The Weber State University school newspaper, The Signpost, is taking considerable heat for not participating in the orgy of jock worship so common throughout the greater society. They had the audacity to report on the more "human" side of one of the school's star football players, Bryant Eteuati. In short, they reported on how Eteuati has been accused of some rather serious crimes and his resultant suspension from the football team. Media story on this development posted November 6th, 2008 by KSL Channel 5 (including video). Also read an updated November 7th story from The Signpost HERE. KSL news video embedded below:
Back on October 24th, The Signpost first broke the story on Bryant Eteuati's legal travails, available HERE. Eteuati was pulled over on Wednesday October 22nd for a minor traffic violation on 26th Street and Harrison Boulevard, where the arresting officer discovered that Eteuati not only had no insurance on his 2000 Lexus, but also had three outstanding warrants. Once the officer got Eteuati's information, he realized Eteuati didn't have insurance on the Lexus, and had warrants for his arrest for communication fraud, aggravated assault, and retail theft.
As a result, Eteuati was arrested for the warrants, failure to change lanes, and no insurance. He was booked in the Weber County Jail and his vehicle was impounded. The communications fraud charge held bail of $5000. The aggravated assault charge held another $5000. And the third charge of retail theft had another $300 bail.
The University promptly reacted, announcing the indefinite suspension of Bryant Eteuati for disciplinary reasons, consistent with longstanding team and university policy. The star wide receiver and kick return specialist has returned 14 kickoffs and 18 punts this season, and is the team's second leading reciver with 38 receptions for 454 yards.
Adding fuel to the fire was the fact that Weber State, which was unbeaten in Big Sky Conference play, was about to meet Northern Arizona, which was equally unbeaten in conference play. Victory-starved northern Utah college football fans are desperate for either Weber State or Utah State to crack the media domination of the BYU-University of Utah football duopoly in the state. So success-starved are northern Utah college football fans that even the respected Weber County Forum blog advocated handling Eteuati with kid gloves, promoting a definition of "presumption of innocence" I consider exceptionally broad.
By the way, the Weber State Wildcats won that game, 42-14. They currently sit atop the Big Sky Conference standings with a 6-0 conference record and 8-2 overall. They have the inside track on winning the conference.
However, the fact that the Wildcats were able to clean Northern Arizona's clock without the aid of their Illustrious Superjock did not matter to some WSU fans. They proceeded to light up The Signpost in the comments to their story. The comments, many aimed at the paper's editor Jessica Schreifiels, poured in. Things like: "She makes me irate, and she needs to think about more than just herself when she writes. This movement that the football team is in is way bigger then her and her career." For the entire staff, it was a lesson in real-life journalism. "It was a good experience. It was inconceivable we would have done anything else once we found out the story," said Allison Barlow Hess, adviser of The Signpost.
Bryant Eteuati appeared in court with his lawyer, Deven Goggins, on November 6th. He has yet to enter a plea. Goggins stated, "My concern right now is making sure that process works, that a young man who may or may not have made some mistakes is not being unduly criticized or judged just because he happens to play football".
Eteuati will be back in court next week for a scheduling hearing. Other Utah media outlets publishing stories in late October include an October 26th story in the Deseret News and an October 25th story by KSL.
Commentary: Kudos to The Signpost for reporting on this story without fear or favor. Kudos to the Wildcats for going 2-0 since the suspension of their Illustrious Superjock. And kudos to Weber State for promptly - and indefintely - suspending Eteuati.
While the suspension may appear to violate the "presumption of innocence", it is consistent with how other enterprises treat their people who get into similar trouble. When West High teacher Jose Fanzul was charged with having sex with an underage girl, his school promptly suspended him. And when former Roy High teacher Kamron Klitgaard was charged with possession of child pornography, he was first suspended, then fired by his school.
And it's equally consistent with the disposition of those who get fired not for being charged with any crimes, but for merely sinning against political correctness. Three examples stand out:
- In 2003, Cabela's employee Dan Schildhauer was fired from his job in Nebraska for distributing politically-incorrect literature locally when off the job. No crime was committed, and no breach of the employee guidelines occurred.
- In March 2006, former Allegany County (NY) Assistant District Attorney Michael Regan was fired for attending the annual American Renaissance conference on his own personal time off. Regan's conditions of employment did NOT require him to seek permission to attend this conference in advance.
- And, of course, everyone knows about how Don Imus was fired by Viacom boss Sumner Redstone and CBS boss Les Moonves, as well as MSNBC, for remarking about the "nappy-headed hos" on the Rutgers womens basketball team.
So in the wake of all these suspensions and firings, why should a football player not be held to the same standard of ethical conduct? The "presumption of innocence" merely covers Eteuati's legal status; it only means the burden of proof lies upon the prosecution. It does not guarantee that one remains employed, nor should it. And it most certainly does not guarantee that one should be allowed to continue to play organized athletics.
But the best part is that the team is unbeaten since suspending their Illustrious Superjock. Nice to see that virtue pays an immediate dividend.