Stop me if you’ve heard this one: a professional ball player is busted for pot, because of something caused by people around him. He happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time … also holding drugs.
This is pretty much the story most are telling of the recent arrest of Sacramento Kings forward Zach Randolph. The NBA star was arrested for possession of marijuana at a house party. But the police didn’t just happen to be checking all the tall guys for weed. According to the Associated Press, the police stopped to check out the party because they saw, “… a crowd drinking, smoking pot, blasting music, and blocking streets…” Subsequent reports included police saying they saw some men, including Randolph, “reach for their waist bands and then run away…”
The police got out to investigate and, in the altercation that followed, “several police cars were vandalized when a large gathering became unruly at a Los Angeles housing project…” After order was restored, the AP reports five police cars and one sheriff’s vehicle were damaged.
Randolph was found to have a distributable amount of marijuana, so the police charged him with both possession and intent, though not with vandalism.
Randolph’s attorney, Raymond Brothers, immediately denounced the charges, “The charges are false and misleading… We’re looking at all options to resolve this matter.”
It could have gone much differently. When police stopped, Randolph and another man fled into a house. A third man was questioned and released. The police wanted to question Randolph, so they approached the house. According to the report, bystanders then tried to keep the police from entering the home. A scuffle broke out, and people in the crowd began throwing bottles and rocks at the police.
The news is bad for Randolph, who just signed with the Kings last month after playing eight seasons in Memphis. He’s also played for the Clippers, Knicks, and Trail Blazers. At present, the Kings aren’t commenting to the press. But they can’t be happy about this development. They picked up a guy to help them under the hoop, and now they have a major PR issue on their hands.
And so does the two-time NBA All Star. Randolph has certainly soured his new team on his ability to bring good things to the team. It doesn’t matter that most of the country, and, likely, many of his colleagues, see nothing wrong with marijuana. It’s still illegal in most states, and the league can’t have players caught up in things like this.
The riot makes it that much worse. By all accounts, Randolph took no part in the violence against the police. He was, apparently, cooperative and hopes to clear his name. Unfortunately for Randolph, that name is now tied to violence against the police. Even if he does get clear of the pot charges, he will have to deal with the PR fallout from being the most famous person on the scene when bad went to worse.