Kendrick Johnson – Plenty of Blame to Go Around


A lot of people are upset because a college revoked the athletic scholarship it had offered to a high school student. But was it lost? The news says “pending a federal investigation.” Pending carries the meaning of awaiting, or until. It sounds like, if he comes up innocent, he gets the scholarship after all.

A student temporarily lost an athletic scholarship, and some folks see that as the most heartbreaking part of the story. But Kendrick Johnson lost his chance to play football, or basketball, or soccer, or ping-pong, or any fucking game whatso-fucking-ever. Not for a little while, but permanently. And in my book, that takes precedence.

Even if the suspect never gets a chance to play professional football, it’s not the fault of KJ’s parents. If things had been done differently, they might never have accused anyone of killing their son. But the authorities made some off-the-wall decisions and did some things that were crazy enough to leave the door open for suspicion.

Observers at the scene said that KJ, dead, was moved out of the gym and then back in – why? The coroner wasn’t called for six hours. The sheriff announced that no foul play was involved – which means, according to state law, the family can acquire the remains within 24 hours. But the authorities didn’t give the body up. They kept it. They transported KJ’s body quite a distance for an autopsy, and ditched his clothes and personal effects – including all his internal organs.

Makes sense to apportion some blame to the authorities who dragged their feet and acted very much as if they had something to hide.

But what if it really was an accident?

How about it, Lowndes High School authorities? According to at least one report, using mats for storage was customary. If it was normal for students to clamber over the tops of rolled mats and dive into them, weren’t you kind of lax to let that happen? Why weren’t the mats stored on their sides, or covered, to prevent exactly this kind of accident? And, for that matter, why the rental lockers? With the lavish athletic budget the school apparently enjoys, where are the free lockers? Why are kids storing their belongings in mats?

If it really was an accident, how about it, surveillance staff? With a buttload of cameras on the school premises, surely someone ought to have been watching the monitors for potentially harmful activity. Where was that person when this accident happened?

While eyeballing the many screens, to note the arrival of psychotic gunmen or terrorists or space aliens or whatever they are ostensibly on the alert for, the person in charge of observing the displays would have seen KJ doing something foolishly dangerous. If it was an accident, his life could have easily been saved without anyone breaking a sweat.

If an innocent young man’s reputation has been tarnished, blame the technician who tinkered with the surveillance footage and prevented us from viewing either the unfortunate accident, or whatever the hell happened there. But because somebody messed with the recorded evidence, we can’t see visual proof that the accused boy had nothing to do with KJ’s death.

Yet another alternative

People on the edges of violent events often suffer from the fallout, even if they did nothing wrong. It happens all the time, and generally Americans seem to easily tolerate the notion of collateral damage. If the youth under suspicion is innocent, and has to start college a year late with a delayed scholarship, it’s kind of a bummer. But I’m gonna say, of all the tragic sequelae of Kendrick Johnson’s death, that result is of the least consequence.

And of course the possibility always exists that KJ was killed by someone else. Maybe we should blame the real killer, who didn’t sign his work. The real killer could have saved that young fellow’s potential football career simply by admitting his guilt in a timely manner. Then, no one would have even looked at this kid, and his scholarship offer wouldn’t have been revoked. How about it, real killer? It may not be too late. Step up and ‘fess up, and get that boy’s scholarship reinstated. It’s the least you can do.


About Pat Hartman

Before publishing the two books "Call Someplace Paradise" and "Ghost Town: A Venice California Life", my main project was "Salon: A Journal of Aesthetics. " I wrote extensively for "Scene," a monthly arts and entertainment magazine with a circulation of 25,000. Also proofread, sold ads, put together the music calendar and, for a couple of years, served as editor. Presided over a couple issues of the local NORML newsletter, as well as being featured speaker at chapter meetings. Wrote a complete screenplay; collaborated on another one; worked on a couple of scripts (additional dialog and general brainstorming) with an indie film producer. Booked the talent for a large music festival. Wrote, designed, illustrated and produced various catalogs and brochures for small businesses. Spoke at a high school as a panelist on Women in the Professions; was a featured speaker at the 1991 Women in Libertarianism Conference; presented public programs on "Success in One Lesson" and "The Bloomsbury Group: What's It To Us?" Created the website and wrote many politically-oriented pieces for
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