On Tuesday, Washington basketball coach Lorenzo Romar suspended senior point guard Venoy Overton for the duration of the Pac-10 tournament after the Seattle city attorney's office announced that the player will be charged with furnishing alcohol to a minor, a gross misdemeanor that stems from an incident earlier this year in which Overton was accused of sexually assaulting a 16-year-old girl. Many local sports pundits have reacted with indignation, arguing that the punishment was not nearly severe enough, but here are five good reasons why Overton should be on the court in tonight's big game.
Overton's name was not officially disclosed until Tuesday, when he was charged with the much lesser crime. But it's not as if his involvement has been a closely guarded secret. WSU's entire student section even outed Overton on live TV, serenading him with chants of "No Means No."
One person who most definitely knew the name of the player in question? Lorenzo Romar. So why wait until now to act? To keep his name out of the press? Romar and UW had to realize that Overton's name would get out eventually, and they certainly knew what he allegedly did. Holding off until more than two months after the fact to hand down the suspension--when absolutely zero new details have surfaced--makes no sense.
2. Whatever happened to "innocent until proven guilty"? Romar's excuse in January for not naming or publicly punishing Overton was, in so many words, "We don't know what really happened, let's wait for the investigation to run its course." This proved to be a wise decision, as prosecutors and police discovered that Overton's accuser's story simply didn't add up. She told police she never once said "no" or "stop" or anything like that while they were doing the dirty, and several witnesses reportedly said she was a willing participant. As a result, Overton was not charged with sexual assault, and Romar was, at least temporarily, vindicated.
Then the Seattle City Attorney decided that Overton would be charged with furnishing booze to a minor. Not convicted. Charged. If Romar can wait for the sexual-assault investigation to run its course, why can't he wait for a jury to decide whether Overton is indeed guilty of this crime?
3. Overton has already been disciplined. After the allegations, Overton was quietly demoted from the starting lineup and relegated to a backup role. Romar has also said recently that the senior was disciplined behind-the-scenes and by his family. What that means remains a mystery (one imagines him running endless lines in the gym and/or getting a serious whupping from his mother/father), but to hear coach tell it, Overton has already had to sacrifice and pay a price. There should be no double jeopardy, which is what his suspension amounts to.
4. And besides, what's the big deal? Admittedly, the 23-year-old Overton has no business hooking up with two 16-year-old girls. It shouldn't matter if it was consensual, anyone with a half a conscience knows that's just wrong.
But buying liquor for minors? That's on par with jaywalking on the criminal-seriousness scale. It happens hundreds of times a day on the UW campus alone. Yes, a law is a law, and no matter how asinine that law may be, Overton is accused of breaking it. But if Overton is only being suspended because he supplied alcohol and a place to party for a couple of willing teenagers, the sentence far outweighs the crime.
Romar should have taken a cue from his protege at WSU, Ken Bone, who suspended his stars Klay Thompson and Reggie Moore just a single game for a roughly equivalent offense, misdemeanor marijuana possession.
5. The team needs him. As if the previous four arguments weren't enough to justify Overton playing tonight, consider this: If the Huskies lose, they will probably be left out of the NCAA tournament. That impacts far more people than just Overton. His teammates will suffer. And the University, which gains money and prestige by appearing in the Big Dance, will also suffer.
Overton is crucial to the Huskies' success. His ballhawking defense sets the tone for the entire team, and his speed in the open court creates penetration and easy baskets. Without him, they don't have a backup point guard to spell Isaiah Thomas. The Dawgs can win without Overton, but it won't be easy. And if they lose, this could be Overton's last game as a Husky. After four years of giving his all for the program, he deserves the chance to suit up one last time, even if he made several extremely questionable decisions one night in January that tarnished his legacy.