Athlete criminals: criminal rate rising in pro sports

Baltimore Ravens’ running back, Ray Rice, was arrested in February 2014 for domestic violence. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Baltimore Ravens’ running back, Ray Rice, was arrested in February 2014 for domestic violence. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

By Nicholas Logan

Although the National Football League (NFL) boasts diveristy amongst races, the only real difference between the players is that some are criminals and some are good guys. Since 2000, the NFL has had 732 players arrested due to charges such as possession of drugs or guns, domestic violence, murder, and driving under the Influence (DUIs). There are too many incidents to go over each case, but recently players such as Aaron Hernandez, Ray Rice, and Adrian Peterson have received the most media coverage for their crimes.

It started the summer of 2013, when New England Patriots’ tight end Aaron Hernandez was suspected of murdering his former friend Odin Lloyd. Police searched Hernandez’s home and found five guns. Due to a surveillance video and a gun linked to the murder, Hernandez was arrested and sent to prison. The New England Patriots had no option but to release Hernandez from the team. He was a top three tight end in the NFL. His arrest and dismissal affected the Patriots because they lost an essential player; however, they knew was possible back in 2010 when they found out that Hernandez had a criminal past.

After a full season that did not include Hernandez playing, Baltimore Ravens’ running back, Ray Rice, was arrested in February 2014 for domestic violence. The NFL suspended Rice for the first three games of the season and many people were upset at how mild the punishment was.

At the same time, Cleveland Browns’ wide receiver Josh Gordon was suspended the entire season for possession of marijuana, thus upsetting even more fans. It was Gordon’s third offense with the drug so he was aware of the consequences, but one questions the severity of possession of marijuana versus an act of domestic violence. Marijuana is starting to become legal in the United States on a state level, while domestic violence is something that will always be unacceptable.

Once Gordon was found guilty and suspended, Rice was seen in a surveillance video dragging his wife out of an elevator. In early September, a new video was released of Rice actually hitting his wife. The NFL claimed to have never seen this video before and the meager three game suspension turned into an indefinite one. NFL Commissioner Rodger Goodell claimed to never have seen the video of Rice hitting his wife. Goodell said he did not realize how badly Rice hit her which is why he only suspended Rice for three games originally. This only upset more fans because they did not believe the NFL’s claims and felt they were trying to allow Rice to play as many games as possible. Many people are now demanding Goodell steps down as the commissioner of the NFL.

After Aaron Hernandez was banned from the NFL for murder, the league faced a sad tragedy. Minnesota Vikings’ running back Adrian Peterson lost his son who was beat to death by his step-father. Many people sympathized with Peterson for the loss of his son, yet now, nearly a year later, many fans do not ever want to see Peterson on a football field again. Peterson was found guilty of physically abusing his other son with a a tree branch and was suspended from the NFL indefinitely. There is no evidence of Peterson being responsible for the death of his son last year, but it does not justify what he has done to his other son in recent news.

Like the NFL, Major League Baseball (MLB) does not have the cleanest record. MLB players have been suspended in the past due to steroid use. Last season 13 players, including New York Yankees’ Alex Rodriguez, were suspended in the Biogenesis scandal. The scandal resulted in suspension of players because of steroid use, which is illegal in all American sports because it can increase athletic performance. Most of the players received a 50-game suspension, but Alex Rodriguez was suspended for 211 games.

Rodriguez was believed to break the home run record set by Barry Bounds (another player suspected of taking steroids). Rodriguez was on his way to becoming a Hall of Famer and finishing as a top five player in the history of baseball. But due to his conviction of steroid use multiple times and lying about it, Rodriguez faces the biggest suspension of any player in the history of the MLB for steroid use. Some fans have nicknamed him “A-Roid” instead of the usual “A-Rod.”

Athletes usually do not face significant punishments for their crimes because they bring the team and the sport more profit. The leagues and teams cannot afford to lose players such as Ray Rice, Adrian Peterson, and Alex Rodriguez. All of these players’ jerseys, action figures, autographs, and more sell for good money. Even video game companies such as EA Sports and 2K profit by having these players in their games.

People young and old look up to and adore most of these players. It makes the league look bad when they allow players like this to continue to play and make millions of dollars. More athletes than you would expect have a suspicious history prior to being drafted to the pro level and the leagues take risks by letting them play.

Most people deserve a second chance, but these crime-ridden athletes need to have stronger punishments to be held accountable. Hernandez is unable to play because he is in prison. If he somehow gets out he will probably be able to play for an NFL team again like Ray Lewis, who was also accused of murder and Michael Vick who was guilty of animal cruelty. Rice deserved a large punishment but 12 other players guilty of domestic violence charges are suiting up to play their team’s next game.

Alex Rodriguez might have taken a big suspension but the other 12 players in the Biogenesis Scandal are now all back to playing and continue to benefit from their success. Most people use professional sports as entertainment, and it is a shame that these leagues promote violence and crime. They give these players multiple chances and it prevents other athletes from getting their chance at playing in the pros. These sports leagues need to figure out how to discipline their players a little better, and one day sports can be clean if the athletes know there is zero tolerance for acting out.

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