In the early days of professional football, the public thought the college game was superior in every way. Many believed the professional game was an abomination and ruinous to the sport. The slightest offense in the professional ranks was used to suggest that professional football had no place in society. The NFL worked hard to improve its image, but was ineffective initially in controlling some bad practices. Teams sometimes used college players for games during the college off season or signed on players before they finished school. Changes were made through tougher rules, although often rules that outlawed poor behavior were not consistently enforced. NFL President Joe Carr weeded out some bad practices and was applauded for his efforts to clean things up. But from a public relations perspective, I think that what really changed the public's view toward professional football was when the college game had enough issues of its own to worry about and it stopped pointing to the pros.
Today, we appear to be a kind of crossroads. Many crimes are committed by male professional athletes. There are probably many reasons for this. Frankly, some of the players are just bad people. You don't have to be a good person to have great athletic abilities. Professional players are also so richly rewarded and so quickly, there is always that kid in a candy store problem. From substance abuse, to reckless driving, to disrespect and threatening behavior and abuse of woman--there are many problems. And yes, there are even murders perpetrated by players. Teams deal with behavior problems in their own ways--some better than others. Some work hard to stay away from perceived trouble-makers in their acquisitions, some seemed prone to take risks with them.
Of course on the plus side, there are also great unselfish and even heroic men who play professional sports. There are many players who do much more than show up for the one hour photo opp at the charity events. Some are doing many good things behind the scenes and quietly. Sine leave the game and dedicate their lives to helping those who are neglected in our society.
Personally, I am more worried about what is going on in some colleges. If an athlete is a miserable citizen or worse in college, it's hard to image his behavior improving as a professional. It seems some colleges put up with the most hideous behavior on the part of their athletes. From the outside, it looks like they avoid taking action that might defend the honor of the school and enforce a civil environment for others on campus. Some athletes' actions are an absolute abomination to a standard of decent behavior and the athletes seem to continue to act poorly with impunity. It's time for schools to step up and insure that the players they put on their squads live up to a level of acceptable behavior. Sometimes when there is a problem with a student athlete committing an illegal offense, it turns out their behavior is peppered with repeatedly offensive incidents of reprehensible actions. This is especially hideous when you consider the fact that such students are often on scholarship. The school is paying for these individuals to attend school and allowing them to victimize others at the institution. All students should be held to standards of behavior that in some way support a civil and ethical environment. Students on scholarship should not be held to a lower level of behavior, they should be held to a higher standard. They are taking part in something that is privilege and not a right.
Copyright Sporting Chance Press, 2014.
Sporting Chance Press is the publisher of Pillars of the NFL: Coaches Who Have Won Three or More Championships and other fine book including Maddie Takes the Ice; The 10 Commandments of Baseball: An Affectionate Look at Joe McCarthy's Principles for Success in Baseball (and Life); Public Bonehead, Private Hero: The Real Legacy of Baseball's Fred Merkle; and Sports and Faith: Stories of the Devoted and the Devout. Seen here.