by Nathan Villasenor
It may be old news now, especially with the developments in Peterson’s case, but Rice has been reduced to nothing more than a memory in his association with the NFL. The 27 year old athlete was cut from his organization on September 8 after a video released by celebrity news website TMZ showed him deliver a knockout punch to his then-fiancé inside an elevator at a New Jersey casino. Rice was initially suspended for a mere two weeks after the news had first surfaced, but the video released by TMZ all but secured his termination from the league.
The fact that Rice was terminated only after the video of the punch was released is one that should be examined here. I suppose the true insult to everyone’s ethics is that Rice was only suspended for two weeks after the initial news broke out; why wasn’t stronger disciplinary action taken earlier? This concern leads to another morally provocative question, one that NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has had a difficult time answering convincingly: Are Ray Rice and (to a lesser extent) Adrian Peterson gone because of their actions, or because they have been PR disasters?
The disciplinary action against these two men seems even more ridiculous when compared to the one-year suspension that Cleveland Browns wide receiver Josh Gordon received after testing positive for marijuana earlier in the year. The residual message that the NFL seems to be sending is that smoking marijuana is a more serious offense than abusing your wife or child.
What may be even more alarming is the fact that the NFL has had 90 player arrests due to domestic violence or sexual abuse charges since 2000, according the Chicago Tribune. Again, this statistic is only valid for those who have been arrested; there have been even more who had charges dropped or unreported.
The typical job description for NFL players includes aggression. In a sport where bodies routinely get smashed and consequently broken, violence is seemingly promoted. However, does the association with such a hard-hitting game as football guarantee violent tendencies? Folsom Lake College Social Psychology Professor Christina Aldrich says, “Research in social psychology has shown that engaging in aggressive behaviors (such as football) actually has a tendency to increase aggressive behavior. Despite the general belief that some people hold, that engaging in aggressive behaviors can have a cathartic effect (as was proposed by Freud), research does not support this proposition…Overall, research on aggression suggests that the more aggressive acts we engage in, the more likely we are to display aggression in our everyday lives.”
In summation, there does seem to be a positive correlation between aggressive sports and reflected aggression at home, reflecting this trend that we have seen from NFL players. Despite what the research suggests, Aldrich did go on to offer a disclaimer, stating that “this is not to say that all football players will be aggressive off the field, it simply suggests that because of the aggressive behaviors they engage in on the field they are more likely to engage in aggressive behaviors in other areas of their life.”
While it is true that football is a contact sport with a unique tendency for aggressiveness, the fact we must all consider is that these players are people who are subject to the same standards that any other person is subject to. Superstar status and the expected role of aggressiveness for an hour of play should have no effect on the actual persona of these individuals. To simply expect an unnecessarily violent personality from an NFL player is the same as expecting an actor who plays an addict in a movie to truly be addicted to the drugs.
These individuals are accountable for their actions; the temporary roles they play for the good of the game are to be just that: temporary. If the roles are not temporary, the careers of these athletes most certainly will be.
Sources: Chicago Tribune, CBS Houston
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