Over the last twenty years the National Football League has overtaken baseball as our true national pastime. There is no more popular or successful professional sport in America today. The NFL has done a masterful job of creating parity between the teams and marketing marquee players as mythological gods. Millions of fans and billions of dollars are at stake and lately it seems as if we are willing to forgive almost any indiscretion or crime as long as it doesn’t affect our beloved game or our beloved players.
Ray Rice and most recently Adrian Peterson have cast a dark shadow over the NFL and once again caused us to question what we are willing to put up with from our professional athletes. Ray Rice is over two hundred pounds of pure muscle and speed. Watching him brutally knock out his soon to be wife in an elevator was shocking to say the least. Should we be surprised? Many of our gifted professional athletes have been coddled for over half of their lives and in some ways shielded from the reality that the rest of us live in. The violent and aggressive behavior we reward on the field has no place off the field. However, it appears that many of our NFL heroes are having trouble distinguishing between when they are on the field or off it.
The pressure to win is so great and our love of football so strong that if a player is talented we will turn a blind eye to what’s right in front of us. While it’s true that Michael Vick went to prison it is also true that he eventually ended up back in the NFL with the Philadelphia Eagles. We forgave him admitting to savagely torturing animals because he has blazing speed on the gridiron. Talent and star power are not held to the same standard as the rest of us. Also, keep in mind that the poverty rate among NFL athletes is zero. When you combine star power and the almighty dollar the conviction rate drops precipitously. The conviction rate for NFL athletes is only 13% of the national average according to the online news outlet FiveThirtyEight. Domestic violence is the number one reported crime in the NFL, well above illegal drug use and driving while intoxicated. However the arrest rate for domestic violence among NFL players is just 55% of the national average. Don’t forget that Ray Rice was only suspended from the NFL after the second violent video was released. NFL commissioner Roger Goodell has stated that he never saw the second tape until recently.
Should NFL athletes be held to a higher standard than the rest of us? The answer is YES! They are being paid big time dollars to play professional football. They’ve been given a gift that millions can only dream of. Whether they like it or not they are role models. As a society we’ve chosen to give our modern day gladiators every possible advantage and been willing to forgive almost all of their indiscretions as long as they perform. This standard doesn’t only apply to the NFL. We need look no further than the recent ruling on the “Blade Runner” case in South Africa. Oscar Pistorius was found guilty of culpable homicide but not guilty of murdering Reeva Steenkamp. He’s already been cleared to compete for South Africa again and the final sentence hasn’t even been rendered yet. The message we send our professional athletes is clear… do anything you want to as long as you win!
About the Author of “NFL Athletes and Violence: Will We Forgive Anything?”:
Trip Albagdadi is a regular guest contributor to the iM Sports Blog. His work has been featured in numerous online as well as traditional print publications.
Photo Credits for “NFL Athletes and Violence”:
“Ray Rice” – Keith Allison via photopin cc
“Michael Vick Forgiven” – Ed Yourdon via photopin cc
“Oscar Pistorious Cleared to Compete Again” – Jim Thurston via photopin cc