Why Do We Tolerate Thugs in Sports?


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Recently, a friend brought to my attention a web page produced by USA Today containing a data base of “NFL Player Arrests.”  Between the years 2000-2015 there were 810 players arrested for various offenses. Some beat the rap, others were fined, and some served jail time. In 2015 alone, 28 players from 21 teams, representing two-thirds of the teams in the National Football League (NFL), were arrested for such crimes as illegal drugs, speeding, driving under the influence, other traffic offenses, battery, domestic violence, burglary, animal cruelty, disorderly conduct, rape, and gun offenses. In addition to paying fines and serving jail time, the offenses resulted in player suspensions and, in some cases, they were promptly released by the teams.

These are the cases formally documented in the courts, there are many others simmering on the sidelines, such as the rape case involving Tampa Bay quarterback Jameis Winston which hangs over his head like the Sword of Damocles. Until such time as he can clear his name, he will continue to be a liability to the Buccaneers organization.

I realize football is a rough sport, but the NFL is developing a reputation for condoning immoral behavior. A lot of this could be chalked up to high spirited young men who do not know better. If this is true, perhaps it is time for the NFL to promote a mentoring system where seasoned veterans offer wise counsel to the young, or perhaps some training. It is the responsibility of the coaching staff to prepare the players for game day, but perhaps it is time for them to assume the same responsibilities corporate managers have in supervising the activities of their younger workers to assure they properly adapt to the corporate culture.

The point is, the youngsters have to be told they are no longer teenagers, but adults who are responsible for their actions, not to mention role models for the teams and cities they represent.

The NFL is not alone in its problems controlling its players. Similar offenses can likely be found in the NBA, MLB, NHL, and just about every organized sport.

Whereas we have been experiencing a general breakdown in morality due to the deterioration of the family unit, it becomes the responsibility of managers to practice what I refer to as “Parenting Management,” whereby the manager has to make up for what the parent failed to instill in their offspring.


There is another major problem though, loyal and enthusiastic fans tend to overlook the indiscretions of the players. To such people, victory is more important than a player’s brush with the law, and this is perhaps more disturbing than the offense itself. The fans and the teams should be as indignant and concerned as the courts. Too often they are not.

Can we completely eradicate thuggery from organized sports? Probably not, but we can significantly reduce the volume of incidents with some basic management techniques, such as education and mentoring.

Keep the Faith!