Is The Excuse ‘They’re Just Acquaintances’ Reason For Being Ignorant Of The Law?

By Gregory Moore
Updated: September 18, 2007

SAN ANTONIO — “I wasn’t very close with them,” said Shawne Williams. “They’re friends on my daddy’s side. I brought my dad up (from Memphis) to show them a good time around the city.”

Those words may not seem like a lot right now but for the second year player of the Indiana Pacers, they are words that many a professional athlete has uttered in the face of being in trouble. Athletes who are facing legal issues usually find themselves muttering these very same or similar words and then are wondering what in the heck just happened to their lives and careers.

For many, the wake up call comes to late yet for others, it’s a bell toll that puts them on the right track. For Williams, who was arrested earlier this month for not having a driver’s license and whom suddenly found himself in some hot water around drugs, the lesson was more than sobering and a three game suspension is nothing compared to what it could have been.

“It’s been devastating,” Williams said. “I feel like I let my organization, my teammates, down, along with the Simon brothers and my family.”

The argument as to whether a professional athlete should cut ties with some of his childhood friends has always been a hot debate. Last week I got into this very debate with several friends of mine and a few considered me to be the “white” boy in the group because I took the stance that these athletes, who are mainly of African American descent, needed to take stock into who their friends were and if they were of the unsavory type, that they needed to literally leave the hood behind.

“If you’re not down with the hood, then you’re a sell out,” one friend basically said. “We, as black men, need to stand up and stick together.”

“You can’t hold an athlete responsible if his friends get in trouble,” another one said. “In regards to a guy like Mike Vick, he was taking care of his peeps and what is wrong with that?”

The logic that these two men were trying to get across just didn’t register with me. Whether they considered me a “white” boy or not, I wasn’t going down the road of saying that I am going to always be down with the hoodies and ride till I die. Athletes who make it big shouldn’t follow that logic either because it is very much illogical.

In the case of guys like Vick, Chris Henry and others, the groupies that are just there strictly to sponge off of you aren’t worth it. When your homies are involved in illegal activity and you knowingly or unknowingly are a part of it, it makes your prestigious life that you worked hard for a waste of energy.

When family members drag you down because they are out to try and take you for what you have, you have to be willing to get them out of your life for an eternity if that is the case. For young professional athletes who are Black, making the move to distance themselves from what can be trouble back on the home front is not an easy task but it is one that needs to be made.

It is the very reason why so many find themselves on suspension or awaiting sentencing on legal issues. For Williams, he was lucky. Three games is nothing compared to what could have happened.

“Before, I wasn’t as cautious about getting in a car with anybody and driving around,” Williams said. “Now, I feel like I’m going to ask whoever gets in the car with me what they have and what they’re doing. Me being a professional ballplayer, I’ve got to watch who I hang with. I have to surround myself with better people.”

Williams realizes that he has to be on his guard when it comes to friends and acquaintances and he knows that excuse of “Well, I really didn’t know them that well” doesn’t fly. And that’s the perception that every athlete should take.

Not everyone has your best interest at heart and that could mean friends and family members. If that is the case, then these athletes have to take the unprecedented step of cutting people loose; even if it is not popular with the homies on the block.