In the high profile world of Division one college basketball, student athletes are placed under more scrutiny than ever before. One wrong move and the media will be all over a 20-something-year-old student athlete like vultures on a carcass in the desert. This is the unfortunate scenario that befell San Diego State’s own Jamaal Franklin after he was caught extending his middle finger in the direction of referee Randy McCall during the team’s loss to New Mexico in the Mountain West Conference tournament final in Las Vegas. Media members including staff of SDSU’s own Daily Aztec were quick to criticize Franklin before the whole story emerged.
Despite what a column in Monday’s issue of The Daily Aztec stated, Franklin did not “flip the bird” at McCall, but at a New Mexico fan who had been yelling racial slurs and insulting Franklin’s family since the team began warm-ups at the Thomas and Mack Center.
Franklin, who apologized to his teammates at the team’s Selection Sunday viewing, stated, “I feel I let the community down, this program down and I let the school down. I let my emotions get the best of me. I didn’t give a finger to the ref. I would never give a finger to the ref… But I did give a finger out. I can’t deny that. I can’t lie about that. A Lobo fan was bugging me the whole time. He called me the n-word and talked about my family. He just got under my skin. I should have never let him get under my skin.”
Many people do not believe Franklin’s story however, thinking it to just be an elaborate cover up to ensure that he was able to participate in Friday’s loss to North Carolina State in the second round of the NCAA Tournament. Others have emerged in support of Franklin’s story however. A caller to Lee “Hacksaw” Hamilton’s sports talk radio show on XX1090 AM last Monday who attended the tournament game between New Mexico and Air Force, stated that he heard New Mexico fans shouting racial slurs not only at Air Force players, but at members of the New Mexico squad as well. The situation became so bad that Thomas and Mack Center security eventually removed the offending fan from the arena.
Franklin’s actions can hardly be considered the best course to resolving the issue, but one can hardly blame him for responding. Could he have found a better way to solve the situation? Yes. But at only 20 years old, Franklin let his emotions do the talking and in all honesty he could of done a lot worse.
Sometimes I think society has to remember that these student-athletes are still kids who make mistakes and use those mistakes to grow not only as athletes, but also as people. Franklin took responsibility for his actions and apologized not only to his teammates, but also to SDSU, his family, his friends, and his fans and what more can we ask?
Franklin’s teammate Chase Tapley said it best at his press conference last Monday, “Personally I feel like he really manned up for that and accepting his role, what he did and it just made me respect him more as a man. For him to get up there in front of those people and him being emotional and apologizing like that. I mean I could have done it, but he did it the way I couldn’t even imagine him doing it. So it was just a good moment for the team and when he was finished I just wanted to give him a hug, give him a handshake and embrace him. Just have to respect him as a man for what he did and I really appreciate him for that.”
—Thomas Sholan, SDSU student