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A social issue, not a football issue!

September 19, 2014

I am not a huge NFL fan and so I cannot say that have opinions on commissioner, Roger Goodell, or any of the recent players in the headlines (eg. Ray Rice, Adrian Peterson, etc.) However, I am convinced the NFL’s well-intentioned approach to saying, “no professional athlete (or coach) is above the law,” is now coming to its predictable conclusion.

I admire the NFL’s attempt to enforce a principle… but the principle is not a football issue, it is a societal issue. When a sports league attempts to act as judge on a social principle, it reaches far beyond its scope and thus, it is only a matter of time until its backfires. We as a society must make sure that we do not permit any person to get away with a crime (or misdemeanor) simply because they are “rich or famous.” Yet as a society, we have agreed to a legal process to uphold this principle. While not infallible, this process generally works in America. A person is innocent until proven guilty. If there is reasonable evidence of a crime, the individual will in the course of time be charged, be subject to the legal process, and be judged innocent or guilty.

Thus, when Ray Rice is accused of domestic violence, the video available should be sent to the appropriate law enforcement officers and used in the legal proceedings to judge him guilty… not to his employers, whether they be ABC Trucking or the NFL.  If his alleged crime is deemed a serious enough offence that he is held in custody until the trial, then that will seriously impede his ability to compete on the football field. However, if he (or any other citizen) is allowed to live without incarceration until the trial, then he should be as free as any other citizen and be expected to follow the legal restrictions placed upon him. If this allows him to work at his job – whether as a grocery store clerk or a professional football player or whatever – he should be permitted to do so. My limited understanding of human resource law is that the employer would actually be terminating an employee without cause simply because they were accused of a crime. The same legal process would apply to Adrian Peterson or any other case currently (or in the past) that has made the headlines.

However, when the NFL starts ruling in these matters, despite their good intentions, they are overstepping their authority and thus keep finding themselves in a painful predicament that they have regrettably brought upon themselves in trying to impose a “special standard” for their football players. I am fully supportive of non-profit organizations setting a special code of conduct for their employees, based upon their moral handbook or texts. But the NFL has no such agreed upon morality standard (that I am aware of) and thus find themselves in constant “damage control” mode.

These are societal issues for which America has a prescribed legal process. This is not a football issue. When a football league tries to judge a societal issue, these quandaries quickly become an unescapable quagmire.

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