I’ve always been a by-the-book kind of person. I follow the rules. Don’t get in trouble or need a talking to. I think my moral compass is set straight. I realize everyone isn’t like this. And that’s fine. Here’s what I’m not okay with: athletes who get a pass when they do something wrong.
Recent headlines provide cases on point that: Randy Gregory, a top 10 NFL prospect draft pick, failed a drug test and February’s NFL scouting combine. The Chicago Bears have signed Ray McDonald. He’s had several run-ins with the law including being arrested in a felony domestic violence case (later prosecutors said he would not be charged). Those are just a couple of the latest controversies. Let’s not even get into the chaos you can recall from last year’s NFL season. Regardless of who is getting caught or of what they’re being accused, there is no reason your name should be associated with abuse, drugs or violence. None. Even if you didn’t do anything wrong and were wrongfully accused, why are you even putting yourself in a situation where something like that could happen? That’s sports 101. You’re taught that in college. You represent your team and the university. Make good decisions. Be careful what you post online. You are a role model. You’ve heard it before, but we’re you listening?
Sometimes professional athletes argue they are not role models. They should not be held to higher standards. Why? You are role models, and whether you like it or not, the job that pays you millions of dollars and allows you to have Rolls-Royces in your garage is the same job that makes you someone to whom children and adults look up. I’d like to say they can respect you, but that’s not always the case. It should be.
Players try to argue that they weren’t charged with this or I’m a changed man or I will never do that again or I have learned from my mistakes. Why does it take video of you beating your now wife in an elevator for you to realize and admit that what you did was wrong? Weren’t you taught or raised to know before raising a fist that those actions are intolerable and will never be respected, professional athlete or not? The truth is, if you really love your job, if you really think you’re blessed, if you really feel lucky, you wouldn’t risk it all because you drank a little too much one night and had to drive home. You might be okay with that decision, but your teammate will die because of it. You are not above the law because you’re good at sports and make a lot money. You may feel entitled because you worked so hard to get where you are at and now that you hit the big time you get accustomed to being catered to every step of the way, but one day, there will be life after your job as a professional athlete is over. And when that happens, ask yourself: who is the man you want to be? And who is that man you will be remembered for?
Time and time again, there are headlines that we read, and some we will never read because they will be brushed under the rug, of players breaking the rules, the law. I believe in giving people second chances, but I also believe in doing so for people who have or actually want to learn from their mistakes. Not people who allegedly pay off women to drop charges. You didn’t learn anything. You used your money to try and erase a wrong. It will never be erased. Prove to your friends, family, teammates, your fans that you want to be a better person. Not a better athlete. A better person. Go to rehab. Seek help. Take a break. But whatever you do, don’t pretend that you’re a changed man because you got caught. Fans are sick of it. We’ll keep watching. Of course we will. But we will lose interest in a league or individual players who overshadow their on-field performance with inexcusable off-the-field actions.
It’s to be determined how or even if Gregory’s draft status will be affected by the latest findings. The fact is this shouldn’t even be an issue if you’re taking your life or your career seriously. Time to grow up. You’re playing with the big boys now.