I grew up in a sports house. Neither my dad nor anyone on his side played, nor did anyone on my mom’s, but come Sunday, the TV was either on NASCAR or The Bears game. I grew up with Dale “The Intimidator” Earnhardt, Richard Petty, Bill Elliott, and Dale Jarrett. We knew the names and numbers of Walter “Sweetness” Payton, Jim McMahon, Jim Harbough, Mike Singletary and Mike Dikta. And being in Illinois, everyone was wearing red every time Michael Jordon and Phil Jackson took the Chicago Bulls to the Championships.
Sports were what all the guys in my neighborhood talked about. Sports were all my cousins talked about. Who could do what? Did you see the game? Did you see that play? And it’s no different today- I go into work after a game day (football, baseball, basketball, soccer, hockey) and coworkers and teens alike will ask, Did you see the game? What did you make of the play?
The few athletes who make it into professional sports at heroes to many- idols to be emulated, those whose numbers kids proudly wear and whose jerseys they buy, and whatever else they endorse. These are the ones who made it- the ones who are at the peak of perfection, who are the best of the best in their field, who hold the hopes of regional glory and bragging rights. Kids and teens take to heart what they say, and what they do, because these athletes have the dream- money, fame, career, education, EVERYTHING.
Which is why they should be held to a higher standard.
The internet went crazy Monday with the release of Ray Rice from the Ravens and his suspension from the NFL. According to a letter to NFL owners that he himself wrote, NFL Commissioner Roger Goddell says that the NFL is held to a higher standard. As such (emphasis mine):
Effective immediately, violations of the Personal Conduct Policy regarding assault, battery, domestic violence or sexual assault that involve physical force will be subject to a suspension without pay of six games for a first offense, with consideration given to mitigating factors, as well as a longer suspension when circumstances warrant. Among the circumstances that would merit a more severe penalty would be a prior incident before joining the NFL, or violence involving a weapon, choking, repeated striking, or when the act is committed against a pregnant woman or in the presence of a child. A second offense will result in banishment from the NFL; while an individual may petition for reinstatement after one year, there will be no presumption or assurance that the petition will be granted. These disciplinary standards will apply to all NFL personnel.
Um, no. This is not a “higher standard.” This is covering your ass. This is saying, oh, a two game suspension wasn’t really right. This is saying, oh, we know there’s a culture of violence, and we’re not going to look at it until it becomes a problem. This is saying, well, you can do something really really bad, but you can possibly come back after a year.
The higher standard is allowing players and staff who had a prior incident before joining the NFL to be hired.
The higher standard is not standing for any domestic violence, regardless of mitigating factors.
The higher standard would be no violence period.
The higher standard would be no illegal drugs. PERIOD.
The higher standard would be no arrests. PERIOD.
The HIGHER STANDARD that should apply would be to be beyond reproach. Anything that I could get fired for at my job in a city government, a professional athlete or any person working with these organizations should be able to be fired for immediately, without the possibility of reinstatement or negotiation from ANY union. That would include (charges against NFL players in 2013 alone):
- child abuse
- disorderly conduct
- DUI arrest
- criminal mischief
- drug use without a prescription
- failing to appear in court
- public intoxication
- third degree assault job
- aggravated assault
- street racing
- attempted murder
- domestic abuse
- drug possession
- first degree murder
- intoxicated manslaughter
This is just 2013. This is JUST the NFL. This is THEIR definition of the higher standard being applied.
This is not what I grew up watching on television. This is not what my teens need to be seeing. Someone needs to clean out the clubhouse, and raise the bar from the shower floor to where it should be, because it’s clear that it won’t be done by current management.