Pullman is a town with about 31, 395 people and is home to the over 20,000 Washington State students. I’m sure all of them somehow know a football player or two.
In such a small town, it is easy to become a sort of celebrity being on the football team. Children see players on the big screen scoring the game-winning touchdown and quickly idealize the players as role models.
The Cougar quarterback’s number becomes highly sought after, and often fought over, jersey number on the local peewee football team. The men wearing crimson and gray on the field are admired and imitated by children all over the city — but should they be held to such high moral standards?
Over the last four weeks, four Washington State football players faced felony assault charges. According to the Spokesman Review, 29 players have been arrested under Washington State head coach Mike Leach’s reign — a high number in NCAA Division I football.
One of these players was senior nose tackle Robert Barber.
In Saturday’s game against Idaho, Barber blocked a kick, which led to a 72-yard touchdown for the Cougars.
On Sept. 15, Barber was expelled from school and a day later he was arrested by the Pullman police on felony assault charges. The day after that, Barber stepped onto the field in a crimson uniform — pending his expulsion appeal.
Barber isn’t alone. The actions of multiple players on the Washington State football team have resulted in broken jaws, broken noses and concussions over the past few years.
Out of the 29 arrests under Leach, 16 of them have been dismissed.
Leach said that the Pullman Police Department is unfairly targeting his players.
“It is irresponsible to this town, this community and everybody to have some kind of a double standard where we only focus on one demographic, one group of people and then drag their name through the newspaper with a bunch of irresponsible comments,” he said.
It’s true these athletes are in the spotlight but it does not excuse the player’s behavior. These young men still must be held accountable for their actions. Scoring the game-winning touchdown does not negate the fact they broke the law.
Mihaela Karst can be reached email@example.com or on Twitter @mihaela_jo