Athletes held to a higher standard
Tuesday began like any other weekday at The Valley Times-News. The editorial staff planned its coverage for the upcoming edition before starting the process of building a paper.
Calls were made, interviews were scheduled and information was rounded up. Among the content collected was the daily report submitted by the Lanett Police Department.
Immediately, three names jumped out.
Baraskious Dowdell, 18, Emanuel Littles, 19, and Terrion Truitt, 19, were listed in the report. All three were charged with disorderly conduct, and Dowdell was charged with third degree assault.
It is not unusual to see such charges on a police report. But these stood out due to the notoriety possessed by the individuals in question.
Dowdell, Littles and Truitt are accomplished athletes at Lanett High School. Their names and images have appeared frequently in The Valley Times-News as a result of their success on the gridiron and hardwood.
Dowdell and Truitt emerged as two of the top football players in the state this past fall. Dowdell was named the Class 2A Lineman of the Year, while Truitt was a finalist for the 2A Back of the Year award.
Each played an integral role in helping Lanett capture its first playoff state championship in December.
Littles, meanwhile, has earned all-state honors in basketball. Last Friday, he was named MVP of the state tournament after leading the Panthers to a third consecutive crown.
In February, all three signed college athletic scholarships.
The collective achievements of these three athletes have provided them a platform in the local community. Yes, they are still high school students. But their influence extends far beyond the walls of LHS, far beyond the reach of an average teenager.
They are a source of pride for the community. Children look to them as role models. As such, their actions are magnified.
Athletes, as a group, are held to a higher standard due to their prominence and platform. This rings true even at the local level.
Not all facts about the situation that led to the arrests have been made public. Lanett City Schools Superintendent Phillip Johnson said a fight over a “private matter” occurred Monday on school grounds.
Nevertheless, Dowdell, Truitt and Littles should learn from this experience and take steps to avoid similar situations in the future.
Hopefully, the decisions in a moment of weakness did not cost them theirs.