Analyzing the LeGarrette Blount Suspension

September 4, 2009

Oregon senior running back LeGarette Blount was suspended for the entire season by his coach Chip Kelly on Friday for his actions after Thursday night's 19-8 loss at Boise State. After the embarrassing loss, Blount punched a taunting Boise State player and then appeared ready to fight with some fans before being taken off the field. The suspension will effectively end Blount's college career.

Nearly all sports media appear to be convinced that this punishment was entirely appropriate for this violent and unsportsmanlike behavior.

The entire scenario raises many disturbing questions that most in the media seem quite comfortable ignoring. For example:

1. Why is Boise State defensive end Byron Hout not being reprimanded?

First, I understand that taunting is not as bad as actually hitting someone.

I also very much understand the need to distinguish between what took place on Thursday and the types of cheap shots that typically might take place during a game. Thus, a shot to the head would be a personal foul or possible ejection during a football game, but is much more significant after the game is over and the players are walking off.

In football, there is plenty of trash talking during the game. However, similarly, it is a much bigger sin to physically confront a player, initiate contact to get his attention (an often forgotten fact), and then taunt that player to his face as the players are walking off the field.

In fact, it is much more surprising to see a winning player have the audacity to taunt someone like that after a game, then to see a player lose his cool and punch someone in reaction to that.

Don't think so? Would you dare do that to someone after you beat them? Why not? Other than the fact that it is incredibly disrespectful, you also know you could get hit in the face. Some might even feel you deserve it. My guess is that the reason a large fight didn't break out between the teams is that probably even some Boise State players thought it at least understandable that Blount hit their teammate. As a result, there was little retaliation.

Boise State head coach Chris Petersen, who had raced to the scene and was pulling Hout away as the punch landed, clearly was aware that his player was crossing a line with his taunting after the game. Unfortunately, Petersen seems to have forgotten the seriousness of his own player's conduct as a result of Blount's reaction. He is not even suspending Hout from so much as a practice.

Actually, both players deserve suspensions. Remember, Hout did not merely taunt Blount, but he actually made contact to get his attention.

2. Why are the media focusing on the punch by Blount on Hout so much when Blount's behavior towards the fans was clearly more disturbing?

In most stories about the incident, Blount's apparent willingness to fight with some Boise State fans is discussed as almost an afterthought. It is suggested as just another example of how Blount clearly had lost his cool.

But it was much more problematic than anything else he did. The altercation with the fans was the time when Blount really looked out of control and his inability to handle himself at that time is less forgivable. Dealing with hostile and angry fans is something all players should be used to and must learn how to deal with. That is a test that they cannot afford to fail.

A mitigating factor may exist, as Blount indicates that several fans actually struck him. If that is true, then it isn't fair to simply expect a player to take that abuse without doing anything to protect himself. However, Blount did appear out of control at that point and, like Ron Artest, probably wouldn't have even been able to distinguish an actual perpetrator from an bystander.

3. Why is everyone so afraid to talk about the racial implications regarding a black player striking a white player?

Of course everyone will say race doesn't matter and plays no part in how this is viewed and covered. And of course they will be wrong.

It may not be the sole determinative aspect, but it does impact how people see things. Racial groups do tend to differ on whether race is ever an element of the coverage, with whites the most likely to suggest that race plays no part whatsoever.

Frankly, the American media has had a long standing fear regarding the potentially "out of control" African-American male. Much of this is rooted in the historical role of slavery and its abolishment.

Thus, a violent act by a black athlete against a white one tends to trigger a disproportionate amount of outrage among the largely white media. There is definitely a strong feeling among writers and talk-show hosts that an example must be set in this case. I suspect this may also help explain the sense of sympathy that some appear to have for the "innocent victim" Hout.

4. Are NCAA programs attempting to imitate the arbitrary and often overly-harsh punishments set forth by the NFL and its dictator Roger Goodell?

Time will tell, but this unfortunately may be the beginning. The need for swift justice without seriously considering mitigating circumstances has been the norm in the NFL in recent years (with the surprising exception of the Michael Vick case).

Previously, college football could at least preach that they cared about developing young men as opposed to using their relatively cheap labor for money. To that end, at least Blount was allowed to keep his scholarship.

Unfortunately, Oregon's need to disassociate themselves from his behavior to the point of ending his playing days appears an awful lot like the cold, corporate mentality that they should have disavowed.

Manish Pandya
Staff Editor for


  1. I agree with most of this article and am amazed (though I shouldn't be) that Hout was not suspended. He provoked the incident and got what he deserved. Maybe he will learn from this, but the way Boise State is dealing with it, I doubt he will.

  2. oregon revealed its plantation mentality with this one. what an injustice!


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