Don’t You Know Who I Am!?!

There’s always been the question, but unspoken answer, of the Athlete Double Standard, and if one exists.  How often do you see or hear on your local news talk about a vehicular homicide?  What about a kid that’s accused of murder, and although possibly innocent, still looking at life in prison.  There’s always the most popular, narcotics arrests, which always result in some form of significant jail time.  The funny thing is, these are all crimes that have been committed by Professional Athletes, who we’ve watched, and continue to watch, on television almost everyday.  These players are earning multi-million dollar contracts, huge endorsement deals, and almost doing anything they want to do with their lives.  The problem in this, anything seems to encompass both legal, and illegal activities.  Illegal drugs are a form of narcotics, correct?  Usage of narcotics usually results in some form of legal punishment, correct?  With that said, how many athletes should/would, be in prison within Major League Baseball?  Nowadays, it seems like a good 50% of the entire league are on some sort of drug, raising an eyebrow with each highlight seen in Baseball, wondering if drugs are involved with the performance.  Each so called, “Hero,” has been uncovered as a steroid user.  From Mark McGwire, to Alex Rodriguez, all have seen their legends compromised, and the faces of fans, turned upside down.  A-Rod and Manny Ramirez’s situations have seemingly, taken the air out of the good things, in Major League Baseball.  Yet, amid the admitted drug usage, these players continued their careers, continuing to wow fans on a daily basis.  How are these players, and suppliers, walking around virtually unscathed?  This is where the Athlete Double Standard comes into play.
Most Recently, Cleveland Browns Wide Receiver, Donte Stallworth, was sentenced to 30 days in jail for driving under the influence, and killing a man.  Along with the jail time, Stallworth was also sentenced to 2 year’s house arrest, 8 year’s probation, and a life-time suspension of his driver’s license.  While the punishment will make life very annoying for Stallworth, it will be a life of relative normalcy.  Essentially, Stallworth will have to remain home, and if traveling, ride with friends, or a driver, and stay out of trouble.  When you sit and think about it, football runs from mid-June thru January, depending on a playoff run, amassing 6-8 months within a calendar year.  Stallworth will most likely be forced to adjust his lifestyle for only 4 months of the next few years, while Michael Vick had to do so for 23 months in federal prison.  The Stallworth case was immediately related to the Vick case, due to Vick’s most recent release, and nature of his crime.  Michael Vick was sentenced to almost 2 years in prison for his involvement in a dog-fighting ring, which involved in several deaths of animals, gambling, and various injuries to animals amongst other things.  Beyond the federal punishment Vick received, he was essentially stripped of all his endorsements, many of his earnings & property, and most of all, his dignity.  It’s hard to ignore the question of whether or not Vick was made to look like an example, while Stallworth seems to have been treated like a spoiled athlete.  From the outside looking in, the comparison of value on human life, to that of dogs, is immediately put into question, along with the pampered athlete stigma put into place.  
While these cases are the most recent crimes involving athletes, they are by no means the worst, nor as highly profiled.  15 years ago, Hall of Fame Running Back, O.J. Simpson, found himself on the run for murdering his ex-wife, Nicole Brown and friend, Ronald Goldman.  A little over 1 year later, Simpson was involved in, “The Trial Of The Century,” for these murders, in which he was acquitted of all charges.  1995_oj_simpson_verdict_1Despite a masterful performance by his lawyer, Johnnie Cochran, it’s difficult to ignore the factual information in this case.  Each and every sign seemed to point to Simpson, but somehow he escaped any real punishment, for a crime which is still “unsolved.”  Simpson seemed to have been given a “pass,” and was free to continue his life in some form or fashion, but recently, fumbled that freedom away.  “The Juice,” will ultimately be spending the rest of his life in jail for conspiracy, assault, robbery and kidnapping, amongst other crimes for an incident in Las Vegas.  Simpson was supposedly going to retrieve property he felt was stolen from him, but did so in a very forceful manner.  His sentence was seen as a, “payback,” for him escaping the double murder case, years ago.  I guess that double standard card had been played once, and fully expired at the point of this situation.
The double standard isn’t just relevant to criminal acts.  There is also an education double standard that is slowing beginning to take form.  Bryce Harper, a 16 year old baseball phenom, announced that he’ll be skipping his final 2 years of High School, and using a GED to enter the 2010 Baseball Draft.  Harper, a pitcher and catcher, feels that college will only ruin his talents, along with two more years in high school.  While Harper sounds like a unique talent, he is making a mockery of the educational system with this decision.  I also can’t help to think why his parents would condone this, as well as, what type of precedence are they setting?  In today’s society, where the job market is scarce, and requirements of a college degree are almost expected, how is this behavior ok?  This is sure to begin a trend, which will surely be followed in the very near future.  Harper’s lack of education, would typically mean he has a future in flipping burgers, or delivering pizzas.  But, being that he’s seen as a special athlete, dropping out of school is not only ok, but encouraged?  A basketball prep star, Jeremy Tyler, is also doing a similar thing, foregoing his Senior year of high school, and spend 2 years overseas playing professionally.  Tyler is following a former phenom, Brandon Jennings, who opted to play overseas for a year, skipping out on college.  The difference with Jennings’ decision, is that he completed High School, assuring he can attend a 4 year college at some point in his life in case basketball doesn’t work out.  Tyler is supposed to get schooling overseas, and complete his diploma.  I can’t help but wonder if that will be true, being that his sole purpose is to go overseas for basketball, which would sound like priority one.  Let’s just hope these young stars are fortunate to have their talents carry them on, and not victims of opportunists.
3 Responses to “Don’t You Know Who I Am!?!”
  1. Davermann says:

    I think it has more to do with how well represented you are and the type of lawyers you can afford. Most average Americans couldn’t obtain the services of a Johnnie Cochran. So when an athlete gets in trouble, they’re already a step ahead of everyone else.

    In Mike Vick’s case, he honestly only got a slap on the wrist. Most of his friends implicated in the dog fighting scandal are STILL in jail…he only did about a yr. and a half, and then was promptly moved into a halfway house. Usually when the feds take you down you do Hard time so this is most unusual. Now his career is ruined, of course, but it’s hard to believe any NFL player doing a yr in jail would come back to everything as it once was-plus his family, assosicates, and attorneys FLEECED him.

    Plaxico is stubbornly refusing to plea bargain because he can’t avoid jail. Any one of us would have already been locked up for bringing a loaded, unregistered gun into a public place-but his lawyers are doing a great job buying him time (and running up his legal expenses)-but at the end of the day, he’s going to jail, and will miss a season of football.

  2. Alex Wolf says:

    In this country you have the right to legal counsel when you are accused of a crime. Some can afford triple-ply Charmin and some have to settle for the septic-safe sandpaper. Whenever I hear of a high-profile athlete getting into trouble my first question is the obvious one. What did they do? The next question is also an obvious one. Why? The answer is surely going to be complicated and probably never truly revealed. What was that guy thinking? He’s so wealthy. Why would he risk it all over something so stupid? There it is. For people who go to work everyday and don’t commit crimes, this is a common response. Why does the fry guy at McDonalds go out and rob folks? Easy, he needed the money right? Fast forward to the press conference in front of the Playland at McDonalds. The fry guy wants to apologize to the victim and his family. He would also like to apologize to his teammates at the grill and behind the register. Most of all, he wants to apologize to his family for all the attention and pain he is bringing to them as a result of his actions. He will not be taking any questions and he thanks you for your time. Fast forward to the 6:00 newscast, where the national news is interviewing the fry guy’s teammates. The close friend at Register 2 insists that the fry guy is really a good person who loves his family and would never do such a thing. He also insists that we should wait until all the facts come out before we rush to judgment. Seed planted. Taking into account the speed of the judicial system, the fry guy should have plenty of time to make you believe that maybe he didn’t do it. Maybe he is being targeted because of his high-profile as the fry guy. With over 1 billion served you can see why someone would want to take him down.
    Rewind back to reality. We expect crime from the guy grinding it out at a dead end job, living in an “urban at-risk” neighborhood. We don’t expect it from the wealthy athlete who lives in a “well to do” community. The 24-hour news cycle will keep the story of the athlete in your daily conversation, while the fry-guy is found guilty before the weather report. My point overall, is that public opinion is all that matters in the end. Even though Vick was convicted of all of the dog-fighting crimes, some still don’t believe he was given a fair shake. Even though O.J. was acquitted of the murder charge, some still don’t believe that he is innocent. In the end it’s not about what the courts find to be true, it’s about what we think is true. Because Michael Vick had the money and profile to afford a better defense team, he will be okay. If you believe Vick was done wrong, you might buy his new jersey when he eventually goes back to work. Michael Vick, even after all his financial losses and felony conviction, still has more money than the fry guy. He also has a better chance of being rehired in the NFL, while the fry guy will undoubtedly have trouble being rehired by any fast-food chain after his felony conviction.
    There is no doubt that there is a double-standard for professional athletes. The problem is that the media and the ensuing sympathetic public opinion create it, and keep it alive. Human beings are generally the same. We want to believe that money and success changes a person’s set of morals and recalibrates their breaking point. This may be true for some, but unfortunately it is not true for all. We put more weight on the actions of the wealthy and privileged because they are wealthy and privileged. The reality is that they are the same as us. They are aware of the same set of laws and driven by the same range of emotions.

  3. Q_crush says:

    its not just athletes who do this, its people of any type of status, whether its big or small. You have presidents/CEOs of companies who feel they are above adhereing to proper governmental guidelines when it comes to running their corportations, you have members of greek letter organizations who blatantly disregard rules and regulations passed down from state law, university regulations, as well as the governing national body of their respective organization all in the name of “being made.” And many of them only become remorseful because they were caught not because they were truly sorry for the act/crime committed

    the moral fabric of the nation has erroded so much that the we are more surprised to see people following laws in comparison to those who break it. Yes athletes are in the spotlight so we observe their mishaps more readily but dont think that arent plenty others who arent as recognized who are pushing the limit of what is considered wrong/right in society.

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