Sunday, April 12, 2009

Should athletes be punished for their crimes?

Professional athletes committing crimes seems to be a growing problem, but they are not facing consequences for their actions. They are not convicted because it might possibly ruin their career, for Michael Phelps and Kobe Bryant this is almost too true. Most of their sponsors decided not to resign them and both athletes are are trying to rebuild a reputation. In an article in USA Today it stated on accusations of rape "there is enormous pressure on the victim not to press charges, that you're ruining his career" ( ). But rape is still a serious crime, how can these athletes just walk away? In the Handbook it says "a problem exists because athletes do not face consequences legal or otherwise when accused, arrested or convicted of a crime. Athletic skills represent a get out of jail free card that provides universal immunity, thereby guaranteeing a persistent problem within sports" (Leonard 525). Of coarse for everyday people who do commit these same crimes such as rape (most widely committed among athletes) getting off scott free is just not fair. Even though they do have a special skill and make loads of money they should not be treated any different, they have committed a federal crime and should be punished accordingly. What do you think? Should athletes get special treatment to protect their careers/reputation? Should they be able to just walk away from a crime they were convicted of. Is that fair for everyday citizens who commit these serious crimes and are punished?

Farrell Henneberry


  1. Athletes should definitely not be held any higher than your average citizen when it comes to the law. I think it is ridiculous that anyone should get special treatment just because of a talent, rape is rape and the criminal must be punished. Athletes are looked up to as role models and when they get away with these crimes it sets an example to young fans that it is alright to commit these crimes.
    In the Handbook, research shows in estimation, “athletes view women as part of their contract, so male athletes are sanctioned to demand then at any moment.”(526) In a previous class discussion we talked about women and the extreme measures they will go to get noticed by these athletes. Although I do not agree with these women who use their bodies and perform sexual acts to get ahead, in no way should athletes feel that it is their right to these women.

    “Professional players perceive access to limitless sex as just another facet of the entitlements that accompany being a professional athlete.”(526) Athletes especially the all-stars can pretty much get a woman if they wanted at all hours of the day and when they don’t get what they want they think it is okay to take charge and demand sex. When Kobe Bryant was convicted of sexual assault in 2003 against a 19 year old most believed that the girl was seeking attention and an opportunity to receive money from the case. People did not want to believe that their hero that they looked up to could commit such a heinous crime and sadly enough the case was dropped. Whether or not the girl was lying, people were pretty quick to jump to conclusions.

  2. Should athletes be above the law? No. However, it is the society that we live in that they sometimes are above the law. They are not the only people that are above the law as many movie stars, musicians, and celebrities also find themselves above the law.

    In Chapter 31 in the Handbook, David Leonard points out the alarming rate of crime within players in the NFL. Leonard writes, "Benedict and Yaeger, in Pros and Cons, concluded that 20%, or 1 in 5, of the members of the NFL have been charged with a serious crime. (524)I also like how he points out that many people who study crime don't look into other factors including context and race.

    Crimes committed by athletes have definitely made the front pages more often than in past years. This adds to the perception that athletes are committing more crimes than ever. Like we talked about earlier in the semester, past journalists often had close relationships with the players they covered so they were less likely to report a crime or scandal about them. Today many journalists are looking for that big scoop and would be more likely to break the news.

  3. Take your average Joe and a famous athlete. They have both committed the same crime, under the same circumstances, with identical motives. The difference?—the average Joe is sentenced to “x” amount of years in prison or loses his job while the famous athlete gets off with community service and still has a multi-million paying job. Why?
    Well, on the one hand, these athletes can afford good lawyers. Yes, the fact that they’re famous could potentially play a part, but if it wasn’t for their income then the situation may be different. I do not think judges are keen on letting them go, but it definitely helps that their lawyers know how to operate when in the courtroom. There have been large amounts of guilty individuals who get away with all sorts of crimes, but you don’t hear about those cases because regular people don’t make ESPN headlines. Everyone should be equal when it comes to the crimes they commit, no matter how much money is in your pocket.
    Another thing I find unfair is that athletes not only are let off the hook, but also usually allowed to resume play in their particular sport. If the average Joe steals, is committed of sexual assault, etc they are thrown out of their job position, no questions asked. People tend to forget that the athlete’s job is to play either basketball, baseball, soccer, and so on. It is not for recreation or for our entertainment. They play to make money—a teacher educates to make money or a doctor operates to make money. If you are convicted of a felony like sexual assault, possession of a weapon or drugs, or something serious like that, athletes should be punished in the same ways as we would. However, as Leonard states in Handbook of Sports and Media, “society awards them with special attention and privileges, which may give them a sense of entitlement and freedom from accountability.” (525) People want to give them the benefit of the doubt, a second chance because they are heroes to children and even adults. We huddle around the television to watch these individuals—we would rather forget about the drugs and concentrate on the amount of hits they get in the ball game.

  4. In our law it says nothing about a professional athlete being and exception but unfortunately in this day and time it happens. If you are a professional athlete and have lots of money, chances are if you committed a crime, a little pity will be taking toward you. Being famous and playing a professional sport helps, but you also have to add in having lots of money.

    The fact of the matter is that athletes are going to continue to get let off the hook now and 20 years later. Is it right? no but that's just how it is in this society. Nobody like to hear about a professional athlete that there kids look up too going to jail.

    I think people put too much pressure on athletes to be role models to be honest. That's why when athletes get in trouble people act so surprise. They are human too and like the handbook say in chapter 31 "if the public understood the private lives of their sports heroes, they would probably not support them, sending a message of accountability" Im not saying that this gives them the right to get in trouble with the law but people need to understand this.

  5. I don’t think anyone should be held above the law, however in our society I would agree that actors and athletes alike seem to live above it and get away with murder (OJ Simpson). People often don’t want to believe that these people they idolize are capable of committing crimes, and hold them on a pedestal above all other things. But have we allowed this as a society to become part of the job? That once you achieve stardom you have the key to everything else; or you basically are entitled to things everyone else in society is not. The statement from the handbook that I thought best approached this was “athletes view women as part of their contract, so male athletes are sanctioned to demand then at any moment,” (526). This addresses several issues, however speaking directly to the issue of do athletes get away with murder (or any other crimes), I think there have been cases where this holds truth.
    In no way should athletes feel that they are entitled to certain things, the rest of society is not. If anything they should feel privileged and honored that they are given the opportunity to pursue something that they love.
    I think to prevent this idea that Athletes are superior (above) to the law, it needs to be instilled earlier on in their careers. Colleges should treat their athletes just as they would any other student. No exceptions academically or on any other level; equal opportunities should be presented but no one should be given better treatment. The Duke lacrosse incident is one of the most recent controversial occurrences and stayed in the public eye for quite some time. There is even a website recapping the events during and after April 11, 2007. When it comes down to it, the law is the law, and if someone is willing to commit a crime against a law, then no matter what their status is in society they should be prepared to suffer the consequences.

  6. A number of professional athletes have made headlines for other reasons in recent years. In the 2000s, it seems to be an ongoing trend that professional athletes are in the limelight for crimes, violations, and public disturbances than in recent years. It also seems like a problem that isn’t letting up. Michael Vick, Adam “Pacman” Jones, and Chris Henry are just a few names of the ongoing list.

    I completely agree. Professional athletes should not be treated differently for their “celebrity,” status. All citizens, young and old, famous or not, should be given similar sentences from the court systems.

    The original blog mentioned a “get out of jail free card” philosophy that the Handbook of Sports and Media originated. I definitely agree that athletes are being given this preferential treatments from the court systems, but I feel it is important to note this “preferential treatment” that teams provide with these athletes.

    Adam Pacman Jones was arrested numerous times for his off the field actions, yet, he was given many second chances from the NFL and the Dallas Cowboys.

    Another example is Charles Barkley who was convicted of a DUI this past year but was let off the hook. His blood alcohol level was reported at twice the legal limit and he was sentenced to ten days in jail. He only had to serve three before being released. If an ordinary person, not famous, does something like Barkley, they typically will have to serve the full sentence, which is usually longer than 10 days. Barkley took his own personal leave from TNT, and was allowed back on air in a short amount of time. An ordinary person can lose a job over a DUI, but a famous person can quickly regain it, something that Michael Vick hopes to do shortly as well.

    Events like this then lead to the media coverage of events that call for justice and front page news stories. The Handbook of Sports and Media examines the issue of crime and sports, calling it a major problem. It mentions a study from Jeff Benedict, Don Yaeger, Tim Green, and Charles Ogletree which describe it perfectly.

    “Those responsible for the mayhem chronicled on these pages are no ordinary criminals. They are perceived as heroes. Rather than being stigmatized like cons, these pros are cheered, idolized, and highly paid because they bring us thrills. And we are not talking about a few bad apples here,” (Handbook 524).

    Many names continue to be brought up including most recently Plaxico Burress. They are all looked upon for their on the field success and when these athletes are exposed, it does set up this interested spot where the “athlete” tag is removed for “criminal.” More needs to be done to set these players down for their actions and set an example for society. No more cheering for these athletes…how about some booing and some proper action to set them down for these moves.

  7. Although athletes grace the covers of countless magazines, and although you see children and adults walking around with their favorite athlete’s number and name on their clothing, and although millions of people watch star athletes from the stands or in front of their TV religiously, it does not mean that they should be treated any different when it comes to the legal system.
    The law is the law. There are no exceptions. I don’t think I have heard in any of my law classes how athletes are an exception to the American Justice System. Many athletes believe that they can get away with virtually anything. We have seen star athletes be charged with crimes as serious as rape and murder and their punishment is minimal. That is not fair, and that is making our justice system look bad. In the Handbook this unfairness is further explained. “…a problem exists because athletes do not face consequences, legal or otherwise, when accused, arrested, or convicted of a crime” (Leaonard, 526).
    Even though these athletes have the money to minimize their legal charge, and know the right people to help them, it still does not justify why athletes are treated different just because of their fame and fortune.

    -Katie Devlin

  8. From the time athletes are young they feel a sense of entitlement. They feel entitled to more privileges, more material things, and more money. They feel they are entitled to being the exception to a rule. They feel this way because from the time they are in high school, the best athletes have had everything handed to them on a silver platter.
    It starts when they are recruited by coaches from private high schools and prep schools. Coaches compete for their attention, interest, and commitment to their team and school. After high school, college coaches do the same type of recruiting, if not even more intense, to acquire the best players. Once in college, athletes continue to be catered to. The small percentage of athletes who actually make it to the pro’s are so used to all of the special treatment that it’s only natural for them to feel like they should be let off the hook – again – for any little thing. “The great majority, according to Benedict, never faced prosecution, incarceration, negative media coverage, or public scrutiny. The absence of accountability is as much a problem as the disproportionate incidences” (Benedict 525).
    It’s no secret that professional athletes in today’s world have a tendency to get mixed up in illegal situations (Think Michael Vick, Jermaine O’Neal, Kobe Bryant, Pacman Jones, etc). These athletes, whether they were convicted or not, were still be able to come back and play again. Any other person would have lost their job.
    I do NOT think that athletes have the right to be treated differently when it comes down to violating the law. I completely agree with Janelle when she wrote, “When it comes down to it, the law is the law, and if someone is willing to commit a crime against a law, then no matter what their status is in society they should be prepared to suffer the consequences.”

  9. Even though I am an athlete this one topic that always gets me mad. I agree that athletes should be punished for their actions. Since they have a special gift of playing a sports doesn’t give them the right to commit a crime and get away with it. Crimes and athletes are like best friends because at some point an athlete is committing a serious crime. Their many athletes out in sports that are still playing or retried that committed serious crimes and didn’t get punished for. I feel like their punishment is taking away their sponsors. That is not enough because athletes are thinking they are above the law and no one should think that.

    In the Handbook it says "a problem exists because athletes do not face consequences legal or otherwise when accused, arrested or convicted of a crime. Athletic skills represent a get out of jail free card that provides universal immunity, thereby guaranteeing a persistent problem within sports" (Leonard 525). Other thing that I feel has a big part in athletes thinking they can get away with crimes is the money they have. I believe once a person starts making lots of money they think they can get away with anything because they can pay themselves out of it.

    .The number of athletes that committed crimes and didn’t get jail time is higher then the athletes that received jail time. I think that is crazy because today’s society is all about convicting citizens for their crimes. But athletes can get away with the same crimes other citizens commit. Athlete should not be treated differently by the legal system just because their skill on the court or field.

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