I’ve known Joakim Noah for almost five years.
I’ve seen the fun-loving side of Noah that comes with success and winning championships. I’ve also admired his social conscience, his views on issues larger than his own circle and larger than basketball.
This was, after all, an athlete who flashed the peace sign with his two fingers at the White House and originally didn’t want to visit President George W. Bush because of his stance against the War in Iraq. Noah didn’t represent himself or Florida in the best light, nearly stumbling down the South Lawn stairs. But the whole embarrassment could have been avoided if Florida had respected his wishes not to attend the 2006 national championship ceremony in the first place.
That also was my first hint of how Joakim’s jovial side could sometimes morph into immaturity.
Noah should have used better judgement and respected the law. But any time you have an open container law that is “selectively enforced,” it leads to murky waters. Could the police officer have given Noah a break after he put the drink down? Yes. But then is it sending the message that just because you’re an iconic athlete you can get away with something an average citizen can’t? It was a tough call for the officer, especially when the 6-foot-11 Noah stands out like a tall pine tree.
Perhaps the whole open container law needs to be revisited. Thousands of people drink openly on streets and sidewalks during Florida football gamedays. Some get ticketed, but not everyone. And what about those same people who get behind the wheels of their cars, driving home intoxicated?
Without the open container violation, police would not have found a marijuana cigarette in Noah’s possession, which, while illegal, isn’t along the lines of starting a brawl on the street. And I seriously doubt that Noah was the only twenty-something in Gainesville who planned to partake on a Saturday night.
I just think we should judge Joakim’s weekend on the fact that while he could have made better choices, he didn’t risk harming anyone. I view it as a 23-year-old who made some immature mistakes.
The most harmful thing Noah may have done the whole wild weekend was not wear a seat belt. We’ve seen some tragic automobile accidents the past two years involving high school athletes who were not wearing seat belts.
So I’d advise Noah to buckle up on his next trip to Gainesville, stay away from downtown and take the party to his place.