Washington State cornerback Zaire Webb was dismissed from the Cougar football team last fall after being arrested on suspicion of theft at a Wal-Mart.
Washington State head coach Mike Leach has a much publicized policy that players who steal, smoke marijuana, or commit an act of violence against a woman will be removed from the team, which is what Leach cited when he dismissed Webb. Those theft charges were later dropped, though, which demonstrates the flaw in such a policy.
Of course, flaws or not, if you’re not enforcing the rules evenly then it’s not really a policy at all. And that’s why Webb is suing Leach and the school, citing multiple examples of other players who were allowed to remain on the team despite documented offenses.
Deadspin reported on the suit:
Webb’s lawsuit, filed March 2 in Whitman County Superior Court, argues that Leach inconsistently applied the rule to him. The suit lists examples of other players who have broken the “three sins” policy and weren’t kicked off the team. Linebacker Logan Tago took a plea deal after he was charged with felony robbery and assault in 2016 for mugging a guy for a six-pack of beer. (The Cougars recently used Tago’s mandated community service as a feel-good story.) He’s still on the roster.
Former cornerback Daquawn Brown was charged with felony second-degree assault in March of 2014 after he allegedly punched a man and woman in the faces during a night out. He was allowed to play in the 2014 season and led the team in tackles before Leach dismissed him in December of that year. Receiver Grant Porter was arrested and booked on a domestic-violence charge in November of 2017 for allegedly grabbing his girlfriend’s neck and pushing her to the floor. The lawsuit says he is still on the spring roster.
Webb is seeking damages, which kind of makes sense. On the surface, such a policy is admirable, especially with regards to violence against women. (The weed part matters a lot less; all things considered, that’s actually kind of regressive, especially given the likelihood of injury to football players.) And for cases involving domestic violence or sexual assault, it’s often important to go beyond what the police or courts are able to do in terms of punishment, given how rarely charges are brought in those cases.
But when it’s a thing like shoplifting at Wal-Mart, it’s very reasonable to wait it out; a young black man isn’t likely to get the benefit of the doubt for an honest mistake, and that shouldn’t be enough to lose a scholarship.
Regardless, it’s not much of a rule if it doesn’t apply to everyone on the team. Whether that’s enough to win in court remains to be seen.