The Observer is a student-run, daily print & online newspaper serving Notre Dame, Saint Mary's & Holy Cross. Learn about us.



Innocent until proven guilty?

Cole Schietinger | Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Irony has a remarkable way of occurring regularly in everyday life. Most recently, an unfortunate Nike ad campaign starring the amputated Olympic hero, Oscar Pistorius, has showcased such irony with the tagline, “I am the bullet in the chamber.” Pistorius is in the aftermath of a confusing tragedy, in which he shot his girlfriend. It is not yet clear whether the shooting was intentional or not. In the middle of this confusing tragedy, during what could possibly be an incredibly difficult grieving period, Pistorius, like so many stars before him, has been forced to suffer through consistent criticism.

From even before the 1919 Black Sox Scandal, when Shoeless Joe Jackson went from a baseball great to a redacted footnote in the game’s storied history, stars have gone from deities to villains seemingly overnight. Such criticism is standard for athletes and celebrities, but is it right?

In a nation which celebrates its “innocent until proven guilty” moniker, mass media and the public have consistently rushed to judge and attack the same megastars that they have built up.

Some might ask why these average people are built up in the first place. Isn’t this what they wanted? For certain people, fame must seem incredible, but these people often disregard the negatives: Few people to relate to, even fewer friends, widespread judgement. Most celebrities just have a gift and an astounding work ethic. They love the job, but don’t necessarily appreciate the side effects of fame.

Moreover, these celebrities are not morally different from average people. In fact, the competitiveness and ego that builds up great athletes often drags them down morally. Tiger Woods and Michael Jordan, for example, are two of the greatest athletes ever, but both have cheated on their wives. They’re ultra-successful, ultra-competitive people who society has made out to be unbeatable.

Oscar Pistorius is not on Michael Jordan’s level, but he was celebrated as an Olympic hero. Pistorius worked hard to be an Olympian, and with no precedent to compete on the main stage, probably had no expectations of fame. The popularity that companies such as Nike gave him has turned from a blessing to a curse. Not only should Pistorius not be criticized for something that he hasn’t even been convicted of, but the moral standard for his behavior that he is being measured against shouldn’t exist.