I grew up in a house that loves NFL football. I watched the games religiously, I memorized player statistics to a near compulsion and the Superbowl comes second only to Christmas.
The only bad headlines I was used to reading were about my favorite players getting injured or ridiculously fined for an overly flamboyant touchdown dance.
However, the way the NFL reacted to recent controversial situations left a bad taste in my mouth and made me question my fanhood. Most of us have seen the viral video of former Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice punching his fiancee unconscious and dragging her body out of an elevator.
Now, Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson’s professional fate is in question because pictures surfaced of his 4-year-old son covered in welts. The boy’s heinous injuries were at the hands of his father, and Peterson was charged and indicted on all counts. He admitted to the abuse via text message, but according to Peterson, his son was “aight” and “he did it to himself.” Despite the charges, he’s still padding up and playing professional football.
At first, Rice faced only a temporary suspension for assaulting his now wife. It was the public outcry of injustice that forced the NFL to reconsider its light punishment. It now seems that we must put pressure back on the league to hold these men accountable for their actions.
It disgusts me that the NFL has no standard of punishment for these crimes. Instead, they wait for the public to say something about it and then take more reasonable action as part of a larger coverup.
These are athletes that young men and women look up to. Even though looking up to athletes and celebrities is arguably problematic, we cannot change the fact that we idolize them anyway. We put athletes on the front of Wheaties boxes, we put celebrities on commercials that we see every day and we let our children grow up with the notion that these people are the ideal standard of beauty, popularity and athleticism. Some argue that we should look up to teachers, parents, priests and the like, but let’s be fair. Can these people boost profit for cereal or sneakers?
If it is in our culture to put these celebrities on pedestals, then we should be just as prepared to escort them down when they don’t deserve to be there any longer. By letting them sit so high above us, the lack of oxygen goes to their heads. No matter how rich, affluent or famous someone is, violence is not OK.
The league is sending a message that will resonate with young people of this generation: if you are rich and powerful enough to dodge the law, you can. Felony assault carries a maximum sentence of 25 years in prison, but if you play football, don’t sweat it. You’ll just sit out for a game or two.
Because professional athletes are public figures, they should be held to a standard as high as their astronomical salaries. The recent blunders made by the NFL are so inexcusable that no amount of good PR could fix them.
Column by Carly Besser, Opinion Editor