Pro and College Conduct Policies Need To Be Read And Enforced
By John Ventola
While the USA national debt and crime rate are rising at an alarming rate, standards of conduct, particularly those of our nation’s professional and collegiate athletes, are definitely in a freefall, coming down faster than a South Carolina Confederate flag. Seems not a day goes by without an athlete arrested and charged for some type of criminal offense. When one considers these players are possible role models for today’s youth, it becomes quite alarming.
Domestic abuse offenses and drug charges are being announced in ho-hum fashion on
sport shows, while a child abuse case (pro Adrian Peterson) and a murder conviction (pro Aaron Hernandez) against active players caused professional football to suffer a major publicity hit.
Collegiate football has reached the point where a coach no longer has to give a weekly injury report, but has to acknowledge that Joe Thug will not be available for the big Homecoming game because he punched a classmate in the face for denying his romantic advances. Sad times indeed. Particularly when that same coach goes on to say his missing player is a fine young man who happened to be a victim of bad judgment. You think!
I have been a lifelong sports fan, looking up to Mickey Mantle, Rocky Colavito, Brooks Robinson, Jim Bunning, Jimmy Taylor, and Nolan Ryan while growing up. In fact, I met each of these distinguished sports figures as a boy and young man. Mantle and Colavito, after exhibition games in New Orleans; Robinson, after a spring training game when I lived in West Palm Beach; Bunning, the Phillies’ ace in the ‘60s who went on to become a US Congressman, at the team’s hotel before a Houston Astros game; and Taylor, who was an acquaintance of my dad, at his home; Ryan, at a sports banquet. Tremendous athletes, they each were idols of mine because of their ability and unbelievable skill sets. Their off field/court demeanor did nothing to taint their reputations (I prefer to give Mantle an intentional pass for his alleged overdrinking—and that was not even discussed during his playing days).
My dad was also a sports fan. He may have also been clairvoyant as he told me four decades ago that sports in general, football in particular, were going to get complicated for coaches. He accurately predicted that future coaches would not only have to coach,
but they would also be called on to be father figures, advisors (personal and legal), punishment enforcers, and wardens. Before his death, he and I spoke in the mid-90s about his prediction, and he acknowledged he was disgusted with sports overall because erratic behavior on and off the field/court was being allowed for the sake of winning.
Bad in the ‘90s, it has now reached the point where something has to be done to curtail some of the outrageous behavior of athletes. Athletes should be held responsible for their actions, good or bad. Bad actors need to face consequences. Lucrative contracts and free educations are not available to most of the general population.
Most importantly, team owners and coaches need to enforce conduct policies that professional teams have in place, and college athletic directors and coaches need to forget about the almighty “$” and the big “W”, and be stern and firm with those that break the law.
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has tried to be firm while college coaches such as Florida State’s Jimbo Fisher and LSU’s Les Miles faciliate on their enforcement,
seemingly basing their punitive decisions on how much pressure and scrutiny the problem is under, and how valuable the player in trouble is to the team. Not surprisingly, athletes see how offending players have been treated—–with many chances and a slap on the wrist (beside the handcuffs) —-and they act out in similar fashion, expecting the same easy treatment.
Agents and attorneys complicate and interfere with conduct enforcement at the pro level, and most universities keep high profile attorneys on speed dial to help charged players. Oh dad, you were so right. It is bad, and it is getting worse.
Greg Hardy, formerly with the Carolina Panthers, was suspended for most of 2014 because of a domestic abuse case. Despite that, and the fact the league was still investigating Hardy’s behavior for further action, Dallas signed Hardy to a lucrative, incentive laden contract for 2015. Seems the need for defensive line help outweighed having a good citizen in the locker-room. Hardy was consequently suspended for the first ten regular season games of 2015 by Goodell, but had the suspension reduced to four games yesterday because of potential legal entanglements over the case.
Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said his club did its due diligence on Hardy (yeah, right, he can rush the QB and punch women), and went on to say, and I paraphrase, even
though Dallas coach Jason Garrett would like the finest character and most skilled players, the reality is you don’t get that. Jerry’s World is quite convoluted, but he at least knows what passes as reality in today’s world.
After prostituting themselves for quarterbacks Jameis Winston and Jordan Jefferson, and having more players follow the same pattern, Fisher and Miles need to be looked at carefully on who and what quality person they recruit, how they personally handle and manage athlete behavior problems, and what resources are in place at the two universities to educate, stymie, and halt such behavior. Sweeping Winston’s numerous offenses with a soft broom got Fisher one national championship, and in the CFP Final Four last year.
Miles did enough double talk and the university did enough finagling to get Jefferson reinstated for the 2012 BCS championship game against Alabama. Too bad Jefferson was not as ferocious and accurate that January night as he was in the parking lot of Shady’s bar five months before that game. Guess his “kick-ass” shoes were in that 49 pair that were confiscated by EBR sheriff’s deputies.
Freshman quarterback De’Andre Johnson read and heard about how Winston was treated at FSU. Winston went on to become the No. 1 draft pick in the NFL draft, definitely proving that winning is held above decent behavior. Johnson, expected to battle incoming Notre Dame transfer Everett Golson and another returning player for the Seminoles starting QB position, punched a woman in the face in a Tallahassee bar last month.
An attorney issued a statement by Johnson, saying he was “extremely embarrassed and offers his heartfelt apologies to everybody”. After being suspended by Fisher temporarily, Johnson was kicked off the team when a video of the incident was released by the Attorney General. No video, Johnson probably still is a Criminal, I mean Seminole.
Dalvin Cook, who became the first freshman running back in FSU history to run for over 1,000 yards in a season last year, followed Johnson’s lead days later and punched a
21-year-old woman in the face in a parking lot. The sophomore to be was arrested and suspended by Fisher as well. No video of this incident, just eyewitness reports. ESPN College Football Reporter Mark Schlabach personally spoke with the victim and a witness. The victim, not a student, was allegedly struck in the face by Cook, according to both. Now we will see if Fisher really is serious about cleaning up his program.
Even though Miles will go into fall practice with his starting quarterback suspended for the second time in five years, at least Anthony Jennings did not punch or kick anyone. Jennings, cornerback Dwayne Thomas, and defensive lineman Maquedius Bain were each arrested for unauthorized entry into a dwelling (apparently they did not pay attention to O.J. Simpson and his sports memorabilia escapade). Their arrest followed the arrest of defensive tackle Trey Lealaimatafao hours earlier for simple battery and simple robbery. He was later kicked off the team by Miles.
LSU administrators will play the old “let the legal process run its course” PR routine with the other three, but the fact remains, something has to be done immediately to get the attention of the people that are representing its university. Fans are one thing, but there are many pairs of young eyes currently looking for their own sports idols.
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