Work in Sports
Your reactions to our four-part Bloody Monday feature
Posted: Friday March 03, 2000 01:10 PMThroughout our four-part Bloody Monday feature, CNNSI.com has examined the issue of violence in the NFL, focusing on the recent Ray Lewis case. During the week, we asked users to give us their feedback on the issue, and now we're publishing some of the most interesting comments below. You'll also find the results of the Instant Polls that accompanied this special report at bottom of the page.
Melissa Williams, Rome, Ga.
I have lost all respect for CNN/SI! If you're going to report some facts, why not report them all? What about the victim's criminal records? What about one of the victims breaking the law by just being out of the state of Ohio? You say gunshots were fired "as the limo drove away," but you "forgot" to mention that the shots were fired at the limo. You guys are becoming worse than the Star and the National Enquirer. Also, way to go quoting the mayor. "We will not allow wealth or fame or celebrity to pervert justice". Unfortunately, he already has by making these statements.
Without knowing all the facts in either case, it's not even logical to try and make any predictions. So far, the only thing that connects these two unrelated cases in any meaningful way is that there are two NFL players involved. That's not enough to send me rushing to label either situation as a "sign" of future trouble.
Though these two particular instances could be considered "freak occurrences." I do see a common denominator in most (but not necessarily) all of the problems we are witnessing. These are young men who come from troubled homes as children. Whether it be single parents with no father figure, or whether they were involved in drugs and/or gangs as kids. Just because these individuals succeed and become pro athletes, their past is still a part of their lives. And for a few of these individuals their past has caught up to them.
To do such a report is totally irresponsible at this point. Do you plan on printing a retraction if/when Ray is found innocent?
It's a sign of more to come. In general, athletes from rough neighborhoods and broken homes would probably be criminals if they weren't making millions. Even the some of them making millions are stealing and committing crimes. Ever since the OJ trial a message was sent to athletes that they are above the law. The only way this will be rectified is to starts a zero tolerance to this type of violence. Until then it will escalate.
As long as a team will sign a player with a questionable past, and as long as our society continues to coddle athletes almost from birth, these incidents will continue.
One of the first things that society can do is stop treating athletes like they are above everyone else. If athletes received the same kind of treatment maybe they would think before acting foolishly. I believe that the biggest problem in America today is the inability for people to accept responsibility for their actions. Everyone here on earth is responsible for their own actions, you can blame it on their background, you can put the blame anywhere you want, but the ultimate responsibility falls on each and every one of us and we have no one to blame but ourselves for the problems we have created.
The NFL is 70 or 80 percent black and most of these people grew up in the ghetto which is rife with drugs, crime and violence. You give a kid like that millions of dollars, and he doesn't automatically turn into a saint; rather he becomes even more violent and dangerous. The only way to curb criminal behavior among NFL players would be to radically change the way players are drafted -- perhaps they should all be required to meet certain
standards of academic excellence and good behavior. Otherwise, the NFL will become more of a cesspool than it already is.
I feel it starts with the college coaches. If one took the percentage of NFL felons and then subtracted those who displayed those tendencies in college, I would venture a guess that one would be left with about 1 out of 10 NFL criminals that were first time offenders. Big time college programs put winning above values. Which will be more of a surprise, to see Peter Warrick or Sebastian Janikowski in an orange jumpsuit in a few years or someone who has kept clean and done the right thing?
It's become apparent that the majority of theses guys have way too much money and the whole thought that "Hey, I'm a millionaire, I can do what I want." The league really needs to address the money issue here, granted these guys do things a lot of us wish we could but lets be real, $50-$75 million to play football. There are men and women who risk their lives daily and only make $20,000 a year, then here comes the NFL -- and some bonehead who had their hand held through college now makes up to $20m a year. PLEASE!
I don't think anything can really be done, per se, to keep these players from committing crimes. Education, it seems, has always been the best prevention, but the money lost by the sports world would be too great to ever change the regulations regarding education standards and draft-entry. The violence rate of NFL players is still lower than the national average, but they are singled out because they are already in the limelight. Football players are violent by nature. They get paid to show their strength by hurting others. The NFL shouldn't get any special privileges. What can be done to keep the general public from committing out-of-the-office violence? You can take the boy out the streets, but you can't take the streets out of the boy. You can't expect to take someone with a violent past, put him in a violent job, and then expect him to behave like a model citizen in his private life.
I don't have a suggestion, but I do have a comment. I agree with Harry Edwards saying the problem will only get worse. The number one objective in the NFL is to win. You just can't get players that can win for you from anywhere. These players from the economically disadvantaged areas try that much harder to achieve to get out of their situation. Will a coach or owner bypass a player who can help them win just because they have a violent background? Not many times.
Coaches must change their "win at all cost" approach to signing players, and the league must put some teeth into its violence policy and make the consequences meaningful, not just words.
I think all athletes are simply paid too much money. The free agency thing has just made things worse. Athletes are given too many chances. You athletes wonder what is wrong with the children of today, well look at the role models they have to look up to.
I take exception to your use of Jason Respert, Eric Knott, and Damon Dowdell as examples of athletes gone bad. I also take exception to your implication that the universities are letting them "get away with stuff" by holding scholarships for them pending the outcome of their respective cases. I think that it is a credit to the schools that they are waiting to pass judgement until the criminal justice system has done its job. The last time I checked, the system of juris prudence used in the United States was "Innocent until Proven Guilty" and not the other way around. Admit it. Whether or not any of the athletes mentioned above are eventually proven guilty, CNNSI.com jumped the gun on this one by assuming their guilt before all the facts come out in trial.