When store manager Marci Lederman received a call from the police last week that there had been a break-in at
her store, she expected the worst, but instead found the best in a group of four young men.
Arriving at the store, Buddy’s Small Lots in Wayne, N.J, shortly after receiving the call, Lederman saw the store’s lights were on and the door was unlocked.
Lederman and the police looked about the store to see what was missing. There was no visible sign of damage or anything missing. But there was money on the counter. Was it left by thieves in a hurry to escape before the police arrived?
Lederman and the police decided to check the surveillance footage, and indeed somebody had been in the store after hours, but they were hardly thieves. The footage showed four young men, college football players at Division III William Paterson University, had entered the store assuming it was open. Apparently the store’s security system had malfunctioned after closing.
The players were shown shopping — they had arrived seeking batteries and a speaker cord — and upon finding their items, they approached the counter. Finding nobody there, they called out for a clerk and when nobody appeared, the players simply did the right thing.
They showed their items to the security camera, and their money, and placed the money on the counter. “Not only did they leave the money on the counter, they counted out the change,” Lederman told News12.com. They even figured in the sales tax.
Their simple nod toward honesty has garnered the players plenty of national attention.
One of the players (all freshmen), Thomas James, thought it was no big deal. “All people are not thieves,” he told the TV station. “You can’t judge people by the way they look.
His teammate, Kell’e Gallimore has been surprised by all the attention over a four dollar purchase. “I didn’t think it was going to blow up this big.” James and Gallimore were joined in their honesty spree by teammates Jelani Bruce and Anthony Bondi.
“This is a great opportunity to further our dreams,” Bruce told North Jersey.com. “We don’t want to be judged by the color of our skin or by our hairstyle or by how young we are.”
The nationwide attention their act of honesty has garnered will likely be more than the Pioneers football team, which finished 5-5 last year, will receive over the course of their collegiate careers.
Now, you may be wondering why you should care here in Oklahoma about four kids in New Jersey. But you should.
We are inundated with stories about the negative side of athletics, and often the meaning and purpose of collegiate athletics is lost in the media spotlight on misbehaving players, such as University of Oklahoma lineman Jake Reed who this past week was alleged to have broken into his girlfriend’s apartment and assaulted her. Reed was promptly suspended from school and the team.
Or we are treated to the hypocrisy of the Johnny Manziel autograph investigation and are left with a jaded view of collegiate athletics.
But, the actions of Paterson Four remind us the overwhelming majority of young people playing collegiately are good. And for that we owe them a simple thank you for restoring a little bit of perspective of the big picture of college athletics. It’s not all about touchdowns and it’s not about bad behavior, but also about developing character.
Ruthenberg is sports editor at the News & Eagle. Contact him at email@example.com.ꆱ