(Todd A. Smith)
Forgive me for stereotyping or overgeneralizing because those things really show a person’s ignorance and bias.
But when I think of women’s college lacrosse players, I do not think of drug dealing, gun-toting criminals.
However, Georgia Department of Public Safety (DPS) police officers must have a different stereotype of women’s college lacrosse players because they must have thought they were breaking up a huge drug trafficking ring since they searched the Delaware State University women’s lacrosse team bus with drug sniffing dogs, thinking they would find some felonious activity.
Kevin Tresolini of USA Today reported, “The Delaware State University women’s lacrosse team was traveling north on I-95 in Liberty County, Georgia, southwest of Savannah, on April 20. The Hornets were returning home after playing their final home game of the season at Stetson University in Deland, Florida, on April 19.
“Bus driver Tim Jones was initially told he was improperly traveling in the left lane when the bus driver was pulled over…”
Delaware State women’s lacrosse player Saniya Craft recorded a video of an officer saying, “If there is anything in y’all’s luggage, we’re probably gonna find it, O.K.? I’m not looking for a little bit of marijuana but I’m pretty sure you guys’ chaperones are probably gonna be disappointed in you if we find any.”
USA Today reported that while the officer was giving his speech, the players’ luggage was being searched for contraband.
Let’s get this out of the way now.
Delaware State University is an HBCU (Historically Black Colleges and Universities).
Yes, there are non-Black students who attend HBCUs, especially on sports teams.
But most of the school, and the women’s lacrosse team, are Black.
Interstates are known for drug trafficking and human trafficking.
And whether many police officers will admit it or not, police officers profile when looking for suspects for alleged crimes.
That profiling goes both, and many, ways too.
When the D.C. sniper case dominated American headlines 20 years ago, some officers openly stated that they were looking for a White male in their 20s or 30s.
Because that’s the stereotype of a sniper to many people, an angry White male that is disgruntled with the way of the world.
The two D.C. snipers (John Lee Muhammad and Lee Boyd Malvo) were Black, one teenager and one middle-aged man, so the profile was off in more than one way.
Likewise, many people stereotype the drug dealer as a young Black person with certain hair styles, jewelry and flashy cars.
Honestly, many Black people do not have to wear the requisite clothing or jewelry for cops to pull them over on the interstate and search their car for contraband.
I never wore much jewelry.
I never dressed like a D-boy.
However, I still remember a Louisiana state trooper stopping me around Lake Charles, La in the spring of my junior year at Southern University and asking me if he could search my car for drugs and weapons.
Ignorantly, I allowed the officer to do so because I know I was speeding, and I wanted out of the ticket.
Without a search warrant, I allowed the officer to search my car if I could watch him do so.
As a Black man, I heard too many stories of cops planting guns and drugs on Black people to justify an arrest on trumped up charges.
Unfortunately for the officer, all he found was t-shirts promoting my campaign for Student Government Association president at Southern.
That was my reason for being on the road in the first place in the middle of the semester, to purchase campaign material in Houston.
Nevertheless, the entire incident still upsets me even though I allowed it to happen.
So, when the lacrosse players say they feel traumatized because of the incident, I feel them.
When the school president Tony Allen says he is “incensed,” I feel him too because this could have gotten out of hand really quickly.
Although Craft had every right to have her cell phone out during the traffic stop and film the encounter, what’s to stop the officer from saying he thought Craft’s cell phone was a weapon, killing her as a result.
What’s to stop the officers from planting drugs or weapons on the young ladies.
Then sending them to jail to deal with a state that does not have the best track record when it comes to race relations.
Did the officers have a warrant to search the vehicle?
If so, what probable cause did they have?
Since when does a simple traffic violation require searching luggage?
And if it was a simple traffic violation, why did they let the team go without giving Jones a traffic citation?
The Georgia DPS officers, according to reports, knew that the passengers were lacrosse players.
Georgia is ACC (Atlantic Coast Conference) and SEC (Southeastern Conference) country when it comes to collegiate athletics.
But for the sake of this article, let’s focus on the ACC because it is a lacrosse story, and the SEC is known more for football.
Do Georgia police officers have a history of stopping the Duke University lacrosse team if they come to the state to play?
Do they frequently stop the Notre Dame lacrosse team if they come to the state to play?
What about the other sports?
Do they stop the Boston College, Wake Forest or Syracuse baseball teams when they come to Atlanta to play Georgia Tech?
Now, I have no data to say definitively that those aforementioned school teams have not been stopped and searched while traveling in the state of Georgia.
But those aforementioned schools are all predominantly White, elite and rich private schools?
Lacrosse is an elite sport, often played by those who come from privileged backgrounds, stereotype notwithstanding.
Therefore, if a bunch of Black kids from the East Coast (where the sport is most popular) tell you they are a lacrosse team (or it says it on the bus), please for once lean on positive stereotypes of elite and rich Black people, and realize that Black women who play lacrosse, probably are not involved in the drug trade.
But my sincerest apologies for the stereotyping.