As we all know by now, several Gator football players have been involved in a serious off the field matter. It was a matter that saw none of the players involved get charged with a crime- although they’re lucky that insanely bad judgment isn’t against the law. And it’s also worth noting that some of what you’re about to read are purely allegations from a less than reputable character, so it shouldn’t all be taken as gospel.
While this isn’t a case of crime and punishment, this is a case of such a horrendous decision that lives could have been forever altered if not lost because of it.
The story goes like this. The relationships between several Gator football players and a Gainesville gambler named DeVante Zachery, nicknamed Tay Bang, turned sour. It reached a boiling point on May 28, when Florida players confronted Tay Bang en masse, warning “we coming back strapped” before leaving and then following through by returning wielding rocks, frying pans and what appeared to guns.
UF police were called to the Keys Residence complex to break it up, and when it was all said and done, Kadarius Toney and Kyree Campbell were referred to UF’s Student Conduct and Conflict Resolution department for brandishing what turned out to be airsoft rifles- a fact that was unknown at the time and could have potentially caused disaster due to this not being known- and Tyrie Cleveland, Emory Jones, Kemore Gamble and Rick Wells were also sent to the metaphorical principal’s office for lying about the incident to the police.
The police report also made a point of noting that the cops didn’t completely believe Tay Bang’s story.
It gets weirder, though. C’yontai Lewis told police that he and Tay Bang were good friends while Florida was winning, but once the 2017 season came off the rails, Tay Bang began referring to the team as “garbage” and whine about losing money that he bet on them to win. Objectively speaking, this feels like a good point to terminate a friendship. Which Lewis apparently did, although either he or his teammates obviously maintained contact with him since then- and the failure to not do so may have helped incite the madness that followed.
But the May 28 incident was far from the end of it.
On America’s birthday, the two parties evidently decided to orchestrate their own Fourth of July fireworks. One of Tay Bang’s friends reportedly knocked Tyrie Cleveland unconscious near the Rain Night Club. Tay Bang denied being at the scene and declined to tell the Gainesville Police who actually struck Cleveland, adding that the assault caused him for fear for his life.
Perhaps most troubling of all was a seemingly unrelated July 22 incident, in which Toney was pulled over and a rifle was discovered in his car- a real one. Toney claimed that he had it to protect himself from the locals. Now I’m just spitballing here, but by “locals,” I’m guessing he meant Tay Bang and his goons. Toney did not face consequences as a result of this stop.
And then just last night, Tay Bang claimed that he provided two Gator players with discounts on rental cars. That’s a big no-no that the NCAA will pursue to the fullest extent possible if true, and could potentially lob an ugly dark cloud over the program if the claim is deemed to be somewhat credible. In terms of potential ramifications, that little nugget is actually the most damaging thing to come out of this. I’m not publishing the names of the two players because I don’t find myself particularly inclined to believe a man who calls himself Tay Bang, but if it’s true, Florida suddenly has a whole different mess on its hands.
FirstCoastNews broke this story last week.
It’s again worth pointing out that no criminal charges will ensue from this story, at least not as of this publishing. But now that more facts are out, let’s take a second to consider just how stupid of a decision these players made.
Brandishing what looks like a weapon in the state of Florida after displaying hostile behavior and intent to do damage (which the players vocalized by saying “we coming back strapped”) just might be the single dumbest thing a human being can do without breaking the law. It doesn’t matter that Campbell and Toney did not actually possess guns; all that matters is that it looked like they did. Had Tay Bang or one of his cohorts shot the two players dead in their tracks, he would likely not have been charged with a crime due to Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” statute and the lives of Toney and Campbell would be over before they finished college. It’s a terrifying thing to imagine, but it could have so easily happened that it’s completely appropriate to point out the worst case scenario that could have arisen from it.
I’ll admit that for days now, I wrestled with the dilemma of whether to write about this story or not and give it even more attention than it already got. In addition for wanting to wait for more facts to come out, I initially didn’t want to write about it because the players involved- and I cannot stress this enough- did not commit a crime. Plus, they’re kids, or at least sub-25 year olds, which science dictates is the age at which the brain fully matures. Raise your hand if you never did anything stupid as a kid. Lots of times when a kid does something dumb, grounding, suspending or even firing him from a job can be accomplished without creating more ink about the kid that lives on forever. Now imagine you did that same dumb thing you did as a kid, but you played Division I Football. Your name is now in the paper, easily accessible to anybody who wants to look at you for a job or anything else, and it never goes away. I wrestled with that same dilemma with the Caleb Brantley and Adam Lane bowling alley story, but ultimately chose to write about it because they broke the law and their names would already come up in arrest records.
But issue here isn’t that the situation was criminal, it’s that it was potentially life-threatening. The absolutely insane levels of stupidity these players demonstrated is a lesson that others must learn from, and the players themselves would be wise to learn from. Hopefully they do, because if they don’t, their life paths do not look very bright. I wish each and every one of them the best as they attempt to grow and learn from this situation.