As bad as it pains me to write this post, I feel like I should write it. Any time something like this happens, most peoples’ first reactions are just that, reactions. I’ve let it simmer for a little while so I can be as rational as possible. A lot of you guys will probably disagree with me; that’s just the nature of the beast, but I ask you to read this with an open mind.

When I heard the news of these arrests this morning, I lot of emotions ran through my mind, but I gotta tell you, none of them were surprise. Sure, I was surprised at the shockingness of it, but I wasn’t blown away by the news itself. For those of you who were, you shouldn’t be. One of the best message board posts I’ve seen today was by monvolia’s LeonVol, who shared this pertinant info:

“There is a TON of evidence that points to the importance of stimulating a babies brain very early. This is not known in the ghetto. The process that occurs from years 1-3 are some of the most important in any kids life. One research project in the 1980s found that a kid raised by parents on welfare heard 20 million FEWER words than a kid raised by professional working parents. They found those extra words had a HUGE effects on their verbal ability. There is more and more evidence that the divide between kids that make it and kids that don’t is determined at a VERY early age. Like between birth and 1-2 years of age.”

With that in mind, think about the kids we recruit from areas such as these. They live 17 or 18 years in a certain environment and then are expected to adapt, just like that, to a world that’s very foreign to them. Before you get all worked up, know that in no way am I trying to excuse their behavior; I’m just trying to provide an explanation for it. If you think that it’s absurd for something like this to happen, I would guess you aren’t very familiar with the current atmoshpere surrounding our players on campus. When they walk around, peoples’ heads turn. They all wear the gear, I mean you can always spot them just by how they’re dressed. Regular students like me think it’s cool if we know them, so naturally, these guys are pampered. And that’s everywhere, I’m not just picking on our guys. I think this adoration they receive can lead them to think they are somewhat invincible.

Now, for those of you saying that Janzen Jackson should be gone regardless of what happens, think about what you’re saying. Our courts are designed to withhold judgement until all the facts are heard. Shouldn’t you do the same? Janzen has been released and his lawyer is claiming his innocence. Reportedly, Janzen wasn’t even around when the robbery took place, and that he tried to diffuse this situation. Now, the marijuana found in the car was in the glove compartment of the car and it was the girl’s. Obviously, it was in the glove compartment for a reason, but still, it wasn’t in Janzen’s hand. If he doesn’t fail a drug test, there’s no evidence to suggest that he was high. Now, amidst rumors that his suspension was due to a failed drug test and the fact that it’s probable anyway, of course I know how this sounds. All I’m doing is eliminating reasons you have to call for him being kicked off the team right now.

OK, so if you can’t say that he was high, and you can’t say that he was involved in the robbery, that leaves the fact that he was an accessory. Is it poor judgement to be in a car with marijuana at 2 AM? Absolutely, and at this point, that’s what I hold Janzen accountable for. But if that’s all he did, I don’t think his dismissal is warranted. I think he should definitely be punished; suspension for the rest of the year sounds about right to me. If all this guy did was get in a car with some weed in it, I say make him sit the bench for the rest of the year and hope that he learns his lesson. You could even give him a zero tolerance policy; if Janzen’s smart, he’ll mind his P’s and Q’s regardless of what happens. If he’s not, then sadly, he doesn’t deserve to play football for Tennessee.

And that brings me to the part of the post I didn’t want to write, and that’s the pretty obvious fact that Nu’Keese and Edwards must be kicked off the team.

I’ve seen it discussed a little bit, and as a big fan of hip-hop and its culture, its hard for me to be objective, but the irony of Lane Kiffin’s Lil’ Wayne shoutout is sharp as a knife. For those who might not know, on his new mixtape Lil Wayne included the line “smoke weed, talk shit like Lane Kiffin.”

Lil Wayne is awaiting a prison term in February for weapons charges. Ouch. The song has been all over campus; it’s becoming somewhat of a phenomenon. I’ve seen countless numbers of students’ facebook statuses devoted to it and I continue to hear the line in passing. UT’s coach in a best selling rapper’s song? Awesome. But at what price, right? This gun toting hip hop culture seems to be what is directly responsible for today’s arrests.

Consider how ingrained this culture is to kids like Nu’Keese Richardson. Just as rural kids love country music, riding four wheelers and hunting deer, kids from the ghetto love hip hop. Unfortunately, there are some dangerous aspects of it. Enter Lil Wayne’s weapons charge. Wayne has been rapping since his early teens and is now a millionaire; he “made it out” of the ghetto, if you will, and he did it all by himself. He had no obligations to anyone.

So when these young kids get a football scholarship, they see it as their “way out.” In their mind, they are that much closer to being at Lil Wayne’s status, and they are right. Like I said above, these guys are pampered the whole time they are here. When a guy with Nu’Keese Richardson’s talent signs his letter of intent to UT, he’s done the hard part. All he has to do is come in, take advantage of all the academic support that Tennessee offers, stay out of trouble, work hard in practice, and there’s a good chance he’ll play football for a living. It’s his ticket. The resulting crisis is, then, that since the Nu’Keeses of the world feel so much closer to fame and money and being like Lil’ Wayne, they want to get a head start and they go ahead and get a gun, smoke a lot of weed, etc.

What they don’t realize is that they still have work to do. They are being given the PRIVILEDGE of playing football, and while Lil Wayne can do whatever he wants, Nu’Keese still has a lot of people to answer to. The fact that he wasn’t smart enough to realize that is why his dismissal is necessary. Now, I always liked Nu’Keese, I thought he could’ve been a star. Based on the victims’ testimony, the arrest wasn’t very authoritative and that the girl driver was even smiling when they drove off. And keep in mind, people, it was a pellet gun. It’s not like Nu’Keese is some vicious criminal. Like Morgan Freeman says at the end of Shawshank having spent his whole life in prison for murder, he’s a “silly kid.” Everything about this thing screams immaturity: they pretty much did everything wrong that they possibly could.

Since Nu’Keese didn’t murder anybody, and wasn’t going to, he shouldn’t have to go to jail for his whole life like Morgan Freeman, but he needs to be punished severely enough to make him come to the same conclusion, that he was being  a dumb, immature kid. That’s why our justice system is designed the way it is.     

Hopefully the facts will show that Janzen Jackson simply got in a car with no knowledge of the robbery that was about to go down. If, not same goes for him.

Wasted potential is just sad. I hope Nu’Keese and Edwards will learn from this, get past it and lead productive lives. But sadly, they have no business ever wearing orange again.