Shop Fantasy Central Golf Guide Email Travel Subscribe SI About Us NFL Football Fantasy More Football Leagues

 
  U.S. SPORTS
  pro football
scores
schedules
standings
stats
matchups
stadiums
depth charts
injuries
transactions
players
teams
scoreboards
baseball S
col. football S
pro basketball S
m. college bb S
w. college bb S
hockey S
golf plus S
tennis S
soccer S
motor sports
olympic sports
women's sports
more sports
 WORLD SPORT

EVENTS
 Sportsman of the Year
 Heisman Trophy
 Swimsuit 2001

CENTERS
 Fantasy Central
 Inside Game
 Multimedia Central
 Statitudes
 Your Turn
 Message Boards
 Email Newsletters
 Golf Guide
 Cities
 Work in Sports

CNNSI.com GROUP
 Sports Illustrated
 Life of Reilly
 Television
 SI Women
 SI for Kids
 Press Room
 TBS/TNT Sports
 CNN Languages

COMMERCE
 SI Customer Service
 SI Media Kits
 Get into College
 Sports Memorabilia
 TeamStore

'It's getting out of hand'

Violent crimes by NFL players worry league observers

Click here for more on this story

Posted: Saturday February 05, 2000 06:01 PM

  Ray Lewis The Baltimore Ravens aren't sure if they'll ever again be able to use their top tackler, Ray Lewis. David Seelig/Allsport

BALTIMORE (AP) -- The NFL used to spend most of the offseason pondering such problems as the length of games, the shifting of franchises or the proper use of TV replay.

Now, perhaps more than ever, off-the-field violence is troubling the league.

Two players are in jail on murder charges. Many others have been charged with less-serious crimes this season, including assault, burglary, and weapons and drug possession.

"I've been part of this league for 40 years and I just can't ever remember so many cases of a criminal nature," Buffalo Bills owner Ralph Wilson said. "It's getting out of hand."

The cases have battered the image of a stuffy institution that some derisively refer to as "The National Felony League."

Following a Super Bowl party in Atlanta last Monday, Baltimore Ravens star linebacker Ray Lewis was arrested on murder charges in the stabbings of two men outside a nightclub.

Earlier this season, Carolina wide receiver Rae Carruth was arrested on murder charges in the shooting of his pregnant girlfriend.

While such charges against two players in the same season were unprecedented, the league has always had to deal with off-the-field violence and crime. In fact, all NFL teams already offer a series of lectures on personal conduct throughout the season.

The recent cases, however, highlight what seems to be a trend.

NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue acknowledged the problem two days before the Super Bowl, but added, "We can't predict what NFL players will do any more than we can predict students shooting other students or workers shooting fellow workers."

Athletes, however, receive much more money and adulation than the average student or mailman. While the majority of football stars cope well in such an environment, others do not.

"For some players, you get all that money and you're like a time-bomb waiting to go off," said Lew Lyon, a sports psychologist who works out of Baltimore's Good Samaritan Hospital. "You grow up getting special treatment because you're an athlete, then you get millions of dollars thrown at you. Shady people gravitate toward money."

The NFL's season of crime and punishment has produced damaging headlines around the country and provided late-night comedians with more than enough material for their opening monologues.

Rae Carruth Rae Carruth is being held without bond in Charlotte, N.C., while he awaits trial. Otto Greule Jr./Allsport  

Hardly a week went by this season without news of another player in trouble with the law.

Two players on the Bills were charged in the sexual assault of two off-duty police officers in a nightclub; Denver Broncos safety Darrius Johnson was charged with punching a topless dancer; and New York Jets offensive tackle Jumbo Elliott was charged with punching a man and woman at a bar.

Indianapolis Colts defensive back Steve Muhammad is charged with battery in the beating of his pregnant wife, but was cleared of being involved in her death after it was attruibuted to injuries suffered in an auto accident. The baby was stillborn.

And on Thursday, Fred Lane of the Carolina Panthers was arrested on drug and weapons charges after police said they found marijuana and a gun in his car.

His teammate, Carruth, was cut by Carolina soon after his arrest, and Miami Dolphins running back Cecil Collins was suspended indefinitely after being arrested in connection with a break-in at a neighbor's apartment. The married woman living there said Collins had been stalking her.

The Ravens aren't sure if they'll ever again be able to use Lewis, who led the team in tackles in four straight seasons and was supposed to play in his third Pro Bowl this weekend.

His lawyer, Ed Garland, said Lewis was simply a 'horrified bystander' who didn't know the two men had been killed until he heard about it on the news hours later. But some wonder why a man with a $26 million contract put himself in such a position in the first place.

"Ray Lewis got caught up in the big party," Lyon said. "The tragedy of Ray Lewis is that he put himself in harm's way."

Beginning in April, the Ravens held a seven-part lecture series on personal conduct for players. Topics included personal and professional accountability, male/female issues and drug counseling.

"Such programs can help, but in most cases it's like putting a Band-Aid on a gaping wound," Lyon said. "You're talking about a person who has high self-worth and a lot of money. He's not going to listen. He's thinking, 'This won't happen to me.'"

Wilson said the NFL needs to do more than merely instruct players on how to deal with fame and fortune.

"Because of the acceleration of these cases, the league has to take a harder approach. We've been far too soft," Wilson said. "It's something I think we'll talk about at the next owners meeting."

Often a players' time in the 40-yard dash is more important than his rap sheet. Wilson said he will no longer take a chance on a player with a criminal past.

"I'm just as guilty as anybody," he said, "but I think our emphasis on winning has taken away from our common sense."


 
Related information
Stories
Examiner: Killers efficient in Super Bowl slayings
Lawyer: Lewis was 'horrified bystander'
Attorney: Lewis charges stem from word of one witness
Packers restructure Favre's contract for more cap room
Haslett rehires some of Ditka's staff
Youth is served at NFL's 50th annual Pro Bowl
Multimedia
Visit Multimedia Central for the latest audio and video
Search our site Watch CNN/SI 24 hours a day

Sports Illustrated and CNN have combined to form a 24 hour sports news and information channel. To receive CNN/SI at your home call your cable operator or DirecTV.

Copyright 2003 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.


CNNSI Copyright © 2000
CNN/Sports Illustrated
An AOL Time Warner Company.
All Rights Reserved.

Terms under which this service is provided to you.
Read our privacy guidelines.