The state of New Mexico remains embroiled in a bitter controversy that began when a wrestler won a state title on a day when he was supposed to be suspended from school and extracurricular activities. While that controversy might not seem earth shattering, the reasons behind the suspension give plenty of reason for second guessing: The athlete reportedly aggressively slapped one of his own teammates in the face in front of his classmates, then took his money.
As reported by Albuquerque TV network KRQE, Albuquerque (N.M.) Rio Grande High senior Nicholas Chavez was served with an official criminal complaint for his actions with a younger teammate, with Chavez allegedly slapping the unnamed youngster viciously in the face, then taking $15 of lunch money.
As a result of that complaint, Albuquerque Public Schools issued Chavez a three-day suspension, with that ban coming just before the New Mexico state wrestling meet. Because the suspension covered the days when Chavez would have competed in the state tournament, he would have been banned from the meet.
Yet that didn’t happen thanks to the actions of three local politicians who acted to ensure Chavez would remain eligible to compete for a state crown. According to both KRQE and the Albuquerque Journal, Albuquerque County Commissioner Art De La Cruz, state senator Michael Padilla and school board member Analee Maestas all made pleas to allow Chavez to compete in the tournament that eventually crowned him as state champion.
“It would be heartbreaking to deny him this lifetime opportunity that could impact for his entire following, his entire life,” De La Cruz told KRQE.
While De La Cruz’s sentiment is understandable given the limits of instantaneous due process, it’s also difficult to understand how any of the politicians could speak act so passionately in the wrestler’s defense, given that there were witnesses who watched Chavez essentially shake down a younger teen for his lunch money.
Indeed, a more cynical onlooker might inquire as to how aware De La Crauz, Padilla and Maestas were about Chavez’s undefeated record, and the likelihood that he could earn a state title for a school in their district.
In the end, that’s precisely what Chavez did. Whether or not he should have ever been given that chance is another matter entirely.