With the recent press surrounding the NFL and its treatment of domestic violence, it’s clear that ethics and core values are not as high of a priority as they should be in the sports community. That needs to change.
Sure, sports teams often have codes of conduct that athletes are supposed to abide by, but how well are those rules enforced? Too often, we see athletes get a mere slap on the wrist for serious offenses, then they get back to the game like nothing happened. Since 2000, there have been 70 arrests among NFL players for assault alone. That doesn’t even count the over 80 arrests for domestic violence during the same time period. And that’s just the NFL. Major League Baseball and the NBA have had several violence-related arrests among players as well. Yet, while these athletes may be temporarily suspended and lose endorsement deals, eventually everyone forgets. Charges are often dropped, players are reinstated, and everything goes back to normal as if nothing ever happened. Even the athletes who are dropped from their teams are often picked up by other teams, if they are considered a good athlete.
All of this seems to signal to athletes that if you’re good enough at the sport, it doesn’t matter what you do outside of the game. This isn’t the message we should be sending out. Young people often look up to athletes as role models. They see the life of an athlete as something to aspire to. By sweeping violent acts and other unethical incidents under the rug, we are telling these young people that this kind of behavior is ok, as long as you’re talented enough. That isn’t what we should be teaching our children.
The problem isn’t just with professional sports, however. We often see media stories about assault, harassment, vandalism, and theft among athletes at the college and high school levels, yet these players are often not held accountable for their actions, or receive very lenient punishments. We need to ask ourselves, if a non-athlete committed these same crimes, would the punishment be as lenient? If athletes aren’t held responsible for their actions on the high school and college levels, why should they expect it to be different if they move on to a professional team? We need to start at the lower levels if we are going to make a change. Codes of conduct need to be upheld.
We need to teach our children that everyone, regardless of their status in society, is equal and deserves to be treated as such. If anything, athletes should use their status to promote positive behavior and core values. Our star athletes should be held accountable for their actions just like everyone else, even if that means they need to be suspended from the game or removed from the team. At the end of the day, is winning a game more important than upholding positive morals and ethics?