A couple months after a man named Warren Brathwaite got arrested in June as part of a drug bust involving a large-scale marijuana distribution ring, he was linked to several well-known people. Among them: Jamie Foxx, Lady Gaga, and…new Golden State Warriors coach Mark Jackson. While the ties Jackson had to Brathwaite were about as wholesome as possible – Jackson and his wife operate a ministry at which Brathwaite was the head usher – they were still ties. Close ties, at that – Brathwaite accompanied Jackson to that latter’s introductory press conference with the Warriors.
Jackson stood by Brathwaite when details of the arrest first came out. Star reported Jackson told them:
“[I have] not seen one piece of evidence that Brother Warren is the person police say he is. Our prayers, thoughts and love are for Warren and his family.”
In a recent interview with the San Francisco Chronicle, Jackson somewhat echoed those comments, though he sounded a little more accepting of the idea that Brathwaite might be that person:
“I know him. I love him. I hope all of this is wrong. That’s all I can go with until it works itself out.”
Jackson also went into a little more detail about the nature of his relationship with Brathwaite:
“At the end of the day, Brother Warren doesn’t have a relationship with Mark Jackson, the head coach of the Golden State Warriors. He wouldn’t say, ‘Mark Jackson, my friend’ or ‘Mark Jackson, my coach.’ He would say, ‘Pastor Mark, my spiritual father.'”
“In fairness to me, as a pastor, I’m going to be linked to drug dealers, drug addicts, liars and fornicators. The church is a place for sick people to be healed. I’m going to help them, but I’m not going to co-sign on their troubles.”
On the one hand, it sounds like Jackson might be changing his tune a bit…on the other, what he’s saying is true. Reaching out to those in need is a staple of ministries everywhere. Tim Tebow speaks at prisons. But Jackson seems not to have known that Brathwaite was a part of any of this (“I hope all of this is wrong,” etc.). Pro Basketball Talk’s Kurt Helin surmises that had Jackson known, he would have distanced himself from Brathwaite on a personal level.
That seems to be what’s happening now. Clearly, Jackson and Brathwaite are close – you don’t invite someone to be your guest at a huge moment in your life, as Jackson did with Brathwaite as his Warriors press conference, if you’re not. But even though we don’t think Jackson knew anything of Brathwaite’s alleged activities, the association still won’t look good (we’ve seen how big a deal one’s relationship with one’s spiritual adviser can become).
And though we usually see “marijuana” and yawn at violations involving it, this was a big drug ring – and the case of Zach Randolph’s house shows what can happen at even one deal gone awry. Even if Brathwaite did all of what he’s alleged to have done, we don’t think Jackson’s reputation should be tainted…but unfortunately for Jackson, he may have to downplay his ties to the guy to make sure of that.