Convicted athletes deserve more punishment for their crimes

Source: Graphic: Ellen Gantenbein

Xaviera Wilson, Staff Writer

“I feel like it’s terrible because I see a [convicted] athlete on sports center like every single day,” said junior Tanzil Sallahudiin when reflecting on the convictions of prominent athletes. “It’s pretty sad how athletes are ruining their lives. They are able to make millions of dollars, but ruin it by doing domestic violence or using steroids.”

It seems like every day there are more and more athletes convicted of crimes. This may be due to values and norms that are associated with sports, such as male dominance and entitlement. Have you heard of Jovan Belcher? How about Jim Brown, Rae Carruth, Mike Vick, or Michael Irving? You surely know Ray Rice and Adrian Peterson. These are some of the many convicted athletes who are still celebrated in society even after committing crimes.

Take Jim Brown, former Cleveland Browns running back, for example. In 1968 Brown faced his first of many domestic violence case for an assault-with murder in mind, then faced another three cases following in 1985, 1986 and in 1999. Although these charges were brought against Brown after his football career, the Cleveland Browns pay Brown to stand on the sidelines as a role model, which he certainly is not.

The most recent case is of Adrian Peterson, a Minnesota Vikings running back. Peterson was charged with child abuse for disciplining his 4-year-old son with a wooden switch. Currently he is waiting for what his charge will be, but it is unlikely that he will be able to play the rest of the 2014 season despite his suspension appeal. NFL’s hearing officer, Harold Henderson, is in control of what happens with Peterson. Peterson is looking at a minimum suspension of six games, meaning that he would miss the rest of the season as well as the first three games of the 2015 season without pay.

South student athletes have mixed opinions on the issue.

Junior Kyle Evans plays football, wrestles, and plays rugby. “I don’t feel like they should be hated, because people make mistakes. With Adrian Peterson, a lot of people hate him and think he should be cut from the NFL for disciplining his child. He did go overboard, but I feel like he should have just received a suspension,” commented Evans.

Freshman Morgan Hill who plays basketball and soccer has a different view on the issue. She feels like these athletes should be punished for their actions. “I don’t think they should still be celebrated, I think they should be punished. Before you get to be an athlete you have to do good things,” said Hill.

Junior Elerson Smith plays football, basketball, wrestles and runs track. He took a more neutral stance on the issue. For him it depends on the crime the athlete does before he determines how he feels about them. Smith feels like an athlete shouldn’t be defined by what they do, but who they are. “It depends on the extremity of the crime. If it’s something big like murder, I think they should be convicted. But they should be treated like everyone else because they’re still people,” said Smith.

There is a high rate of incidence among football players. Football is an aggressive sport where you use your body quickly and efficiently. So it’s not a complete surprise to hear of all these domestic violence cases attributed to NFL players off the field. According to data compiled in a USA Today database, domestic violence accounts for 85 of the 713 arrests of NFL players since 2000. It’s safe to say that domestic violence is the NFL’s top off the field issue.

Junior Tanzil Sallahudiin plays football and runs track. Tanzil feels like playing football makes him a more aggressive person, but that aggression comes out more on the field. “[The sports aggression mindset] doesn’t apply to me as a person. I am an aggressive person, but sports bring more aggression out. When I’m on the field I am most,” said Sallahudiin.

Smith agreed. He says playing sports makes him more aggressive and cocky. “I feel like over the years I’ve gotten more aggressive. I’m more confident and a little too cocky actually. And I’m a little more aggressive in certain situations,” said Smith.

A study by The National Coalition Against Violent Athletes says, “While male student-athletes comprise 3.3% of the population, they represent 19% of sexual assault perpetrators and 35% of domestic violence perpetrators.” Indicating that maybe there is a connection between sports and violence.

Many people don’t see a problem with these athletes committing crimes. Athletes aren’t being convicted as ordinary people. The general population has a conviction rate of 80% compared to the conviction rate of athletes of 38%. This is proving the fact that athletes don’t receive a lot of repercussions for criminal activity. Spectators still want to see them on the field or turf or rink. These athletes are people just like the rest of us, and need to be held accountable for their actions.

Coming from an ESPN SportsZone Poll, 84% of the public feels that colleges should revoke the scholarship of a college player convicted of a crime. But this isn’t enough. We need the professional leagues to realize the problem and put an end to it.

All of these athletes should be punished. Of course, the punishment would be different depending on the case, but they should be held accountable for their actions. If an athlete commits murder, it should mean automatic kick off the team, and immediate jail time. There shouldn’t be all the deliberating that happens throughout the media seeing if what happened was okay or not.

Just because they are athletes doesn’t mean they should receive the special treatment fans give them. The NCAA does not have a rule against allowing convicted players to participate in their sports, however they set academic requirements for the athletes. To me this is somewhat backwards. You would think that committing a crime would warrant more penalties than receiving a bad grade. This is a prime example of what the society sees as normal. This needs to be addressed.