Mbakwe’s Mea Culpa: Lauding Minnesota’s Decision

Posted by rtmsf on January 12th, 2011

In an environment where everyone is quicker than a hiccup to play the role of judge, jury and executioner, consider the case of Trevor Mbakwe at Minnesota.  The talented big man and Gophers’ best player was arrested and jailed Monday night for violating a restraining order placed on him by a woman in neighboring St. Paul after he posted a comment on her Facebook page.  The restraining order, placed upon him in 2009, allows no contact whatsoever between Mbakwe and the woman, even through the relatively safe distance of the internet.  Yesterday Minnesota officials released the blurb that Mbakwe wrote:

Mbakwe's Recent Arrest Deserves Context

I know we haven’t talked in forever and trust me I’m not trying to start any drama with nobody in your life or anything. I just wanted to wish u the best with everything and I hope all has been well with you and your family. I am still disappointed how everything played out and I do wish that in the future we could be cool again. Idk how u r going to take this msg hopefully its not bad but I just wanted to wish u a happy new year and send out a congrats for graduating. I’ve been well I’m finally playin bball again in everything down in miami finally got taken care of thank god. Well idk if u will respond or not but best wishes for 2011.

Within an hour after publishing these comments, Mbakwe had the police at his door.  Now, we’re not about to sit here and tell you that the restraining order placed on Mbakwe is meritless or otherwise diminish its seriousness.  Restraining orders are only placed on people through court order, and for a court to make such a decree, there has to be solid evidence that the restrainee has crossed or shows a willingness to cross a common line of civility.  And for the woman involved, she without question would not have gone to such lengths unless she truly felt threatened in some manner by Mbakwe’s demeanor and prior actions.  So in terms of his arrest, we have no problem with it.  The police cannot choose if or when to enforce restraining orders; they have to do what the court tells them to do.  Mbakwe gets no sympathy on this point either — he certainly knew that he was not supposed to contact the woman, and still he chose to ignore that restriction.  Actions beget consequences; Mbakwe begat his. 

What we liked about this unfortunate situation, though, putting us at odds with some commentators out there, is that Minnesota made the right decision in choosing to not suspend or otherwise punish Mbakwe.  By the letter of the law, Mbakwe made an error in judgment, and represents a lesson that he’s undoubtedly learned (present good intentions will not erase previous bad acts).  But in reviewing the comment left on her Facebook page, it’s clear to us that Mbakwe wanted to make amends and essentially let the woman know that he’s sorry for his past transgressions and wishes her the best going forward.  This is called maturity.

Tubby Smith to his credit recognized this distinction when he said that Mbakwe’s actions were “well intentioned, but misguided” yesterday.  All too often, everyone including administrators rush to judgment before understanding the context of the facts involved, especially in environments like Minnesota’s where a rash of bad behavior over the past few years has somewhat stained the program.  In this case, an average fan who doesn’t know the situation would think that it’s just another thuggish athlete getting special treatment after breaking the law; but unfortunately, life is often much more complicated than a sound bite or a Facebook comment.  Mbakwe is undoubtedly learning this lesson slowly but surely, and he’s becoming a better man because of it. 

rtmsf (3775 Posts)


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2 Responses to “Mbakwe’s Mea Culpa: Lauding Minnesota’s Decision”

  1. Rob says:

    Said perfectly, RTC.

  2. garik16 says:

    Agreed on all counts. Of note: “restraining orders” can be given out fairly easily by courts and Courts at least in NY don’t feel bad about giving them out in disputes, regardless of the resolution of such disputes. That said, they often aren’t enforced very seriously (In NY, I found that they were enforced generally only when the restrained committed a second offense against the person who had the order against him).

    Here, there seems to be some serious element of enforcement, which is good form by the police. (And good for Minnesota as well, though they have their own self-interest to deal with.) Mbakwe was stupid in writing the message, but it’s clearly not a harmful one, so everyone did this right.

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