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Barb Wire

Women, Children and Dogs vs The NFL


Professional football player Ray Rice knocked out his fiancee with a vicious punch and drug her limp body out of an elevator. The entire episode was captured on video. Another football player, Adrian Peterson, “whipped” his 4-year-old son with a switch and left him bruised and bleeding. I believe both of these players deserve to be punished for what they did and the primary venue to mete out that punishment is court. Rice already had his day in court. Peterson’s case is yet to play out.

This is not to say our courts are perfect. I am not happy with the decision in the Rice case as he only got probation. Neither was I content with the most famous case ever involving a professional athlete, OJ Simpson, as I still believe Simpson was wrongly acquitted of complicity in the murder of Nicole and her beau. I also seriously question why Michael Vick is still in the NFL.

Nonetheless, we have no suitable alternative to our courts to determine whether somebody violated the law and what their punishment will be, with one notable exception and that is the court of public opinion. This particular court can certainly influence matters in several ways for good or bad.

Accordingly, the National Football League is implementing a policy to automatically suspend players for domestic violence. Additionally, individual teams have the ability to suspend and fire an athlete for violating personal codes of conduct. Finally, corporate sponsors and fans can punish perpetrators via boycotts and the like.

What I don’t like about the court of public opinion is the fact that is it so easily manipulated and in some cases distorted by sensational media coverage. We rarely hear both sides in a case tried in and by the media. Further, the court of public opinion rarely affords the opportunity to take a step back and analyze the situation from a broader perspective. Allow me to illustrate by way of example.

Many of the athletes in the NFL come from single parent families and were raised in abject poverty. Is that an excuse for domestic violence? Absolutely not! However, the fact remains that some people were never raised with healthy role models to emulate in their life, and without significant effort and intervention, most of us are doomed to repeat the mistakes of our parents, whether we care to admit it or not.

Further, more than a few of these players themselves father children out of wedlock and scarcely know their own progeny. For instance, Peterson’s father was in prison when he was growing up. And, Peterson himself has six children from different mothers. One young child of his, whom he scarcely knew existed, whom he had never met, was recently murdered by an abuser!

Contextually, I consider fathering children out of wedlock with multiple mothers is in itself a form of child abuse! But, alas, high moral character only goes so far on the gridiron and in the court of public opinion after all; ergo Tim Tebow’s short career!

First Published in the Santa Barbara News Press


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