Alabama is receiving criticism after its sports information director told reporters to stick to basketball-related questions after Brandon Miller’s name was mentioned on Tuesday in the murder investigation of 23-year-old Jamea Jonae Harris.
As ESPN’s Paula Lavigne noted on Twitter, it’s the responsibility of reporters to provide information to the public, not act as a mouthpiece for Alabama or any other program.
Per ESPN, Tuscaloosa Detective Branden Culpepper’s testimony during a preliminary hearing on Tuesday revealed that star Alabama guard Miller “brought now-ex-teammate Darius Miles’ gun to him the night of the fatal shooting.”
According to investigators, Miles denied being the one to pull the trigger, instead pinning the murder on a known associate, Michael Lynn Davis.
Investigators said Miller fully cooperated with police when questioned and have also iterated he hasn’t been charged in connection with the murder.
An attorney representing Miller said his client “never saw the handgun or handled it” and that he “never knew that illegal activity involving the gun would occur,” via 24/7 Sports.
During pregame introductions against Arkansas on Saturday, Miller made an extremely inappropriate decision to do his traditional body pat-down, a move that was roundly criticized online and then by his coach, Nate Oats, after the game.
“It’s been addressed and I can assure you it definitely will not happen again for the remainder of this year,” Oats said.
Alabama came from behind to win the game 86-83 and remains in play for the number one overall seed in the upcoming NCAA Tournament. Basketball is the least important thing going on around the program, however, after Tuesday’s testimony by police linked Miller to the crime.
Ordering reporters to stick to a certain line of questions when there are much more serious matters to investigate only makes a bad situation worse.
Oats received criticism earlier this week for seemingly downplaying Miller’s involvement when he described the situation as Miller being in the “wrong spot at the wrong time.” Oats later apologized after receiving scrutiny for his careless remarks.
247 Sports reported on Wednesday that Miller — a projected top 10 pick in the 2023 NBA Draft — will need to answer tough questions from NBA front offices in the draft interview process this summer. If Alabama has its way, he won’t answer questions publicly about the situation anytime before then.
As important as he is to the Tide’s 2022-23 success, the controversy will grow louder the longer Alabama’s season goes on and he remains on the team.
The Tide might not want to address a situation that’s swallowed their season whole, but that shouldn’t stop reporters from demanding transparency from a state-funded university.
This isn’t something Alabama can escape, as much as it tries. Some things are bigger than basketball.