Passions would run high in a fanbase as devoted as North Carolina’s if Roy Williams got a haircut, so you can bet that P.J. Hairston’s adventurous summer has caught the attention of Tar Heel supporters.
The team’s returning scorer was most recently cited for speeding and careless and reckless driving, but that is only the tip of the iceberg. He has driven two rental cars tied to convicted felon Haydn “Fats” Thomas, been arrested on charges of possessing marijuana and driving without a license.
Throw in a 9 mm handgun that was found at the same traffic stop as the marijuana, and Hairston has been in the news for all the wrong reasons.
Williams originally said that Hairston would face “serious consequences,” but after the latest incident he hit Hairston with an indefinite suspension. The term indefinite is very vague in nature, and for a fanbase that is already split on how to handle Hairston, that only serves to drive a bigger wedge between opinions.
Naturally, the thing that immediately comes to mind for many fans is the on-court product. There are those that think losing the team’s leading scorer for a speeding ticket is a bit harsh:
I can't believe P.J. Hairston was suspended for a year. GOR A STUPID DRIVING TICKET?!?! There goes our season..— Zach Whitaker™ (@zachwhitaker4) July 31, 2013
WHAT THE MESS! I AM MAD AT ROY WILLIAMS! Kicking P.J Hairston off the team just for some speeding tickets bruh there goes are season.— KO Obiyor IX (@_GreatAmbition) July 29, 2013
But when it comes to Hairston, it’s not as simple as boiling it down to the latest traffic incident. As 99.9 The Fan’s Joe Ovies shrewdly points out, Williams didn’t have much of a choice but to become stricter with the star wing.
Just how much more will Williams tolerate? Only the coach knows, but his patience for handling talented players with a dumb decision streak is certainly being tested at the moment.
In the unlikely scenario Hairston finds himself off the team, it won't be because of simple traffic violations or a questionable relationship with a local party promoter with a penchant for fancy cars. It'll be because he decided to go about being "that dude" instead of heading the warning of his coach.
But it is certainly not every North Carolina fan that immediately blamed Williams for too strict of a reaction. Personal responsibility is not dead, which means there are some going with the revolutionary approach of actually blaming the person (Hairston) who got in trouble.
Damn you P.J Hairston.. Just bringing down the Heels before the season starts— Connor Skaare (@Scare24) July 29, 2013
It is important to remember here that Hairston’s indefinite suspension doesn’t necessarily mean he is gone for the season. Yes, removing Hairston from the team for an undetermined amount of time carries some teeth, but there are cynics out there when it comes to collegiate sport discipline.
P.J. Hairston "suspended indefinitely" = until the season starts. #showdiscipline— Chris Rackley (@ChrisRackley) July 29, 2013
As with anything in life, there is some middle ground to be established. Monica Biddix of Keeping it Heel writes a semi-defense of Hairston where she agrees with Williams’ decision to suspend him from the team but points out his actions thus far don’t necessarily warrant the loss of a scholarship.
She breaks down the transgressions one-by-one and comes to the conclusion that in a vacuum none of Hairston’s issues are particularly crippling. She also points out an important caveat:
Sometimes fans, especially the older we get, forget that the college athletes we love so much are young adults who are going to make poor decisions.
There is more at stake here than just how Hairston’s suspension may hypothetically impact the Heels on the court. He is a young man who continues to make mistakes and may cost himself serious money or worse down the road. Biddix is again spot on when she sees the bigger picture:
College basketball doesn’t need any more Len Bias stories. I hope to see P.J. Hairston in a UNC uniform next season, but I also hope this suspension finally sends him the right message.