The family of 23-year-old Jamea Harris, the young woman and mother who was killed during an incident that reportedly involved former University of Alabama basketball player Darius Miles doesn’t want to hear anything more from Alabama head coach Nate Oats or his players about Harris’ death. It’s a death that took place shortly after current player Brandon Miller brought a gun belonging to Miles to Miles after the former teammate reportedly requested the gun via a text to Miller. Authorities in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, say Michael Davis, who doesn’t attend the University of Alabama, and is a longtime friend of Miles, shot Harris. Miles and Davis face capital murder charges.
Oats has said that his freshman star Miller was still playing because he was not “considered a suspect” and that he was at the “wrong spot at the wrong time” and that Miller “did nothing wrong.” These are words that proved stinging to Harris’ stepfather, Kelvin Heard.
“There was only one person in the wrong place at the wrong time and it was Jamea,” Heard told Al.com. “When I heard him say that my heart hit the floor. His words cut so deep. It’s just downright disrespectful.”
Why Is Brandon Miller Still Playing?
Prior to Harris’ death, Miller drove his car to pick up Miles from a nightclub where he’d dropped him off earlier, according to USA Today. The gun used to murder Harris reportedly was in the vehicle underneath some clothing in the back seat of Miller’s car. Whether Miller knew what Miles’ intentions were may not be clear, but he reportedly was on his way to pick up Miles when Miles texted asking him to bring his gun to him.
Miller’s car reportedly was still on location when shots were fired, reportedly with some bullets hitting his windshield, and he left when the shooting started.
That Miller has been allowed to continue playing while he’s at the very least adjacent to a murder and potentially complicit continues to baffle many.
The sight of Miller starring on the court and leading Alabama to its best season in school history, while vaulting himself to best player in the country status and potential top-five NBA draft pick is a harsh reminder of what we value in our society.
None of it is lost on Heard and Harris’ mother, DeCarla Cotton.
“He brought a gun to where a person was murdered and he did nothing wrong?” Heard told AL.com. “Jamea could still be alive…This season is stained in Jamea’s blood. After what this coach said, for us as a family, this season is stained in the blood of Jamea Harris and it’s not ever washing out. Coach Oats crossed the line. He said they prayed at practice. They weren’t praying for Jamea. They were praying for their own players.”
It’s easy to understand the pain and grief Harris’ family is currently experiencing. Their loved one is dead. Harris’ 5-year-old-son, Kaine, has to process death and grow up without his mother.
Oats was forced to backtrack a bit following those initial comments. But after a win over South Carolina this week where Miller scored a career-high 41 points, including the game winner, Oats lauded Miller’s performance as “mentally tough” amid a “distraction.”
Alabama And Nate Oats Lack Empathy
Oats’ lack of empathy and empty words offering “thoughts and prayers” aren’t for Harris’ family. If they were, he would’ve reached out to them directly through proper channels.
“One of the most mentally tough kids I’ve ever coached,” Oats said in his postgame availability. “Not surprised he came ready to play and played well tonight. It could’ve been a distraction. But Brandon showed up.”
Talk about tone deaf.
But what would you expect from a man who when it was discovered that his star player was involved in a murder called former NFL LB Ray Lewis, who was involved in a murder case in 2000, for advice?
Miles who allegedly handed the gun to the shooter Davis was immediately booted from the team. That was easy. He barely played and was not critical to the team’s success. But without Miller this team is nothing.
“There are only two tragic figures in this and they are Jamea and Kaine and that can’t get lost,” Heard told Al.com.
We’ve become so desensitized to violence as a society and the only value systems society has for Black bodies are when they involve profit.
Heard has requested that Oats never say the name Jamea Harris, or the name of her surviving son, until Oats calls the family and offers Harris’ mother condolences regarding her daughter’s death.