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Former NBA player and Fab Five member Jalen Rose was suspended indefinitely by ESPN after reports surfaced that Rose had been arrested for drunk driving. According to ESPN, Rose was being sent to the bench for not reporting the incident to the network.  Rose allegedly failed a blood-alcohol test after his truck crashed in Bloomfield, Michigan on March 11. The incident didn’t get to ESPN until a Detroit station contacted the network to get more details for their own story.

“Jalen has accepted full responsibility for his actions. Both parties are taking this very seriously, and as a result, we’ve agreed that he will not be on our air while he addresses this situation,” ESPN spokesman Josh Krulewitz said in an e-mail to USA Today.

The Poynter Institute Review Project Blog, a partnership between ESPN and the Poynter Institute, cited Rose for allowing a competitor to tell the story before ESPN.  The group serves to provide an independent examination of all of ESPN’s media outlets. The Poynter folks seemed to feel that Roses’ actions compromise ESPN by making it appear that they were working to cover it up.

Rose issued this apology for his behavior:

“On March 11th, I was driving to my home when I was involved in a single-vehicle automobile accident,” Rose said. “I voluntarily submitted to blood alcohol screening because I was confident it was safe for me to drive. Although I was not feeling impaired, the results of these tests indicate that my blood alcohol level was above the legal limit.”

This has been a month of both highs and lows for Jalen Rose. On one hand, the documentary featuring Rose, along with other members of the Fab Five from the University of Michigan, was one of the highest-rated documentaries in the history of sports television.  At the same time, Rose created controversy by referring to the black players at Duke University as “Uncle Toms.” I interpret Rose’s “Uncle Tom” statement as a misguided attempt to describe his frustration with Duke University’s well-documented racial elitism.

Let’s be clear: Drunken driving is one of the most pathetic things a man or woman can do in our society.  It leads to countless deaths every year, and is one of the reasons that an academic study found alcohol to be the most dangerous drug in America. Jalen Rose should be ashamed, and if he has a drinking problem, he certainly needs help.

But the other side of the coin, we should consider this:  Charles Barkley, an analyst for TNT, has also been arrested for drunk driving. Shortly after his arrest, he was allowed right back onto the air. In his defense, he did inform the network of what happened, but the truth is that if a less-than-intellectual Charles Barkley can get several second chances, then a smart and conscientious brother like Jalen Rose can get another shot as well.

Either way, Rose’s mistakes do not take away from the fact that he has worked to be a fearless advocate for black male athletes. He speaks relentlessly about the exploitation of athletes, and it’s rare that someone with a platform as large as Jalen’s would have the courage to speak up on the inequities of the NCAA. In fact, I would argue that were it not for the article that Rose wrote in the Huffington Post, the NCAA president would not be talking about increasing the scholarship levels for college athletes.

I hope this incident doesn’t keep Jalen from taking a righteous stand on the issues that matter most to the African American community. He is a valuable voice for black America, and could be one of the key leaders in cleaning up the league that steals hundreds of millions of dollars from the black community every single year. All the while, Rose should also learn from the old Chinese saying that “The fattest pig always gets slaughtered.” This means that if a man chooses to stand out front and say things that people don’t want to hear, he has to keep his “game tight” and not give his enemies an opportunity to destroy him. By engaging in irresponsible behavior, Jalen is opening the door for others to ruin his reputation, for haters are always watching when you try to do the right thing.

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