was about as bad as one could have imagined because nobody truly stepped up and stepped into the role of being the trendsetter. Where was the great adjustment that Gregg Popovich has been known for making on his rotations? On the bench in his back pocket.

Where was Tim Duncan or Manu Ginobili for game four? On the chartered plane ready to come home? Outside of possibly Tony Parker, who else wanted to win this game? Not Michael Finley. Not Robert Horry. Not Brent Barry. The efforts on defense were atrocious. The offensive rotations off of screens and penetrations were almost non-existent. In other words, this team played like they were scared to win a game at Arco Arena.

I’m not much of a conspiracy theorist. Whether the NBA wants this series to go six isn’t really an issue here. Teams like San Antonio need to play to their ‘seed’ potential. They are the top seed in the Western Conference and even though they can be beaten, dropping two games to the eighth seed isn’t becoming of an NBA champion.

Bruce Bowen, Parker, Duncan and Ginobili have won titles together before and that’s the nucleus of this team. Robert Horry contributed to winning the title last year so he’s the wily veteran and Popovich has been at the helm for all three title runs since he became the head coach. The need to get their heads out of their collective butts and end this series on Friday.

Can the Spurs get over this meltdown in Cow town? To be honest I seriously doubt it if they lose game five. This series is as good as it gets but the Kings are not that world-beater everyone wants to make them out to be. That moniker belongs to Kobe and the Lake Show.

If the Spurs want to repeat and get the opportunity to defend their title, they need to stop letting Sacramento have momentum and believing that they can knock the champs out in the first round. The opportunity is definitely there for the taking but the Spurs have to fight for it; the Kings just aren’t going to roll over and give it to them. Not by a long shot.