Saturday, June 29, 2013

Professional Sports: A Melting Pot of Future Convicts?

     Long before Aaron Hernandez was investigated for his alleged involvement with a double murder in July of 2012, long before he was charged with 1st degree murder and 5 other gun-related charges, and long before he was accused of shooting a man in the face in February, professional athletes were committing crimes at a rate higher than many other social groups. Which is odd, considering that many of them are some of the most financially stable people on the planet. I believe that, in the simplest of terms, most people commit crimes so that they can have the things that they want. Robberies, Drug Dealings, Petty Thefts: these are all crimes that most people commit because they lack the means to have what they want, or to provide for their families. Other crimes are not planned, but are mishaps that occur frequently: Aggravated Assault, DUI, Domestic Violence. These crimes, although inexcusable, tend to have some sort of reasoning behind them for the most part. However, for those privileged individuals that are afforded the opportunity to play a professional sport, whether it be Football, Basketball, Baseball, or anything else, there is no reason that these crimes and worse should be occurring at such an alarming rate.

     The American people place athletes on a pedestal. In High School, when they have nothing, teachers will give them the grades they need to pass. Coaches will let them dictate the team. In some cases, students will help them forge test scores. When they get to college, they are treated like royalty. Female students are desperate for their affection, and male students admire their in-game play. They are allowed to act as if they are a step above everyone else on life's totem pole. For instance, athletes at Stanford University are given a list of easy courses to take, such as Social Dances of North America III, that are used as GPA boosters. By the time they make it to the professional ranks, there is no controlling their ego. Cam Newton, for example, told Peter King at the NFL Scouting Combine that he sees himself an entertainer and icon, without mention of being a Super Bowl champion or Hall of Fame Player.

     The idea that professional athletes role models leads us to believe that they are productive members of society, and it gives them the notion that they are invincible. Exhibit A: Gilbert Arenas. While under investigation for bringing guns into the Wizards' locker room following an altercation with teammate Javaris Crittenton (who by the way, is now awaiting a murder trial) Arenas pulled this on court display that got himself suspended for 50 games. To me, this is the perfect example of an Athlete's untouchable persona. He believed that even though he had just brought lethal weapons into an NBA Locker Room, it was okay for him to shoot down his teammates at a regular-season game with all the cameras on him. Arenas was in the news again this week, unfortunately, as he was arrested in California for having 100 pounds of illegal fireworks. The sad part is that this is not the only case of an athlete's blatant disregard for the law, although many of them are fortunate enough to avoid real punishment. Ben Roethlisberger, for instance, has been accused of rape on two separate occasions in two different states, but out of court settlements have kept him out of harm's way. Or Donte Stallworth, who was convicted of DUI Manslaughter, but only served 24 days in a county jail.

In addition to criminal allegations, we are going through an era where cheating is growing rampant, and athletes are steadily finding new ways to get ahead. Bruce Irvin and Richard Sherman of the Seattle Seahawks were accused of using the drug adderall to enhance in-game performance. Of the great home run hitters of baseball history, many of them are steroid users: Barry Bonds, Mark McGuire, Sammy Sosa, Alex Rodriguez, and Jose Canseco, to name a few. A quote from the greatest cyclist of all time, Lance Armstrong: "It is impossible to win the Tour De France without doping." Its unfortunate that athletes think like this, but it is becoming the norm.

Hall Of Fame Running Back and Heisman Trophy Winner OJ Simpson was involved in perhaps the most famous car chase and murder trial of all time. He was found not guilty for the double murder of his ex-wife and her boyfriend, but is currently serving a prison sentence for essentially stealing back his own stuff from another person's house. Although he was fortunate enough to stay out of jail after the first time he was charged with a felony, he proceeded to commit another a decade later. In the case of Aaron Hernandez, people are not as optimistic about his future. The evidence is overwhelming and he is in serious danger. He is not being granted bail, he has been released by the Patriots, and not to mention, he has a wife and kid at home.

So, before you proclaim a famous athlete as your idol or role model, it is necessary to ask yourself a few questions:
     1. Does this athlete's life outside of sports reflect that of a responsible person?
     2. Are they going beyond ethical boundaries to compete at the highest level?
     3. Is this athlete leading a double life as a violent criminal?

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