NFL

Ray Rice and Adrian Peterson: Drawing the Line between Courts and Commissioners

English: Baltimore Ravens Training Camp August...

(Photo Credit: Wikipedia)

As professional sports leagues and the athletes they employ garner a higher public profile, there have been increasing demands, from media, lawmakers and the public that they be held to a higher standard of conduct.  Athletes have come under greater scrutiny, both on and off the playing surface, with each instance of misbehavior sparking a greater outcry than the last.  However, is there a public good served by publicly vilifying athletes for off-the-field or off-the-court indiscretions?

Moreover, do professional sports leagues, like the NFL, have the competence or right to impose punishment on players in response to public outcry, either before the player has had his day in a court of law, or after the courts have decided not to pursue criminal charges?

Two recent cases of note involve former Baltimore Ravens wide receiver Ray Rice and Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson.

Rice was arrested earlier this year for allegedly punching his then fiancee unconscious at an Atlantic City casino.  A New Jersey grand jury indicted Rice on a charge of aggravated assault, which carries a penalty of up to five years in prison.  The charge was later dropped when Rice agreed to enter court-supervised counseling, and he eventually married his fiancée, the alleged victim in the case.  Despite the decision of the courts, the media outcry continued, and NFL commissioner Roger Goodell responded by levying a two-game suspension against Rice, just days before a TMZ video of the assault was made public.

Furthermore, as the betting would suggest, the video stoked further outrage, putting Goodell in the uncomfortable position of exacting harsh punishment on a player for non-football related offenses that a court of law deemed not severe enough to bring to trial.  Goodell dropped the hammer on Rice, suspending him indefinitely, while the Ravens terminated his contract, likely ending his NFL career.

In Peterson’s case, the 2012 NFL MVP was recently suspended by the Vikings following his indictment by a Texas grand jury on charges of reckless or negligent injury to a child.  Peterson did not deny the allegations, explaining that he applied the same method of discipline on his son that had been applied to him as a boy. While it is understandable that the public is shocked by such actions, demands for the NFL to act where the courts have not place a burden on the NFL that it is simply not capable of carrying.  The NFL is a private enterprise that exists for the primary and legitimate purpose of making money.  It lacks the experience, competence, and mandate to exact justice fairly and in accordance with the law.

While fists have been shaken at the NFL’s perceived bumbling of the Rice case, a surprising modicum of outrage has been directed towards the New Jersey court that chose to drop the charges against Rice.

Adrian Peterson has received little to no benefit of doubt prior to getting his day in court.

NFL players have been arrested at a rate of approximately one per week in 2014, and we’ve witnessed no shortage of high-profile college football players who have faced charges that were conveniently made to disappear.  It’s a worrisome trend for every member of society, whether he or she is a football fan or not. However, such offenses are best addressed in court—where the accused player both answers to the law and is protected by it.  If the courts don’t punish a player for alleged offenses, the commissioner of the NFL cannot do it for them, no matter how vociferous the howls of media outrage become.

Antonio Maurice Daniels

University of Wisconsin-Madison

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RG3 Sees a “Window” for Gay Athletes to Come Out

Robert Griffin III

(Photo Credit: Giant Life)

Washington Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III (RG3) may have spent most of the summer rehabbing his surgically repaired right knee, but he grabbed headlines for comments off the field regarding gay athletes.  In an interview with GQ.com, Griffin III said he thought now was the time for gay football players to out.

RG3 stated, “If they’re looking for a window to just come out, I mean, now is the window.”

Some may be surprised to hear that from Griffin III, a devout Christian, who tight end Fred Davis dubbed “Black Jesus,” would come out in support of gay football players.  This isn’t the first piece of news regarding gay athletes in sports this year.  In April, Jason Collins became the first active male professional athlete to come out as gay.

As athletes continue to come out in support of their gay colleagues, RG3’s statement is the latest sign that the sports world could see more openly gay participants.

Gay Players in the NFL

RG3 isn’t the first player to come out in support of gay NFL players.  Veteran Brendon Ayanbadejo has been a highly visible defender of gay rights.  In April, he declared that a handful of NFL players were considering coming out as gay.  He stated, “There are up to four players being talked to right now, and they’re trying to be organized so they can come out on the same day together.”

No NFL players have come out so far, but a unified announcement would be the biggest moment yet for gay athletes in sports.  After conducting a series of interviews with players, Outsports found that an overwhelming majority of players, including Griffin III, would support a gay teammate.

Kerry Rhodes Still Unemployed

After MediaTakeOut released photos of all-pro safety Kerry Rhodes displaying affection toward his assistant, rumors swirled that the former Arizona Cardinal would be one of the first gay NFL players to come out.  Rhodes quickly denied claims that he was gay, but the rumors remain.  The 31-year-old has yet to sign with an NFL team despite a stellar 2012 season in which he intercepted four passes and anchored a strong Cardinals’ secondary.  While it’s possible that Rhodes just isn’t in NFL shape, it stands to reason that NFL owners may be reluctant to bring a player who is associated with these rumors into their locker rooms.  If that’s the case, perhaps the NFL isn’t as forward-thinking a league as some believe.

RG3 in Hot Water?

This wasn’t the only off-the-field headline RG3 made over the summer.  Deadspin reported that the former Heisman winner may be embroiled in a sexting scandal.  Griffin III allegedly sent inappropriate pictures to a Virginia Commonwealth University student the day of his wedding. The story broke in June and nothing has come of it since, but further leaked texts could spell Favre-like doom for one of the most marketable players in the league.  RG3 has talent, charisma and a bright future.  Hopefully, Deadspin, which broke the Manti Te’o story and usually gets things right, got this one wrong.  Griffin III would rather be known for his stellar play and open-minded acceptance of people that aren’t like him.

These stories aren’t going away, but right now players are focused on the young season.  Fans are taking to opportunity to watch every game on multiple platforms, such as NFL cable packages, live webcasts and mobile streaming like the FiOS Verizon packages.  As NFL fans anticipate a great season from RG3 and the potential for gay players to come out, one thing is clear: it’s good to have football back.

Antonio Maurice Daniels

University of Wisconsin-Madison

Open Letter to Rob Parker

Rob Parker

Dear Rob Parker:

Not too long ago, ESPN commentator Rob Parker viciously attacked Robert Griffin III (RG 3) because he doesn’t fit into his narrow idea of what’s required to be black.  Read what he said here: Rob Parker’s Comments on RG3.

Your preposterous verbal assault on RG 3 ranks among the most despicable diatribes ever.  Your comments are demeaning to all members of our race.  Why can’t a black man be articulate without being suspected of trying to “act white”?   Sorry brother, there are numerous black brothers and sisters who are articulate and we have no desire to give whites the credit for how articulate we are.

You’re not the determiner of who is authentically black and who is not.  If a person is born black, he or she is black—period.  Because RG 3 elects to be involved with a white woman, he’s not authentically black?  Really?  You’re reckless.  You hurt so many people when you make comments like this.  How can you fight against racism when you’re using it?  You cannot.  You no longer have any credibility when it comes to discussing issues of race.  Actually, you no longer have any credibility to discuss anything, including sports.  Who wants to listen to you anymore, save some extremists who agree with your ignorance and radical viewpoints?

ESPN should do more than suspend you; you should be terminated indefinitely.

While everyone deserves a second chance, you can no longer be effective as an ESPN commentator because your comments will leave an everlasting stain incapable of redemption.  Hopefully, your understanding of blackness will improve.  Right now, you should feel an incredible amount of shame and should work your entire life to remedy this public wrong.

RG 3 is an exceptional athlete and person.  He deserves significant respect and admiration.

If ESPN does not fire you indefinitely, do us all a favor and resign.

Sincerely,

Antonio Maurice Daniels

University of Wisconsin-Madison

Open Letter to NFL Owners

Dear NFL Owners:

The purpose of this missive is to implore you to end your attempts to gain an even greater share of revenues at the expense of millions of fans across the nation and globe who love and enjoy National Football League (NFL) athletic competition. At a time when we face great global economic turmoil, you are not showing fans any remorse by being avaricious. As you continue to look to mollify your own selfish interests, you only cause global morale to sink further. While I am not willing to completely agree with some players who claim that you are treating them like “modern slaves,” I do posit that you do economically exploit the professional athletes who work for you. It’s a derisory postulation for players to try to present themselves as “modern slaves” when they are millionaires. This faulty argument made by some NFL players, however, does not let you off the hook.

You make significantly more money off of the labor these professional athletes provide for you. It’s only greed that continues to motivate you to want more and more money for yourself. When people are struggling just to put food in their mouth, you are thinking only about how you can obtain more money to purchase yet another yacht or luxury automobile.

For many people across the globe, the only luxury they have is pulling up a chair to their television and watching an NFL game on Sunday. Because you cannot let your selfishness and insatiable appetite for money go, you are threatening to take away this luxury for people across the globe.

Do you not care anything about the health of your players? By extending the regular football season two games, this increases the likelihood of your players incurring season-ending injuries. The current 16 game regular season is already arduous enough for athletes. To help you to pay for your huge stadiums and bring in more ticket revenues, you would rather mortgage their health. Have you no scruples? The health of NFL players is more important than your bottom line.

You should go back to the negotiating table with NFL players with a serious mindset resolved to reach an equitable agreement with them. Have you ever heard of equity before?

If you prevent people across the globe, especially the American people, from watching their favorite athletes on television and in person, they will make you pay by turning a blind eye to you when football begins the next year that you come to an agreement with the players. Consumers will remember that when they were hurting the most, you took away something that offers comfort to them. I hope that you don’t think that consumers are unsophisticated and gullible. They know that you are responsible for this lockout.

Make a commitment today to reach a solemn agreement with the players, so that football fans can have an assurance that they will be able to witness another great season of NFL football. You may think that you are going to war with the NFL players, but you are really going to war with the fans, and I’m confident that we will inevitably have the last word with you about what we think about your conspicuous selfishness. Do the right thing!

Sincerely,

Antonio Maurice Daniels

University of Wisconsin-Madison

Longing for Condoleezza Rice to be NFL Commissioner

While you might have not liked Dr. Condoleezza Rice as a member of the Bush Administration, you might just like her as a replacement for the current National Football League (NFL) Commissioner, Roger Goodell. Roger Goodell is so horrible that I’m willing to give anyone an opportunity to do a better job than him. Dr. Rice certainly could not do any worse. Since Dr. Rice is a conservative, you can expect her to make decisions that will be good for the economic well-being of the NFL. Therefore, she knows that allowing the football players to actually play football sells tickets. With this in mind, I would anticipate that she would not punish and fine players for simply delivering good football hits. Roger Goodell is currently moving the NFL closer to a flag football league. Mr. Goodell, the NFL is for grown men—act like it!

Dr. Condoleezza Rice has expressed many times that her dream job is to become the NFL Commissioner http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9B05EFDE1F3CF934A25757C0A9649C8B63.

For liberals who usually like to see government play a more active role in the people’s lives but who would like to see the NFL Commissioner play a less active role in how players play the game, you might just be pleased to see a conservative Dr. Condoleezza Rice assume this position. The more “hands-off” approach of conservatives could be just what we need to improve much of what’s wrong with how Roger Goodell is managing the NFL.

Dr. Rice is a highly accomplished woman. She’s certainly one of the smartest persons in the world that I know. As President George W. Bush’s Secretary of State and National Security Advisor, she has had to handle problems that are much more difficult and important than those that occur in the NFL. She, therefore, has the necessary preparation for solving problems and responding to great challenges to be an effective NFL Commissioner.

I know that some people’s strong dislike of this woman politically will not even allow them to consider supporting her as the NFL Commissioner. I just would like you to know that as NFL Commissioner she would not be handling serious issues pertaining to war and peace. It’s important for us to keep an open mind about many things in life. When we’re not willing to keep an open mind about phenomena in life, we could really miss out on some great things.

Think about how wonderful it would be to have an African-American woman as the NFL Commissioner. The fact she is a woman and African-American would send such a positive and much needed message about diversity throughout the NFL, sports, America, and world.

Even if you don’t like Dr. Condoleezza Rice politically, I encourage you to entertain the idea of supporting her as a possible future NFL Commissioner. The NFL is making some progress with advancing, retaining, and hiring African-Americans in leadership positions, although it’s very inadequate progress. The presence of Dr. Condoleezza Rice in this position would convey a strong message that the NFL truly welcomes African-Americans in leadership positions.

Antonio Maurice Daniels

University of Wisconsin-Madison

Roger Goodell is a Dictator

NFL Commissioner

Roger Goodell, National Football League (NFL) Commissioner, reigns as a dictator in the NFL. The NFL needs a more democratic system of governance. What’s ironic about this situation is this anti-democratic system of governance is situated in America—the greatest democracy and beacon of hope and freedom in the world. He has all of the power to control virtually everything that happens. Although I really have not been too happy with him since how he handled the Michael Vick situation, he has went too far with his ruling on how players may hit one another during a game. I have noticed that it has made some players more timid players because they fear getting fined and suspended. Football is a tough game to play, one that will involve violent hits—that’s just the game it is. When you start limiting the natural violent hits that will occur in football, you start changing the outcomes of games and start moving it more towards flag football.

When a player suits up to play in the NFL, he knows that he is going to get hit hard—it just comes with the territory. It seems that Roger Goodell is at war with James Harrison of the Pittsburgh Steelers. Since James Harrison has been outspoken against him, it seems that Goodell is trying to show him that he’d better not challenge him. James Harrison has even met with Goodell to learn what is acceptable hitting in his view, but Harrison has still been fine for a hit since that meeting. I very much appreciate Troy Polamalu of the Pittsburgh Steelers for being willing to unapologetically and publicly challenge Roger Goodell.  Troy Polamalu has publicly advocated for a more democratic system of governance in the NFL.

NFL fans should also voice their opinions to Roger Goodell because he is making significant changes that can dramatically damage the game that we all have come to love for years. As Kanye West says, “There’s no way one man should have all that power.” If we allow him to continue to have all of the power he has, I think that many of our great players will begin to retire, as James Harrison seriously considered. Of course, I don’t want players to intentionally attempt to use their helmets as weapons on the field, and we know when this is the case, but this does not mean that we have to fine and/or suspend a player each time there is helmet to helmet contact.

I contend that we need to move away from allowing Goodell to have all of the power to a system where he shares power with a committee of former players and coaches, which will make the governance of the NFL more democratic. Although I think that NFL players must rise up and unite behind a demand for a more democratic system of governance in the NFL, I think that the real key to making this change happen lies with us, the fans. When the fans unite and tell Roger Goodell that we have had enough of his dictatorship, he will be forced to make serious changes to the way he operates. NFL fans and players unite!

Antonio Maurice Daniels

University of Wisconsin-Madison

Chad Ochocinco and Terrell Owens Are New Teammates

Wow! Terrell Owens (T.O.) has recently been signed by the Cincinnati Bengals. With the new signing of T.O., he will now be teammates with Chad Ochocinco. Whether or not you are a football fan or not, the pairing of Ochocinco and T.O. is going to add more excitement to your life and more drama than any daytime soap opera can ever expect to. While some people think that this is going to be a serious clash of egos, I would like you to understand that these two individuals have been bonding from the work that they have been engaged with on their own televisions shows. With their desire to gain more and more attention, they understand that being on the same team only gives them a greater chance to stay relevant in the minds of fans about what they are going to do each game—not just athletically but also in the area of entertainment.

I think T.O.’s ability to get signed with the Cincinnati Bengals presents him with the best opportunity at this point in his career to win a Super Bowl. Although I was hoping that he would sign with the Pittsburgh Steelers, I know that Carlson Palmer will love having his big play ability on his team. Last season, the Cincinnati Bengals enjoyed a successful season. With T.O. added to an already very good team, they can look forward to even more success this year.

T.O. is simply misunderstood. This man just wants to win. As a former student-athlete, I understand his zeal for winning. Although I do not approve of all of the things that T.O. has done, I do not think that we should overlook this man’s hunger for winning and how hard he works to be the best possible player he can be. Without question, T.O. is one of the most phenomenonal wide receivers to play the game. The fact that his new coach, Marvin Lewis, is African-American may inspire a new confidence in T.O. that may elevate his already extremely high level of confidence—so look out! Lol!

I really hope that T.O. does not go to Cincinnati and harm the team chemistry in any way. The fans of the Cincinnati Bengals really love Carlson Palmer and will not tolerate any attempt by T.O. to criticize him, especially for not throwing him the ball and blaming him as the reason why the Bengals lost a game. If T.O. resorts to this type of behavior, he can rest assured in knowing that he will be on a fast flight out of town. I really do not think, however, that T.O. will resort to this type of behavior. He is really happy to have a legitimate chance to win a Super Bowl at this stage in his career, and I see that he will be investing his time in getting better as a player and to helping his team to attempt to win a Super Bowl.

One thing that NFL football fans can look forward to this season is great entertainment from T.O. and Chad Ochocinco.

Antonio Maurice Daniels

University of Wisconsin-Madison