Two high-profile SEC athletes were both revealed to be connected to deaths within a couple of weeks of each other.
There’s Alabama Crimson Tide’s men’s basketball star Brandon Miller, who projects as an early pick in the NBA Draft, and Georgia standout DT Jalen Carter, who has the potential to go No. 1 in the NFL Draft.
Miller was linked in court to the fatal shooting of Jamea Jonae Harris. Tuscaloosa Det. Branden Culpepper testified that Miller delivered the gun to his former teammate Darius Miles, who in turn handed the gun over to Michael Lynn Davis, who is not affiliated with the university.
According to testimony, Miller delivered the gun to Miles and was present when the shooting occurred. Miller’s attorney said the gun was in the back of his car and that he didn’t see it or handle it. He hasn’t been charged with a crime and Paula Whitley, the chief deputy district attorney in Tuscaloosa, told AL.com that “there’s nothing we could charge [Miller] with.”
“While Darius has been accused of being involved with this tragedy, he maintains his innocence and looks forward to his day in court,” Birmingham law firm Boles Holmes White LLC said in a statement on behalf of Miles.
Miles, who has since been dismissed from the Crimson Tide, and Davis were both indicted on capital murder charges Friday.
Miles’ attorney Mary Taylor released a statement:
“While we are not surprised by the indictment based on the reality that a person accused of a crime is not allowed to present any evidence to the Grand Jury, we are nonetheless disappointed that the Government presented this case to the Grand Jury as Capital Murder considering the evidence uncovered during our investigation and the obvious weaknesses in the Government’s case brought to light during the preliminary hearing.”
“We are not surprised with the indictment,” Davis’ attorney, John Robbins, told ESPN’s Elizabeth Merrill. “We were expecting it all along. We’re happy that the state moved quickly on this matter so we can get into court and get this case tried as quickly as we can before a jury. We are going to vigorously defend this case and defend my client’s right to protect himself when someone points a gun at him and shoots him.”
In a statement shared with The Tuscaloosa News, Robbins said “Michael is a good person from a good family, and he intends to vigorously defend himself against these charges.”
Carter’s brush with the law
One of Carter’s teammates, Devin Willock, and Chandler Lecroy, a Georgia football staff member, died in a car accident shortly after Georgia won the national championship.
Carter, 21, was charged with reckless driving and racing.
He released a statement on Twitter that read: “It is my intention to return to Athens to answer the misdemeanor charges against me and to make certain that the complete and accurate truth is presented. There is no question in my mind that when all of the facts are known that I will be fully exonerated of any criminal wrongdoing.”
Will this affect each player’s draft stock?
I’ve seen Miller mocked from spots three to six in the upcoming NBA draft, and Carter was a contender for the first selection. If they end up being selected at these spots even after the news about them has come out, then can we as a society admit that the pre-draft interview process is complete nonsense?
Don’t say that you value a player’s character and need to have several interviews to know whether they’re the right choice, and then draft someone connected to a death. I’m not saying that these players are guilty of wrongdoing or that they don’t deserve to play professionally — the legal process is still playing out — but if that doesn’t give teams pause about drafting them then I’m not sure what will.
So many times athletes have had their draft stock tanked from what NFL teams arbitrarily labeled as “character issues” when they were undoubtedly less serious than what has transpired with these two. In 2016, many expected offensive lineman Laremy Tunsil to be a top-three selection, but a video of him smoking weed through a bong attached to a gas mask was Tweeted from his account 10 minutes before the draft in what Tunsil’s agent claimed was the result of his account being hacked. He was drafted 13th which, assuming he would’ve been drafted third had the video not been tweeted, cost him about $13 million dollars.
Whatever your opinion on smoking weed (something that will likely be legal everywhere in the U.S. before long) surely you have to admit smoking it isn’t as bad as anything that results in someone’s death.
A text exchange in which Tunsil asked the assistant athletic director at Ole Miss for payment that he could use for rent and pay his mother’s $305 electric bill. My God… How does this guy sleep at night?
Carter has ‘really good interview’ at NFL Combine
At this year’s NFL combine they reportedly held games of mini golf and darts to test their competitiveness. If someone’s draft stock falls because they didn’t care enough about mini golf but Carter’s stock doesn’t fall after being charged with a crime, then can we finally admit these interviews are nonsense?
NFL teams are allowed 45 18-minute formal interviews with prospects at the combine, which was recently reduced from 60. All in the effort to make sure that the players they draft are all upstanding citizens and the right fit for their team, as if someone’s warm personality is actually going to help their draft stock.
Jonathan Gannon, the new head coach of the Arizona Cardinals, who have the third pick, said that they had a “really good interview” with Carter. How good? Was it the best interview anyone’s ever had in any context? Because how else can you ignore his current legal issues?
Along with Lecroy, Carter was reportedly “operating their vehicles in a manner consistent with racing” before the crash.
“The evidence demonstrated that both vehicles switched between lanes, drove in the center turn lane, drove in opposite lanes of travel, overtook other motorists, and drove at high rates of speed, in an apparent attempt to outdistance each other,” the police statement said.
Carter denied racing to the officer, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
In September of last year, Carter was pulled over for driving 89 mph where the speed limit was 45, which suggests a pattern of this behavior.
Body camera footage shows the officer that pulled him over telling him, “Your break is you’re not going to jail. That’s your break. Cause that would make all kinds of news right?” Carter was fined $1,013. That was a close one. He almost made the news.
As for Miller, during the pregame introduction against Arkansas, he chose to go forward with a “pat-down” entrance as he was announced to the crowd.
That was, at the very least, extremely tone-deaf.
I’m not saying that Miller and Carter necessarily deserve to be drafted lower than they would’ve been — there could be nuances to these situations that we’re just not seeing — but it feels like there’s a double standard. For most players, teams will try to find any reason to move them lower on their draft boards, but for the truly elite talents, they will excuse any behavior.