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Archive for the ‘Sports’ Category

The last twelve months have exposed a lot of problems in our society.  I am not talking about our political problems either.  In the last twelve months, we have seen certain people in our society get away with just about everything including vehicular homicide.

A drunk rich kid driving under the influence was involved in an accident that resulted in the death of someone.  His lawyer argued that he was suffering from a made-up infection called “affluenza” and was therefore not responsible for his actions.  The judge actually fell for this nonsense and he is spending no jail time for killing a human being while he was driving drunk.

At the end of last year when a football player (the star quarterback of the team) at a university had been accused of raping a student nothing was done about it.  Reports even stated that local police told the woman that her life would be hell if she went ahead with the charges because of whom she was accusing.

Then there was a rash of NFL players who were accused of domestic violence.  One of the players pled “no contest” to child abuse charges in order to avoid a trial that might have put him in jail.  The NFL announced that he would be suspended for the remainder the season.  He announced that he would immediately appeal the suspension since he has missed all of the season so far.  But, he has been paid for his time off.

A star NBA player was recently accused of child abuse but Florida decided not to do anything even though the doctor who examined the child stated that there was bruising on the child because he was beaten with the buckle end of a belt.  The player’s lawyer immediately accused the players estranged spouse of “making it all up” because of a very ugly custody battle.  In the meantime, the state of Georgia has announced it will look into the matter.

A New Jersey High School suspended the entire football season over allegations of abuse by some players on others.  Normally, this is called hazing.  But, the hazing went way beyond the lines of decency and some of the players are now facing criminal charges.  Yet, many in the community say the High School went too far, not the players.

Recently two more football players (both starters on the same team as the rape accusation) were reportedly involved in a traffic accident.  The accident resulted in the totaling of both vehicles involved, and reports indicate the accident was the fault of the football player.  Reportedly the player was driving on a suspended license and fled the scene on foot.  Instead of being charged with “hit and run” he was simply given two tickets and was never tested or even asked if he had used drugs or alcohol.

Bill Cosby has been accused by 14 women of being a serial rapist.  All of the women accused him of drugging them and raping them.  The first accusation came out about 20 years ago.  Again, nothing was done.  In one case, Mr. Cosby settled out of court so nothing else came of it.

The one thing all of these cases have in common is that the accused is a “personality” in public life.  Most of them are sports stars and one is a TV/Movie star.  In all cases, the victims involved are the ones who are being questioned about their “honesty”.  In the Cosby case, even Whoopi Goldberg said she has a lot of questions for the accuser.  Why doesn’t she have a lot of questions for Cosby instead?

In rape cases, victim blaming is a simple game that the accused plays all of the time.  Now, as we see, victim blaming is something that goes even beyond rape.  It has infected our justice system to a point where victims are becoming more and more afraid to come out with their story.

Or, in some cases we see where law enforcement is willing to turn a blind eye to the behavior just because the person being accused is some sort of celebrity.  You will probably tell me that this type of thing has been going on for years.  That may be true.  But, isn’t it time for it to stop?

Quite frankly, I never read the “entertainment” section of newspapers.  I really don’t care about the lives of celebrities.  I don’t care how rich people, movie stars, sports stars, or any other celebrity lives.  They can afford to live however they want.  But, I do care when they are involved in criminal activity and get away with it simply because they are celebrities.

I get even more irritated when people defend their behavior and put blame on the victims.  Or try to brush it off as “boys will be boys” stupidity.  The over-militarization of our police forces is a real problem that has led to tragedy across the nation.  However, the complicity of law enforcement in helping these celebrities get away with crimes is even more troublesome.

We have seen way too many times when law enforcement has turned a blind eye to celebrity misbehavior.  The victims have been hurt.  In some cases people have died.  Yet, they seem to get away with whatever they have been accused of doing.

With this kind of reaction whenever someone with a public name gets in trouble we have to ask ourselves just how balanced our justice system really is.  In some states if you are caught with a bag of marijuana you get at least 10 years in jail.  If you are a college football player who flees from the scene of an accident, you get “well that’s okay”.

If you are a star running back in the NFL and beat your then fiancé you get paid 5 million dollars to sit out a season and then cry foul when an actual suspension comes down for your behavior.  And, you get the union to back you up on the matter.

If you are a star quarterback on a college football team and get accused of rape, the police tell the victim that she will go through hell if she continues with the complaint.  Then, when there is a scheduled hearing to determine if you broke university conduct policy, you get the hearing put off until after the football season so you can continue to play.

If you are a star comedian who is accused of being a serial rapist over the last 20 years by as many as 14 women, your friends “have questions for the accuser” instead of you.  Forget the large number of women accusing you, they must all be liars.

I don’t know if everyone who has been involved in these cases are guilty or not.  I am not making an assumption of guilt.  I am questioning how these cases have been handled.  These cases show clearly that our judicial system may indeed be broken.  In most of them it clearly shows a lack of interest by law enforcement to fully investigate cases involving “celebrities”.

Cynics have claimed for years that guilt and innocence is determined more by how much money you have rather than the actual facts of the case.  When we continuously see these kinds of behavior towards celebrities, maybe the cynics are correct.  As a result maybe the Statue of Justice should not be blind folded and holding a scale, maybe she should have one eye open looking at the bag of money she is holding.

But then, we are all to blame for this mess.  If we continue to believe the accused simply because they are celebrities, nothing will change for the better.

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I bet the NFL isn’t watching this too closely.  A New Jersey High School has suspended its entire football season after 4 games because of substantial and credible evidence of pervasive bullying, harassment and hazing in the program, including allegations of possible sexual assault.  This high school, Sayerville High School has won the state championship in its level 4 of the last 5 seasons.  It also has a running streak of 20 state playoff appearances.  So, this isn’t some scrub team where this action won’t be noticed.

In a news conference after he informed the players and parents, Richard Labbe said:  “There were incidences of harassment, intimidation, and bullying that took place on a pervasive level, on a wide-scale level, and at a level in which the players knew, tolerated and, in general, accepted.”  He also reported that the Middlesex County Prosecutor’s office and the Sayerville Police Department were investigating “inappropriate conduct of a significant and serious nature” that allegedly took place within the football program. All three levels of the football program — varsity, JV and freshman — have had their seasons canceled.

Of course there are parents who disagree with the decision.  They have criticized the Superintendent for punishing players who were not involved — as well as cheerleaders and band members.   “It’s unfair for the kids that didn’t get to play this year that had nothing to do with it,” parent Joe Scirica told TODAY.

Now, Scirica may have a point about those not being involved and members of the cheerleader squad and band are also being punished.  But, the point is extremely minor.  There is a criminal investigation going on at the high school concerning “incidences of harassment, intimidation, and bullying on a pervasive level.  This appears to be on a wide-scale level and at a level in which the players knew, tolerated and, in general accepted.”  If that portion of the investigation proves out, how can a parent say their child was uninvolved?  If they knew about what was going on and failed to report it to the school, they are generally accepted it and thus were involved.

There have been many instances where high school, college, and professional players were involved in things of this nature and worse.  It is not uncommon to hear about football players intimidating and bullying other students.  I have never heard of another school, as prominent and successful in the sport as this school, cancelling the season over these incidents.  Usually, there is one or two scapegoats and the season goes along.

Maybe, just maybe, this will be the start of something big.  If a successful program like Sayerville can have its season cancelled over these incidents, hopefully, other schools will look to use the same standard.  That is probably going to be the only way for schools to put an end to this bullying behavior.  The action taken by this school district was honorable.  Of course, we have to wait and see what the criminal investigation proves as the case moves along.

But, I think Labbe did the right thing in cancelling the season.  About the only thing that is worse than the bullying going on in our schools is the fact that many schools silently approve it by doing nothing to stop it.  Sayerville chose not to silently approve bullying.  They decided to take a stand against it.  They should be applauded for that decision.

If we can stamp out the culture of athletes getting away with such behavior in high school, we may begin to see it end at the college and professional level as well.  I am dubious that other high schools will take such a brave stance though.  That is also part of the culture of bullying.  As long as championships are gotten, schools all too often look the other way.  Silence by administrators is the loudest approval there is.

 

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Bill Simmons at ESPN was suspended for three weeks for his rant on his podcast on the web magazine Grantland against Roger Goodell.  On the show he said:

I just think not enough is being made out of the fact that they knew about the [Ray Rice] tape, and they knew what was on it. Goodell, if he didn’t know what was on that tape, he’s a liar. I’m just saying it. He is lying. I think that dude is lying, if you put him up on a lie detector test that guy would fail. And for all these people to pretend they didn’t know is such fucking bullshit. It really is—it’s such fucking bullshit. And for him to go in that press conference and pretend otherwise, I was so insulted.

To show how insulted he really was, he dared ESPN to discipline him:

I really hope somebody calls me or emails me and says I’m in trouble for anything I say about Roger Goodell. Because if one person says that to me, I’m going public. You leave me alone. The commissioner’s a liar and I get to talk about that on my podcast. Thank you. … Please call me and say I’m in trouble. I dare you.

ESPN took him up on his dare.  Remember, ESPN has a contract with the NFL to show Monday Night Football.  Since they received the contract, the majority of their programming is more about football than anything else.  So, it isn’t surprising that ESPN would not only suspend Simmons, but use the following statement to justify it.

Every employee must be accountable to ESPN and those engaged in our editorial operations must also operate within ESPN’s journalistic standards. We have worked hard to ensure that our recent N.F.L. coverage has met that criteria. Bill Simmons … did not meet those obligations.

There is really more to this story than meets the eye.  The NFL has been engaged in a lot of negative publicity in the last few years.  Former players have sued the NFL over brain injuries caused by concussions.  More and more players have been accused of domestic violence.  More and more players have been suspended for drug use.

Problem is these are not new issues.  They have been around for years.  But until recently, the NFL has been able to backseat these issues so the fans don’t lose their enthusiasm for the sport.  With the most recent problems with domestic abuse by players, sponsors have expressed their “disappointment” with the league on how they handle such cases.  There hasn’t been a huge break of sponsorship, yet.  As one reporter said “although gaining some points for fighting abuse would be nice, it isn’t financially worth losing potential revenue from not advertising with the NFL.”

The other problem in making the NFL more decent in these matters is the fans.  Every game is still being sold out every week.  That means that none of the problems are having any impact on the NFL’s bottom line.  Until that happens, there will be no real change in how the NFL handles these cases.

I have said before that the NFL is today’s version of the Roman Gladiator Games.  Hell, Fox even plays up that idea in their ads for upcoming games.  This just proves that our lust for blood-sport seems ingrained in our genes.  Yes, I know, no one is actually killed at the end of the event as in gladiator fights in the coliseum, but the brutality of the sport is what seems to glue us to the TV every week.

It is true that all sports are a reflection of society.  As a result, society can make changes in how sports leagues handle social issues.  In the 1970s, there was a huge backlash against the NBA over drug use.  Players were constantly getting in trouble for using recreational drugs.  People stopped going to NBA games saying that the NBA had become a bunch of street gangs in shorts.

This drop in attendance and TV ratings forced the NBA to make some changes.  The league cleaned itself up.  It was either that or go out of business.  Yes, players like Magic Johnson, Larry Bird, and Michael Jordan helped turn things around.  But, it was also their “clean image” that helped bring people back to the game.  As a result, the NBA is about as popular as ever.

The Sterling crisis brought up another possible crisis for the league.  But, the commissioner handled it so quickly that it was resolved.  It was handled so well, that when another owner got caught with his own racial comments, he didn’t wait for the NBA to act.  He announced that he would sell his portion of the team as quickly as he could.  And, the league received praise over its handling of the situation.  That praise is something that is definitely lacking in these NFL cases.

The point here is that maybe Simmons was really insulted over the NFL and Roger Goodell’s recent new conference.  Simmons is widely known as a huge sports fan.  That is what makes his podcast so popular.  People look at him as a fan, not merely a reporter.  As such, wouldn’t it have been real nice if Simmons went on to say that the public should boycott the NFL until these matters are resolved?  What kind of shock-waves would have reverberated in the sports world if he had said that?  That would have been real news.

Football is not alone in problems.  As I mentioned the NBA went through problems.  Major League Baseball had their problems with PED’s.  In their case, it was the players who fought the dirty players, and they eventually won.  Contrary to popular belief, it was the players who fought for more drug testing to clean up the game.  Unfortunately, NFL players don’t seem to harbor the same fight to clean up their game.

The public proved with the NBA that they can force changes.  It is time for the public to force the NFL to make similar changes.  Look, football is a good sport.  The vast majority of players are good people who do wonderful work in the community.  But, the NFL is being tarnished by these abusers who have been getting away with it.

One step to force change is for sponsors to pull out.  Another step is for the players to revolt against the abusers and stop talking about “they are family” which only suggests they approve of domestic violence.  But, the best way to force change is for the fans to stop supporting the sport.  Let the fans stop going to games, or have TV ratings plummet for a few weeks, and you will see changes.

Despite the fact that many argue that sports figures are not heroes to our children, they are.  That alone should help ignite a fan revolt against the obvious reticent of the league to do something right.  I suggest that figures like Simmons should be leading the charge.  If he is truly “insulted” like he said he is he should leap on the opportunity.  Otherwise his comments are merely “fucking bullshit.”

 

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The media is still abuzz with the NFL and its Domestic Violence problem.  The media is still talking about it.  People are still calling for Roger Goodell’s head, and the right-wing media is still calling all the fuss “the chickification” of the NFL.  Some people with more sane minds are actually beginning to speak about this issue with more intelligence.  Some are saying that at least the NFL problems have finally brought this abuse to light and open discussion.

I am not so sure that is really the case.  Yes, we keep hearing about all of the NFL players involved in domestic abuse cases, but we rarely hear about any cases from any other field.  Yet there is one case that is even more egregious than all of the NFL cases and you probably haven’t even heard about it.  This case involves a District Court Judge in Alabama.

District Court Judge Mark E. Fuller was arrested and charged for hitting, kicking, and dragging his wife around a luxury hotel room last month.  He has not been removed from his job either!   The problem is that removing a federal judge from the bench is not as easy as people may think.  Even if he is convicted of a felony, that does not necessarily mean he will be removed.  When removing a judge from the bench, everything is based on his job performance as a judge and not his personal behavior.

This is a real problem when you consider that this man sits in judgment of others.  How is it possible that someone who has been arrested for domestic violence can judge the behavior of others?  Yet, that is exactly what is going on here.

Police responded to a 911 call and reported Fuller’s wife, Kelli Fuller, had “visible lacerations to her mouth and forehead.”  She told police her husband “pulled her hair, threw her to the ground and kicked her… and that he “hit her in the mouth several times with his hands.”  This sordid information was released back in August.  Even before the Ray Rice incident hit the headlines.  Yet, there was virtually no coverage.

Like Ray Rice, Judge Fuller entered pre-trial diversion, or “offender-rehabilitation” programs that required counseling, and would be able to expunge his records if he fulfills the requirements of the program.  As a result, there will be no trial in the matter.  So, like Rice, he was able to avoid punishment for his abuse.

Of course Judge Fuller issued a statement: “This incident has been very embarrassing to me, my family, friends and the court.  I deeply regret this incident and look forward to working to resolve these difficulties with my family, where they should be resolved.”  Now, I don’t know about you, but that last part of his statement is troubling to me.  The part that says “working to resolve these difficulties with my family, where they should be resolved” is something that shows no remorse on the part of the Judge.

Yes, working to resolve these difficulties with his family is a good place to start.  But, saying “where they should be resolved” is telling everyone that the judge thinks it is no one’s business but his family’s.  That is where I have a problem.  Leaving domestic abuse to be settled among the family is the worst thing you can do.  The victims need protection from their abusers.  Not left to “resolve these difficulties” inside the family.  Sorry, but I have seen too many times when resolving difficulties inside the family only led to more abuse.

There has finally been some pushback about Judge Fuller keeping his job.   “Domestic abuse cannot be tolerated, explained away or swept under the rug. It must be confronted head on, and abusers just be held accountable,” Rep. Martha Roby (R-Ala.) told the Montgomery Advertiser last week.  Yet, it took six weeks for either of the United States Senators from Alabama to voice their opinions calling for Judge Fuller to step down.

Rep. Terri A. Sewell (D-Ala.) said in a statement posted on her website, “If an NFL player can lose his job because of domestic violence then a federal judge should definitely not be allowed to keep his life-time appointment to the federal bench.”

So, like Ray Rice, a Federal Judge was arrested for beating his wife in a hotel.  Like Rice he avoided trial by entering a pre-trial diversion program.  But, unlike Rice, he has so far kept his job as a Judge.  Worst of all, you probably haven’t heard a single thing about this in the national media.  You probably won’t unless he actually steps down from his post.  Then, the right-wing media will surely jump all over it and defend the Judge as much as they have defended the NFL abusers.  I am sure they will tell you that it was all Mrs. Fuller’s fault.

In the meantime, people will be having their cases heard by this Judge.  They will go into court expecting a fair trial from a Judge that should be in jail for abusing his wife.  NFL players should be suspended, punished and/or fired for their abusive actions.  So should Federal Judges.  Yet, as usual, the double-standards in these kinds of cases remains fully visible for all to see.

 

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The NFL is still taking heat over domestic abuse problems.  And, they should take heat for it.  As they struggle to get a grip on the problem, basically their perceived problem of bad publicity, they continue to show just how inconsistent their policies on this issue really are.  As you all know by now, Adrian Peterson was charged with negligent injury of a child for using a switch on his 4 year old son to discipline him.  An arrest warrant was issued on Thursday.  He voluntarily turned himself into law enforcement.  The Minnesota Vikings deactivated him for Sunday’s game.  But, they have reactivated him this week.

As usual, the NFL has done nothing yet.  Besides doing nothing, the NFL hasn’t even said a word about it.  They are apparently “investigating” the situation before making any announcement.  Ray Rice is still suspended indefinitely, but he filed an appeal yesterday.  In these two cases, the league is standing behind their “due process” language saying they really can’t do much until due process has been completed.  There is another case in San Francisco against a 49er player for domestic abuse as well who played on Sunday night against the Bears.

Even if we buy into the “due process” argument, how can the NFL use that argument with Greg Hardy of the Carolina Panthers?  Greg Hardy was accused of choking his then girlfriend and drug her around by the hair and threatened to kill her.  Hardy was “convicted” in a one day bench trail in Charlotte.  He received 18 months of probation and a 60-day suspended sentence for the misdemeanors he was charged with.  He is appealing the decision and asking for a trial by jury.  Yet, the Carolina Panthers waited until the last-minute to deactivate him.  Even though he was deactivated to play Sunday, he was still paid by the team.

The Carolina Panthers owner Jerry Richardson, while accepting a civic award last week, began to cry while speaking about domestic violence.  “When it comes to domestic violence, my stance is not one of indifference. I stand firmly against domestic violence, plain and simple,” he told the audience in Charlotte. “To those who would suggest we’ve been too slow to act, I ask that you consider not to be too quick to judge.”  At that time, Hardy was still eligible to play.

What is the major difference in all of these cases?  The Ray Rice incident had video.  The Adrian Peterson incident has pictures and tweets from Peterson.  The Hardy case and the one in San Francisco have neither video or pictures or tweets.  As a result, the NFL can hide behind their “due process” garbage without too much public outrage because there isn’t anything to show what happened.

I was particularly struck watching the pre-game shows on Sunday.  The one I was really interested in was the NBC pre-game show because it had Tony Dungy on it.  Dungy talked about how he “asked his players to be honest with him” when he had situations come up with Colts players.  He bragged about how they let one player go and punished another.  If I had been able to ask a question of him, I would have asked about the “distractions” these cases brought to the team.  Remember, Dungy said he would not draft an openly gay player because he didn’t want to put up with the “distractions” that would bring.

On Monday night football on ESPN, they had the audacity to question Ray Lewis about his thoughts about domestic violence.  I say the audacity because it was Ray Lewis, former player for the Ravens, who was wrapped up in a murder one Super Bowl Sunday.  He only escaped being part of the defense in an agreement to testify against those involved.  I would think that would sort of disqualify his opinion on domestic violence.

When it comes to handling social issues, this conflict shows exactly why the NFL can’t seem to handle these problems.  The NFL is not alone in this problem either.  They have a very willing partner in the NFLPA.  The NFLPA is very willing to negotiate punishments in their contract for things like drug use or performance enhancing drugs, yet they are loathsome to negotiate punishments for Domestic Violence.  The NFLPA is backing Ray Rice in his appeal and have remained silent on the Hardy incident, as well as others.

It has been suggested that any player who is arrested for domestic violence be deactivated, with pay, throughout the “due process”.  That is an idea that I support.  Players should not be allowed to participate in activities until their cases are resolved one way or the other.  By deactivating them they do not lose any money.  That takes away the argument of punishing them before their case is resolved.

But, in the Hardy case, there already has been a conviction.  So why is the NFL dragging its feet?  “If the NFL is saying there hasn’t been disposition (of the case), I think they’re ducking the issue,” Belmont Abbey law professor Steve Ward told Sports Illustrated. Ward, who is a former prosecutor in Charlotte, North Carolina, told SI that fewer than 5% of bench trials are appealed and Hardy is manipulating the system.

We all know that football is a violent sport.  But, that does not mean that it needs to be filled with men who abuse their family members.  The type of violence on the football field is not comparative to domestic violence.  Beating someone up is hardly the same as tackling a running back.  The league has a long roster of players who are what some would call “model citizens.”  It is this majority of players that are being disrespected by the NFL and the NFLPA.

The NFL and the NFLPA are going to keep their heads in the sand on this issue simply because deactivating these players, some of whom are vital pieces of their teams success, will only hurt the bottom line of their product.  And, until sponsors start saying enough is enough, the league will continue it pathetic path of inconsistent policy in these matters.

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So, the first week of the NFL is getting ready to kick off.  It seems that the whole country is ready for some football.  Unfortunately, there are shadows looming over the NFL this year.  And, it appears these shadows are getting worse each year.  The number of suspensions are extremely high, and nothing seems to be getting done about changing the culture of the NFL.

The San Francisco 49s has probably the most suspensions of any team in the league.  I believe they have 3 or 4 players facing suspensions.  And, then today, it was announced that Wes Welker, of the Denver Broncos, is being suspended for four games for violating the drug policy.  Of course, Welker maintains his innocence and claims that the drug testing procedures in the NFL are flawed.

In Dallas a player who was convicted of vehicular manslaughter has applied for reinstatement.  The league has said that he can return, but he must first face a 10 game suspension.  Naturally, he is going to appeal this suspension.  The star running back for the Baltimore Ravens was handed a two game suspension for domestic violence.  This week the league announced new rules for domestic violence saying they would hand out a six game suspension for a first time offender and a lifetime ban for a second offense.  Of course, the lifetime ban can be appealed after one year.

Just four days later, another player was arrested for domestic violence.  He has said “the truth will come out”.  I don’t know about you, but whenever I hear someone in his position say “the truth will come out”, I keep thinking that the victim will ultimately be blamed for his behavior.

The owner of the Indianapolis Colts has been suspended 6 games and fined $500,000 for his conviction of driving under the influence.  The conviction was a plea bargain and is considered a misdemeanor in Indiana.

Michael Sam was cut by the Rams over the weekend.  Some argue that he was simply playing the wrong position on a team that is full of defensive ends.  Others claim that he was cut because he is openly gay.  I don’t know the real reason for his being cut.  I would hope that it was football related.  But when you consider that every player who was even close to his numbers in pre-season is still with their team, it does make one wonder the real reason for his being cut.  The Dallas Cowboys apparently want him for their practice squad, so we will see what happens from here.

Finally, the Washington Football team is under fire for its nickname.  Many Native Americans are offended by the nickname that has only been used as a racial slur for a few hundred years now.  The owner of the team claims it is a respectful name and doesn’t understand why there is an outcry to have it changed.  Of course, pundits say it is merely politically correct “idiots” who find offense to the name.

So, the number one sport in America is getting ready to start the season.  Yet, there are a lot of questions hanging over the league and its culture.  This culture is nothing new either.  In the past, there have been players accused of murder.  Players were arrested for illegally carrying guns.  Players were suspended because they accidentally shot themselves carrying guns.

To put all of the blame on the NFL is unfair.  The blame goes well beyond the NFL.  It goes to the culture that America has in “entitling” athletes and allowing them to basically get away with it.  Remember a few years ago when some high school players were convicted of raping a classmate?  At least one of those players is back on the football team today.

A prominent football quarterback at a major university was accused of rape last year.  When everything was revealed, it was noted that the police didn’t want to press charges and thought the case shouldn’t have been brought.  They were even quoted as telling the victim that pressing charges would cause her more harm because of the football culture in the town and state.  The whole case was bungled, and the player did not have to answer to the charges.

Football is not alone in all of this either.  Other sports have either had similar problems, or are going through some of them right now too.  I remember when the NBA almost shut down.  I know a lot of people never believed that it would actually close, but the public relations between the NBA and its fans took a horrible hit.

As a matter of fact, back in the 70s, a lot of people considered the NBA nothing but street gangs in shorts.  Some are beginning to wonder if the NFL is nothing but a bunch of street gangs in pads.  That is really an unfair analysis.  Once again, the few who cheat or feel entitled to do whatever they want because they can play football is overshadowing the rest of the players in the league.  I must admit though, that it is those other players who are remaining mute to these scandals that help keep them going.

Baseball had a steroid problem.  Between steroids and human growth hormones, the game was being hijacked by the cheaters.  The only reason this has been at least reduced is because the non-cheaters in the league had enough.  They fought back against the cheaters and it was the players themselves that forced the drug testing and stricter suspensions we now see in baseball.  It wasn’t the congressional hearings that forced baseball’s hand, it was its own players.

When baseball decided to find out how prevalent performance enhancing drugs actually was in the sport, they decided to test all players during spring training.  If the total of “dirty” players was above a certain amount, I believe that it was 5%, mandatory drug testing would be put in place.  If a player refused to take the test, it would count as a positive.  The Chicago White Sox held a team meeting and every player on the team said they would refuse the test so they would ensure the results were above the limit and force mandatory testing.

I find it amazing that sports networks all have “discussions” about whether or not a suspension is appropriate or not.  ESPN is among the most famous for their discussions.  Yet, this is the very network that thought it was appropriate to discuss Michael Sam’s “showering” experiences while with the Rams.

We can argue that lifetime bans should be imposed for various crimes, especially domestic violence.  But, until the players themselves start a backlash that helped baseball, this problem is not going to go away anytime soon.  Until players see beyond their “entitlement” to play football, nothing will ever get fixed.  Until players actually state they will not play with a “dirty” or “repeat offender”, there is nothing that the league really can do.

Teamwork is crucial in football and other sports.  But, teamwork does not end at the sidelines of the playing field.  It should extend beyond the field and into everyday life as well.  Players need to police themselves.  They need to start taking responsibility for their profession and start eliminating those who taint the product.  The players need to stop enabling other players in their bad practices.

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The NFL the other day announced a 2 game suspension for Ray Rice.  Many of you may know that Ray Rice has agreed to “anger management’ treatment and “sensitivity treatment” as part of a plea deal in his case when he punched his then fiancé, now his wife, and dragged her out of an elevator in Las Vegas while she was unconscious.  The part of him dragging her out of the elevator was caught on video and shown to the world.

Hardy, another NFL player in Charlotte, was found guilty by a judge for hitting and throwing his former fiancé and then covering up the crime.  The judge ruled that there was proof beyond a reasonable doubt that he committed these crimes.  Yet, he did not hand out any jail time.  Just probation.  Hardy is appealing.  That will result in a “jury” trial, but not before the NFL season is over.  The Charlotte team said they would “defer” punishment to the NFL.

After the NFL announced its punishment of Rice, there was a huge outcry about it being too lenient.  Yesterday, the league said the punishment shows “the league will not tolerate this kind of behavior”.  During one of the arguments about the punishment, Steven A. Smith at ESPN, although acknowledging that domestic abuse cannot be tolerated, went on to say that something needs to be done to determine “provocation” in such cases.  That is right, he believes that domestic cases are “provoked” by the victim.

Let me put it this way, Mr. Smith, approximately 1 in 3 women in this country has been or will be a victim of domestic abuse.  Do you really think that a full one-third of women are provoking their domestic partner to abuse them?  That is an absurd stand!  In my career, I dealt with many women who were abused by their spouses.  Yes, I even dealt with some men who were also abused.  If Mr. Smith wants to know what provokes these attacks it is simple.

The wife burns his supper.  She has a different view on something.  She didn’t dress exactly the way she was expected to.  She wouldn’t have sex with him because he was drunk.  She happened to be home when the drunken husband came in and took out his rage on her.  Often times, it is simply that she is handy.  The vast majority of domestic abuse victims usually fall into one of these “provocations” before being beaten.

It would be easy to speak about this only in terms of the NFL.  But this goes way beyond the NFL.  It goes deep into daily lives of people.  It is tragic.  It is indefensible.  It is pure criminal.  However, too many people look at domestic abuse as Mr. Smith does.  They automatically blame the victim for “provoking” the abuse.  So, instead of these vicious attackers being locked up in jail, they are given suspended sentences or probation like in the two cases above.

I mentioned the two recent NFL cases because they show the unbelievable tolerance society shows to the abuser and the demonization of the victim.  In the case of Mr. Hardy, if the NFL does not act before the appeal, which they usually do not, then he will be able to play the full season.  Oh, by the way, he will make $13 million this season.

More than that, the NFL’s handling of these cases do not show a “no tolerance” policy towards domestic abuse.  It really shows that it will be punished only if you consider a slap on the wrist a punishment.

It is easy to come up with the usual argument about coddling athletes.  We see it in high school, college, and the professional levels.  If someone can play a sport exceedingly well, we tend to look the other way when they commit crimes.  The NFL was quick to point out that Mr. Rice was going to lose two paychecks and that would mean about $230,000.  When you consider his multi-million dollar contract, that is a drop in the bucket.  Can anyone really call that a deterrence?

Sports is not the only place where domestic violence takes place.  It happens all of the time in everyday life.  But, sports is where we can send clear signals that this kind of behavior is not acceptable.  I am not sure that either Mr. Rice or Mr. Hardy lose their right to play football.  But, in order to really deter this kind of violence, a year’s suspension seems a more reasonable punishment.  If players lose a full year of income, that will be a deterrence.  It may also send a clear message to lower players in high school and college that they cannot behave like cavemen and expect to be rewarded on the field.

I have never been one who believes in excessive punishment, except in domestic and/or child abuse cases.  Maybe we should have a punishment where the guilty party is tied to a post and every woman in the community is allowed to give two lashes with a whip.  Men who abuse women are really domestic terrorists who conduct torture.  That is what domestic abuse really is.  These men are animals.  Maybe we should start treating them as such.

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