By Rickey Hampton, Editor and Founder of The African-American Athlete,
Let’s be clear, former Tennessee State University football player Latrelle Lee’s decision to sucker punch a coach on the sidelines during a game last week was reprehensible.
Surely, you have probably seen the tape of Lee, punching strength and conditioning coach T. J. Greenstone multiple times on the sidelines.
Lee’s actions were uncalled for, unnecessary, and can’t be tolerated.
Lee embarrassed himself, his family, his teammates and coaches, and the university.
TSU responded quickly. Coach Rod Reed dismissed him from the team, and the university has expelled him.
His violence does not represent the regal tradition of Tennessee State University.
However, as upset as practically everyone is with Lee, it is important that we do not throw him away.
Lee, 22, can’t let five seconds define the rest of his life. So, he has work to do. The first thing he needs to do is apologize to coach Greenstone, and then his teammates, classmates, and the university.
He then needs to enroll in an anger management class, and any other kind of counseling to help him understand what triggered that violent outburst, to make sure it never happens again.
Lee also needs to be ready to face any consequences that comes his way.
However, let’s understand that Latrelle Lee didn’t kill anyone, and even though he punched out Greenstone, his intent was not murder.
We can’t just set this young man aside. As we all know, there are already too many young black men who are lost.
Clearly, this young man has value and worth. From all reports Lee is known as a well liked, respected, member of the TSU campus. He is active in student life activities, and he is an outstanding student, who was scheduled to graduate in a few weeks.
The fact that Lee was a member of the TSU football team shows he has demonstrated character. Otherwise, TSU coach Rod Reed, who I have known personally for more than 30-years, would not have him around in the first place. Reed is a man of strength and character, and he demands that from his players.
And while I understand TSU has its reputation to uphold, their is still a responsibility to reach out to assist Lee. Although he has been expelled, there should be a way that he is able to receive his degree at some point.
It would take Lee meeting parameters the university sets. If he is able to successfully complete those tasks, such as counseling, community service, and show heartfelt contrition, the university should, at some point, confer him his degree. Such an act by the university would be in the tradition of HBCU’s mission to uplift and educate the black community.
However, the reality is Lee’s five second outburst has put much of his future in the hands of others.
Here is hoping there is some compassion for him at some point. While there is no question that Latrelle Lee should be punished, he shouldn’t be thrown away.