Saunders: Duke players shouldn't hold weapons - even simulated ones

bsaunders@newsobserver.comOctober 22, 2013 


Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski smiles after Jabari Parker (1) slams a thunderous dunk.


— Coach Mike Krzyzewski over at Duke doesn’t do many things wrong, and Tar Heel fans, well, we hate him for it.

As a Heels fan since the days of Charlie Scott, Larry Miller and Rusty Clark, despising anything associated with Duke basketball – except Bucky Waters – is inbred. You rejoice when Duke loses or the program makes a misstep.

Take the recent picture of Duke basketball players holding semi-automatic machine guns. That was a misstep.

But not a huge one, especially when you read the backstory and realize that it was part of a team-building exercise at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, that it was supervised and that the guns were only laser simulations of the real thing.

When presented with such a visceral image of young males holding ominous-looking weapons, though, how many people are going to read the backstory?

Images we don’t need

Young men with guns is something we see seemingly every day – and not just in cool photo ops. We see and read about the carnage and mayhem that is too often wrought by them. Frankly, we don’t need those images intruding the hallowed halls of academia.

In fact, because of gun violence on campuses in recent years, schools and universities have had to implement security and emergency notification measures to alert students when some armed madman may be on campus.

So given our history, any glorification of guns or introduction of them into areas that they aren’t essential is an air ball.

That Obama photo

It’s like last year, when the White House, eager to allay fears that the president has a secret plan to confiscate every gun in America, released a picture of him supposedly skeet shooting.

First, some think the First Dude is coming for their Breech loader, their Roscoe and their heater. Second, the president looked as uncomfortable holding that rifle as I would holding a book on Japanese arithmetic.

I said then and now the same thing we said when my teenage buddies and I sneaked backstage at a wonderfully tawdry carnival in Rockingham and saw a grotesquely fat man sitting on a tiny stool with just a towel barely draped over him.

We all agreed: “Dang. I didn’t need to see that.”

None of us needed to see the president shooting a gun or members of one of the most admired college basketball programs posing with guns.

Jon Jackson, associate athletic director at Duke, told me, “West Point was one of the stops on a four-day trip to the New York City area. They went to Rucker Park, they went to Harlem, they went to the World Trade Center one day.” They also went to see “Motown” on Broadway, he said.

The players pictured with guns, Jackson said, were participating “in a combat simulation that cadets go through. They’re laser guns, part video game. … Basically, it was a team-building exercise they went through, talking about coordination among the team and communication.”

See, not as bad as it looked.

Wouldn’t it have been lovely, though, if they had been pictured with books instead?

Sure, it’s possible to get distressed over the image of the players with guns and ascribe to it powers it doesn’t possess.

Nobody – or at least, I’m not – is saying that seeing Duke’s hoopsters holding guns while wearing their team warm-up gear is going to increase shootings or violence or gang membership. The picture, which has been removed from Duke’s Twitter page, isn’t likely to do any harm at all.

But like the almost-nekkid fat dude we saw sitting on that tiny stool, it just doesn’t look good.

Saunders: 919-836-2811

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