SPORTSTALK

Barking Mad

Charges dropped, but latest Gators arrest for what player called making 'woof woof' at a police dog raises new questions

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In my years of writing this column, I've found that I write many more arrest/trouble-with-the-law stories than I'd anticipated when I was handed the keys to the Sportstalk franchise in 2005.

Athletes across the spectrum seem to have issues with law enforcement. I feel like I've written a few articles about various arrests and legal situations faced by pro wrestling legend Ric Flair.

But the bulk of my "athlete gets arrested, and in other news, the sun will rise tomorrow" stories have to do with college athletes — specifically athletes from the University of Florida. As good as their football team has been on the field, and their basketball team has been on the court, the school's student-athletes can't seem to go very long without being clotheslined by the long arms of the law.

Sometimes, we see basketball players running afoul of statute — consider Joakim Noah's bust a few years back for a double dribble: open container law violation with a side violation of marijuana possession. Usually, though — and perhaps not surprising, given how many people are on the roster in any given year — the offenders are football stars.

Quite often, those offenses involve guns. I remember writing about former Gators and Jaguars player Dee Webb and the unfortunate incident that happened when he and a couple of other players were present when an assault rifle discharged and fired into a neighboring apartment. Charges were dropped, that time, for what a Gainesville police rep called "an accidental shooting with incredibly poor lapses in judgment." I bet Marissa Alexander wishes she'd received that benefit of the doubt.

And then, there's the Aaron Hernandez story, which seems to involve a purposeful shooting, albeit one with more "incredibly poor lapses in judgment." Though it is said that he has been a model prisoner since he was locked up a few weeks back.

Not all lapses in judgment involve firearms and inconvenient corpses, of course. Consider the curious case of Gators starting linebacker Antonio Morrison — a four-star recruit from Illinois who had already been arrested once this summer. As the Gainesville Sun sums it up:

"He was arrested by Gainesville Police after an incident June 16 outside the Kava Bar & Hookah Lounge at 1007 W. University Ave., after police said he got into an argument with a bouncer who refused to waive the cover charge for Morrison. The report said Morrison told the bouncer, ‘Don't you know who I am? I'm a football player. I'm Antonio!' Morrison then hit the bouncer with his fist on top of the head."

Morrison recently was arrested again — for making what he called "woof woof" noises at a police dog when out at another nightclub. Good move.

Naturally, this double trouble evoked a swift censure from the Gators' current coach:

"I'm extremely disappointed, in Antonio Morrison's decision-making," coach Will Muschamp said in a statement. "He has been suspended from the team and will miss at least two games to begin the season."

Never mind what games those are. The first one is against Toledo, a team that is being paid to come into the Swamp and lose convincingly. Toledo of Ohio, not Spain, to be clear. The second game is against Miami — of Florida, not Ohio, to be clear. If this were 1983 and Jimmy Johnson was swaggering on the 'Canes sideline, that might mean something. But in 2013, Miami is a middle-of-the-pack team in the atrocious Atlantic Coast Conference, and so it is that the contest means little.

Not much came of this arrest — charges were dropped on July 23.

Quite likely, Morrison's intent was not malicious. But does it befit a student-athlete at the University of Florida? Does it reflect well on that august institution of higher learning? Or is it just one more piece of evidence that it doesn't matter how much someone acts a fool, if he can run and hit, the Gators will put him in uniform, no questions asked, and that if things do go wrong in Alachua County, all it takes is a couple of news cycles for the incident to fade into history's shadows? 

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