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Sports Authority

Lorton: Calm your outrage at athletes

| Tuesday, September 16, 2014

It’s a bad time to be a professional athlete. And it’s (unfortunately) a good time to be a sports writer.

With sensationalizing media and a judgmental society, nothing short of God himself coming down and saying, “This athlete, this man, this person is a good person,” would prevent us from thinking every athlete is a scumbag. And even then, someone probably would want to have the athlete tested for supernatural PEDs, just to make sure God hadn’t given him an upper hand. It is ridiculous.

It starts off with one incident, and suddenly, everyone, especially the media, wants to break another story about an athlete caught doing something wrong.

It builds.

People start comparing dissimilar cases and calling for heads immediately without proper evidence or knowledge of the circumstances. When did we get rid of due process? And the idea of innocent until proven guilty? Tony Stewart, Josh Gordon, Ray Rice and Adrian Peterson all get lumped into the category of evil men who are able to skirt the system only because they are rich athletes. People become judges.

People begin digging up dirt from the past. The smallest things or non-incidents become patterns for an athlete’s behavior. Everyone becomes a detective.

If someone is connected even remotely to the incident, he or she gets pulled into the wake.

After the domestic violence video leaked of Ray Rice hitting his then-fiancée in an elevator, people not associated with him were wrongly penalized for his mistakes.

Rihanna, Kanye West and Jay Z’s song, “Run this Town,” was recently was dropped from CBS’s Thursday Night Football production. Rihanna, a victim of domestic abuse by Chris Brown and a pop star unassociated with Rice, is being affected by something completely out of her control. Rihanna, rightly, expressed on Twitter her frustration that she is being penalized for the Rice incident. CBS and the NFL are worried about their own images at the cost of other people.

This would be like forbidding any child involved in a child abuse case from being filmed at the game because he or she might elicit the wrong reactions from fans — a reaction which the NFL doesn’t want to be associated with.

What the NFL did was wrong, but it is understandable. The media sensationalizes these kind of incidents and then looks to blame the NFL. How can they let players like this exist? The league is filled with terrible abusive men. The league itself has gone to the dumps.

And then people become psychoanalysts, asking why Janay Rice, Ray Rice’s wife, stayed with him. People assume to know she is frozen with fear and stuck in an abusive relationship; people call her a coward, and people say she doesn’t understand. It is unbelievable what people, led by the media, will say. How do they know what she is feeling or thinking about her own situation? Life is not so clear cut. Unless it is someone else’s life.

As I looked at ESPN and other sports news sites today, there was only one story not involving an athlete who hasn’t recently been in trouble, and that was Giancarlo Stanton recovering in the hospital after being hit in the face by an 88-mph fastball. Chris Davis was in the news because he helped lift a car off a man in an accident, but he was recently suspended for PED use because he took Adderall, and much of the car story and subsequent comments focused on his suspension.

It is sad the media needs scandals in order to hold our attention, and it is sad we are all too eager to judge. We all need to take a step back and breathe before we begin accusing and throwing out unsubstantiated blame. It is easy to be upset with athletes when they have money and fame, but it is our fault that we equate money and fame with morality. We need to realize that athletes are human as well, and we should not idolize or hold them to higher standards.

I am not defending one way or the other concerning these incidents — I am pushing for people to view professional athletes differently and not be so quick to judge.

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.


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