If there’s one thing that’s going to make a lot of people angry, it’s video of hitting or otherwise abusing an animal. That’s what’s happened with two Middle Tennessee State football players, who have been suspended for their roles in a video from earlier this month. Defensive lineman Justin Akins filmed linebacker Shalom Alvarez repeatedly slapping a puppy and posted it to Snapchat, someone saw it there, downloaded it and informed the Murfreesboro Police Department (which is reportedly now investigating the pair on charges of animal cruelty), and the players have now been suspended by the university.
However, Blue Raiders’ head coach Rick Stockstill’s statement to Nashville NBC affiliate WSMV doesn’t seem to condemn the players’ actions much, or to understand why this is problematic. Instead, Stockstill opted to complain about social media:
I am aware of the situation and have talked to the players involved. The players explained to me that the puppy urinated inside and they were simply spanking it as a form of discipline. They told me there was never any intent to harm the dog. This was an important teaching moment. I talked to them about other approaches that should have been considered in this situation. And I pointed out how disciplining a pet in such a manner could be misconstrued, especially with the impact of social media.
That’s a pretty weak statement, especially if you watch the video in question, which is included in this WSMV report and was posted to Snapchat with the caption “[Expletive] said you don’t pay rent [emoji].”:
Alvarez strikes the puppy forcefully at least four times, and it yelps with each hit. That’s definitely not the proper way to treat an animal, and it’s one that’s deservedly drawing a lot of condemnation. This isn’t about discipline being “misconstrued”: these players screwed up in a big way, and their coach, who really should know better, tried to play it off as just “social media lets people get mad about things.” MTSU athletic director Chris Massaro did a much better job with his own statement about the suspensions Wednesday, saying “The actions captured on this video are obviously disturbing. We welcome the inquiry by the Rutherford County Pet Adoption and Welfare Services.”
Suspending the players makes sense, at least for now, and there could well be further punishment coming for them. The police are still investigating, and it’s possible that charges might be laid or they might be kicked off the team altogether. But at the very least, it’s positive that the AD opted to suspend these players and condemn their actions. The coach could have done a much better job on that front himself, but instead opted to give a wishy-washy statement complaining about social media.