There is an interesting, and sad, scandal at the University of Southern California. Football star and NFL prospect Josh Shaw has been indefinitely suspended after admitting he made up a story that turned him into a national hero after he claiming to have injured both ankles jumping off a balcony to save his drowning nephew. He was heralded by the school and national media until the Los Angeles Times debunked the story in a scandal reminiscent of Manti Te’o controversy.
The school pushed the story originally of how Shaw was at a family party in Palmdale, Calif., Saturday when jumped to save his 7-year-old nephew, Carter.
According to the Trojans’ website, Shaw claimed he had jumped from a second-story balcony onto concrete before dragging himself into the pool and rescuing his nephew, who doesn’t know how to swim.
Shaw has admitted that he lied after the LA Times uncovered that there was a police account sharply contradicting his story. On the night that he claimed to have jumped from a second-floor balcony to save his nephew there was a police report of a woman screaming at an apartment complex about 60 minutes from Shaw’s family function. A woman told police that she saw a man run across a balcony and provided a description. That description was read to another woman at the complex who said “Sounds like my boyfriend, Josh Shaw.”
After going national with the hero story, the university was livid. Head coach Steve Sarkisian stated “He let us all down . . . Honesty and integrity must be at the center of our program.”
Shaw, a senior cornerback and team captain, has retained a lawyer.
The question is the appropriate sanction for such a false statement. The most serious aspect is not the false public account but lying to the university. The indefinite suspension from the program is obvious but should there be the additional suspension from the school? I think the team suspension is more than sufficient and a very sad blow at a critical point in this promising career. Not only will Shaw miss key games to show his abilities but NFL teams are leery of athletes with off-field problems though it did not bar Manti T’eo ultimately in joining the San Diego Chargers as a linebacker this year. The suspension is indefinite, which raises the possibility that he may never play again for the Trojans.
I expect that this is a nightmare for Shaw and his family. Teenagers can do and say stupid things. Most of us are not held up to the national limelight on such occasions. There is no indication of a crime here, but there is a serious violation in not just lying but claiming to be a hero. As an academic, I find such cases very difficult because we have all seen good kids (and adults) who get caught up in a lie that snowballs out of control. I would have much preferred his admitting the lie before the LA Times debunked the story but I hate to see a young man like this crash and burn over such a scandal.
What do you think?
Source: LA Times