Don't be so quick to condemn UNC's Hairston

Aug. 01, 2013 @ 10:12 AM

A little perspective, please.

UNC basketball player P.J. Hairston has proven he has poor judgment and impulse control. He has not proven he is beyond redemption or that he is a university-destroying, one-man cloud of disrepute.

From some of the commentary about what he has done and what UNC has not done to him, you could get the idea he had killed someone.

Hairston first was cited for speeding in May while driving a rental car — one that was rented by a convicted felon, Haydn “Fats” Thomas of Durham.

Of those two things, obviously the one you worry about is Hairston hanging out with a felon. Speeding? Go out on Interstate 40 outside Chapel Hill at any time of the day or night and in 15 minutes you stand a good chance of seeing 10 people driving faster than Hairston was.

In June, Hairston was arrested at a traffic stop, again in a rental car tied to Thomas, and charged with possession of marijuana and driving without a license.

Now we’re into “stupid” territory. You tell a kid, “Stop hanging out with that guy, and for God’s sake don’t take any more cars from him,” then you expect him to pay attention. The marijuana is just a half level of stupid added onto it.

Less than two weeks later, Hairston was stopped by a state trooper on Interstate 85 near Salisbury while weaving in and out of traffic and driving almost 30 mph over the speed limit.

At this point you really have to wonder if Hairston has a learning disability. On the other hand, you’re talking about an elite athlete who has been catered to as long as he can remember — he’s hardly the first in that category — and over a period of about two months suddenly everyone expects his behavior to change.

Does this seriously constitute “a big problem” for UNC, as some columnists have said?

For perspective, Google the phrase “Incarce-Gators.” That’s the name that the Independent Florida Alligator at the University of Florida gave a few weeks ago to the roster of Gators, just from the football team, who have been arrested since 2005 — 44 in all, on charges including burglary, larceny, obstruction, assault, grand theft auto, domestic assault and multiple drug charges.

Is that something to which UNC should aspire? Obviously not.

But there is a vast gulf between Felony University and the occasional spoiled kid with bad friends and a lead foot.

We, this entire society, build up these athletically gifted children to believe they can do no wrong and will suffer no consequences. Perhaps Hairston should be suspended from the team, but only if it’s coupled with other actions to help him learn and keep from ruining, based only on what he has done so far, his potential career.

More perspective: Among the list of Florida “Incarce-Gators” is current Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton, who in 2008 was accused of stealing another student’s laptop computer and throwing it out a window. He was suspended for a season, transferred to a junior college and then to Auburn, where he won the Heisman Trophy and a national championship. Everyone seems to think he’s a role model now, so maybe learning is possible.

The real problem is big-time college sports, not Hairston. You lie down with dogs, you get up with fleas. It’s hypocritical to pretend any college, even supposedly squeaky-clean UNC, can avoid it.