It’s a common story. Student newspaper prints story about popular campus figure getting busted, and the suspect’s buddies/teammates/fraternity brothers/sorority sisters steal the press run to keep the rest of campus in the dark.
But what happened at Texas A&M-Commerce was much different. As The Battalion newspaper reported, when two football players,Stephen DeGrate and Dakota Burch, were videotaped stealing copies of the East Texan reporting a teammate’s arrest for a drug bust, head coach Guy Morris not only told police his players did it — but he praised them for doing it.
“I am proud of my players for doing that,” Morris said. “This was the best team building exercise we have ever done.”
The coach reportedly said that taking a free newspaper is not theft. But only the first issue was free — subsequent copies are 25 cents a piece. But the crime goes beyond the monetary value of the papers or the advertising inside each paper. It was an attempt to withhold information from people. It flies in the face of the First Amendment guarantees of press freedom, and it definitely runs counter to a university being a place where information and ideas can be freely exchanged.
It is even more appalling that Morris, who is supposed to be a mentor and a role model for his players, to be supporting an illegal act. Sports are supposed to teach people character, and that includes obeying laws and rules, as well as respecting other people’s rights.
Morris said that if the police pursue the case, he would likely be the first led out in handcuffs.
We can only hope.