Are Professional Athletes Out of Control?

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Like it or not, professional sports have become a major part of our society and athletes have become worldwide icons and superstars. Many of these players are literally worshiped by millions of people and are allowed to get away with things that the typical person would not be able to. In the cities where they play, these athletes are regularly given free meals at the nicest restaurants, open access to the best golf courses and social clubs, and VIP treatment at all nightclubs and bars. So it is no surprise that players have let their popularity get to their heads. When everyone around you treats you like a celebrity, you will begin to act like one. In recent years, there has been a disturbing trend of star players getting arrested for anything from drunk driving and drug possession to sexual assault and rape. This is the case for almost every major sports league in the world, particularly the National Football League.

I consider myself to be a huge sports fan. I come from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, a city defined by its professional teams and one proud of the success of its organizations and players. Molly and Kurt are also from Pittsburgh and can tell you exactly what I am talking about. I’m sure there are many people who can relate to the attachment I feel to the teams from my city. I feel an undying loyalty to the players who suit up game after game and perform on the field or on the ice rink for our enjoyment. I grew up idolizing many of these athletes and wanted to be like them in many ways. As I have gotten older, I now realize that athletes are not the best role models in a lot of ways, but I still like to give them the benefit of the doubt and assume they are good people. It is hard to justify rooting for players who have been arrested for drunk driving or rape, but it comes with the territory of sports. Fans and owners will generally look the other way when it comes to off-the-field incidents because they only care about the product on the field and winning. However, players’ actions off the field and behind the scenes are starting to become a major problem that can no longer be ignored by fans and owners alike.

Take my favorite football team, the Pittsburgh Steelers, for example. The team has been extremely successful over the last few years and has won 2 Super Bowls in the last half decade. Most fans would love to root for a team that has won as many games as the Steelers have. However, if you look past the wins, the team has seen its fair share of legal problems. Its star quarterback Ben Roethlisberger has been accused of sexual assault by not one, but two different women in the last two years The Steelers’ best wide receiver Santonio Holmes (traded last week) has been arrested for disorderly conduct, marijuana possession, and was recently accused of throwing a shot glass at a woman’s face at a night club. The team’s starting kicker Jeff Reed has also been arrested twice in the last year for issues relating to public drunkenness. Continuing on in a long list of arrests, Pittsburgh’s best defender James Harrison was arrested for assault in early 2008. I won’t bore you with a list of all the other players on the team who have been in legal trouble since 2006 (at least 5 others), but needless to say, this is not just a problem confined to the Steelers’ organization itself.

There have been many high profile athletes in the news lately that have been unfaithful to their wives or have broken laws. I’m sure everyone has heard about Tiger Woods cheating on his wife repeatedly, and many of you probably know about Michael Vick and his dog fighting issues. These are major incidents that have captured the eyes of the American public. These players are supposed to be role models to kids all over the country and around the world. Instead, they are humiliating themselves and are disgracing the world of sports altogether.

So why is this a problem? Some people probably feel that it isn’t that big of a deal and that these people are just ruining their own lives. However for many sports fans, this poses a tough question. How can we come to terms with ourselves for rooting for players who are bad people and make bad choices? Even more importantly, how can we reverse the double standards that currently exist in our society for these athletes? The situation is clearly out of control and may never be fixed, but I think it is definitely something that is worth discussing.


16 Responses

  1. Another interesting aspect of player conduct you could put into this article is the league’s response to player conduct. Yesterday the NFL commissioner Roger Goodell suspended Roethlisberger for 4-6 games even after the rape charges were dropped. Do you think it is fair the commissioner still decided to suspend Ben?

    • I think it is probably a fair suspension. Although Ben didn’t get charged with a crime, it is obvious that something went on at the nightclub in Georgia a few weeks ago. I think Goodell has done a good job in handling these situations and I think he wanted to set a precedent for things that may happen down the road with this suspension. If he would not have suspended Roethlisberger, I think there would have been a strong outcry from fans suggesting that there is both a double standard for star players and also for white players in the league. Goodell avoided these issues and made it clear that Ben’s actions will not be tolerated.

  2. Roethlisberger should have been suspended for the entire year. Four to six games for raping someone? Are you serious? I’d be in jail for twenty years and he gets a four to six game suspension. Braylon Edwards and Chad Ochocinco are two more prime examples. They’re always getting in trouble on and off the field, yet somehow they continue to be out there playing every week. I think some people don’t even think twice about the punishments that big name players receive because they’re too worried about who’s gonna fill the empty spot. In my opinion, the Steelers need to get rid of Big Ben, maybe the league should get rid of Big Ben. After two cases of rape, he’s still playing in the NFL? He should be locked up somewhere with the rest of the people convicted of rape.

    • I agree with you, I think that there is a double standard for players because fans and owners will not compromise winning by suspending their star players. The most shocking incident that I remember in the last few years related to Donte Stallworth. He was driving home drunk at 6 am and killed a man in a crosswalk. Any normal person would have gone to jail for years if not decades for this but Stallworth only served 30 days in jail. That’s really insane if you think about it.

    • If he were convicted of rape, he would be in prison. Was he convicted?

      • He has not been convicted. In the first incident that occurred in Lake Tahoe, criminal charges were not filed but he is still involved in a lawsuit with the accuser which has been going on for months now. In the second incident in Georgia, the DA decided that there was not enough evidence to charge him with a crime.

  3. It’s sad to realize that there are teams/owners that are willing to look the other way to incidents because they depend on the performance of the player, but where do you draw the line? Being from Cleveland, we’ve had our own incidents with players making the news for something other than touchdowns, HR, and triple-doubles. But why has this trend been increasing? Well in the past couple weeks I saw a program on ESPN talk about one theory. It’s because only in past decade has pro athletes received the attention of normal celebrities like movie stars and musicians. So basically incidents that may have gone unnoticed years ago are now making front page news and people are Twitting about it the second it happens. That’s one way to look at this trend, but let’s be honest here. Some of these athletes aren’t the sharpest tools in the shed. Here’s an example, a Cleveland Browns lineman was arrested at the airport for trying to carry on a handgun. REALLY!! I think all athletes need to go through a “Common Sense 101” course before ever touching the field. It’ll save on some stupid lawsuits and bad publicity.

  4. I agree that many professional athletes have made poor life decisions; however, I feel that there are still many other athletes that we can look up to. Perhaps professional athletes shouldn’t get paid millions of dollars as they do, which seems to be the problem. We should reallocate resources, like social services.
    Although I understand the tremendous dedication and effort that these professional athletes have, I don’t think the financial rewards they obtain are merited to that extent.

    • The world of sports has developed into a vicious cycle of sorts. I think people are more willing than ever to spend ridiculous amounts of money on tickets to games and on jerseys. As a result, owners are making more money than they ever have before and players want a piece of the profits because they are the ones who are generating the revenues. I think it is fair for the players to get paid the amounts they are making because otherwise they would be exploited by the owners. I think the better question is whether it is fair for owners to charge so much money for tickets, but if people are willing to pay for the current prices then there is no incentive for teams to lower them. At the same time, I feel like it the responsibility of both the players and owners to give back to their communities and help to promote social programs for those who are less fortunate in society.

  5. I agree that something should be done about the double standard for athletes especially in such serious cases as Donte Stallworth. It is ridiculous that certain professional athletes are able to get away with terrible things such as rape or killing someone while driving drunk. However, what about athletes who commit smaller infractions and are under an incredible scrutiny because of the public eye that they’re in? Michael Phelps’s pot smoking was certainly not as serious and Tiger Woods did not do anything illegal, just extremely unethical. Yet, we heard about these instances for even longer than we hear about problems that are serious such as rape. I am certainly not defending the actions of these athletes because I feel that they are aware that what they do will be recognized by the public and that they choose to be role models because of their occupations. However, was it really necessary for us to hear about Tiger in the news for months because of unethical personal decisions?

  6. As I mentioned above, the Steelers traded Santonio Holmes a few weeks ago because of all of his problems off the field. He got in trouble again yesterday:

  7. Just based on the title, I would say:

    why aren’t we asking if priests, CEOs, and politicians are out of control. Their out-of-control-ness hurts a lot more people.

    • I would agree but I think with maybe the exception of politicans, athletes are under more public scrutiny than the rest of the group, both from media (ESPN, and all major news networks) as well as paparazzi, the internet, and gossiping websites and magazines.

  8. LOL- where did you get “Guys Night Out” image? You got to give credit.

    • One of my friends posted it on my facebook wall because he knows I am a big steelers fan. Here is the link though:

  9. Very interesting website:

    This is a database compiling all of the arrests of NFL athletes since 2000. You can sort by team, player name, date of arrest, and type of arrest. Gives you an idea of how serious the problem has become.

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