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Towers: Reporting of arrests just part of the job

UGA defensive back Juwuan Briscoe (12) runs a pass-catching drill during a practice last fall.

ATHENS — When it comes to UGA students and/or Georgia football players getting arrested and hauled off to jail for not having a driver’s license, I agree with all those out there crying, “that’s ridiculous.” As for those saying we in the press shouldn’t report such things, I’m afraid I disagree.

Juwuan Briscoe, a sophomore from Waldorf, Md., is a starting cornerback for the Bulldogs as of the G-Day Game. He was arrested this past Saturday for driving without a driver’s license and not wearing a seat belt. He was subsequently taken to jail and had to bond out for $1,000, which is essentially $100 in real money.

I don’t think he should have been taken to jail, and neither does most anybody I’ve heard from the past couple of days, but that’s the law. That hasn’t always been the law, but it’s the law now and it has been for a while. My colleague Seth Emerson is currently working on a story about all that which will appear on DawgNation as soon as he can get it reported.

As for our part, reporting that Briscoe was arrested, I just have to say that it’s our job to do so. Arrests are public information and Briscoe, being a scholarship football player for the Georgia Bulldogs, is a public figure. Therefore, it’s our duty as reporters to simply let folks know this happened.

As of this writing, we don’t know the details of Briscoe’s arrest. The University of Georgia police department said Monday morning the arrest report is not yet ready. That, too, is public information, so eventually we’ll find out. This whole situation may be as silly and innocent as it seems. Then again, it may not. That’s for the police and Briscoe to sort out.

I don’t know the actual rationale behind incarcerating people who don’t have their licenses on them or have let them lapse. But I’m sure there is a good reason. If I’ve learned anything about the UGA Police and other local law enforcement in Athens, they follow the letter of the law. If they did as a lot of people suggest and just made on-the-spot judgments and let things slide, there could be serious repercussions. Just look around the nation where lax attitudes toward athletes from law enforcement has led to trouble.

Some have asked, why would you report on this when you don’t report the dozens of other people who are subjected to similar sort of arrests? The simple answer is, Georgia football players aren’t like everybody else. These guys are public figures. They’re representatives of UGA.

Last time I checked, and it’s been awhile, but the school spends close to $300,000 apiece on these guys to play football and matriculate at the school. They get a lot more than tuition, room and board. They get high-end training table, cutting edge strength and conditioning and unlimited academic support, not to mention the best football and academic education the state can offer.

In exchange, they become known to thousands of people, bring in millions of dollars for the university and usually reap long-term benefits of their high-profile association with the school, whether it be in professional football or it be in post-college business and employment opportunities.

I know Briscoe better than most of the young players on Georgia’s team. I had the good fortune of visiting with him last spring as part of our Next Generation series on new signees. That’s a series Emerson and I are currently working on now. I spent a whole day with Briscoe in Maryland, met his mom and aunt and coach and a local detective who serves as his mentor. I found Briscoe to be a very upstanding young man and promising young athlete.

Nothing that’s happened here has changed my perception of Briscoe. I’m sure there’s a good reason for this mix-up and, last time I checked, UGA doesn’t suspend their athletes for traffic citations. I’m sure he’ll get it worked out. He’ll be fine.

But we still have to do our job. If these kids are arrested, we’ll report it , just as other media outlets do. The key here for the student-athletes — as it is for all citizens — is to not end up in police reports.

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