What started as a dispute over an airline passenger’s fashion sense, ended with a promising, young football star sitting in jail amid bitter accusations of racism.
Deshon Marman, a Bayview native currently attending the University of New Mexico on a football scholarship, was in town for the funeral of David Henderson. Henderson was a close friend of Marman’s and the two played together first at Lincoln High School and then for two years at City College of San Francisco.
Henderson, a standout player since his time at Lincoln, was fatally shot near his home in the Bayview late last month. Both Marman and Henderson dreamed of one day making it into the NFL. Henderson was playing for the minor league Pacifica Islanders at the time of his death and was in the process of trying out for the San Jose SaberCats arena football team.
On his way back to school after Henderson’s funeral, Marman was boarding the Wednesday morning U.S. Airways flight to Albuquerque from SFO when the cut of his pants offended the sensibilities of a flight attendant. “She could see the outline of his private area,” police Sgt. Michael Rodriguez relayed to reporters.
The attendant asked Marman to pull up his pants and, still reeling from his friend’s death, Marman refused. The stewardess complained to the captain, who threatened to throw Marman off the plane and place him under citizens arrest if he didn’t comply. Before the captain could make good on his threat, the police arrived. Officers cuffed Marman and promptly carted him off to jail.
While U.S. Airways doesn’t have a specific dress code, it’s airline policy that passengers follow any instructions given by the flight crew.
“He was not threatening anybody directly,” said Rodriguez. “But being on board an aircraft and being disruptive to the…crew interferes with their duties and that could be a safety factor.”
Marman’s mother, Donna Doyle, attests that safety had nothing to do with her son being singled out.
“He was attacked for three reasons,” said Doyle, “his clothing, his skin, and his hair.”
Marman, who is African American, is currently being held at San Mateo County jail pending charges of trespassing, battery and resisting arrest.
Doyle worries that these charges could seriously jeopardize the big league dreams her son shared with his late friend. “With these types of charges, my baby could lose his scholarship,” she said.
Widespread concerns about people, largely young and largely African American, in baggy pants are neither new, nor are they confined to the Bay Area. A bill signed last month by Florida Governor Rick Scott instituted a statewide ban on wearing excessively baggy pants in schools. Students showing an inappropriate amount of boxer shorts (or, heaven forbid, partially exposed buttocks) could face suspension.
Voters in the Florida town of Riviera Beach passed a blanket ban on baggy pants in 2008. However a judge struck down the law as unconstitutional later that year.
Louisiana similarly attempted to outlaw the pants in 2004. This attempt was unsuccessful as the bill never made it out of the state legislature.
These laws, which attempt to widen the police’s jurisdiction into the realm of fashion, are often said to be born out of a desire to indirectly crack down on gang activity. Ever since the trend of wearing extremely baggy pants arose in the late ’80s and early ’90s, it has seen opposition from some, largely conservative, quarters due to its perceived connection to drugs and violence.
The style is said to have originated in prisons where inmates are often given ill-fitting clothes and have little access to belts, which have the potential of being turned into weapons or used in suicide attempts. The fashion crossed over from the penitentiary into hip hop culture and finally into the mainstream–where its found its most forceful opposition.
Marman is just the latest victim in the pushback against baggy pants. He has a hearing scheduled for sometime today and is currently being held on $11,000 bail.