Offsides: Why Many Athletes Seem To Commit Crimes
Delicately put, the National Football League is in the throes of a difficult offseason. Elite athletes have the unique and innate power to inspire many by their actions and decisions, they also are role models who have to be at their best at all times. This offseason, NFL players have failed to serve as strong role models as dark corners of the locker room are coming to light in an obscene and tragic manner. The name Aaron Hernandez has been added to the list of athletes who have chosen vulgar, incomprehensible and ultimately deadly choices.
To date, 27 active football players have been arrested since the Super Bowl in February and while the charges against these players vary, no arrest is a good arrest.
The trend begs the question: is there a propensity for hyper-masculine male athletes to showcase aggression outside of a competitive sports setting? Is violent behavior becoming the norm for athletes involved in high-revenue-producing sports?
Common sense dictates that when one is engaged in super humanistic behavior on the field, there are stronger tendencies to be explosive and exploitative off the field. Michael Miletic, a famed psychoanalyst, gave weight to this common insight into why star athletes might act out when he told a New York Times reporter in 2000 that what can make an athlete successful on the field can lead to a sense of entitlement and a feeling that they are above the law off of it.
There are programs that try to protect players from this type of behavior. The acclaimed Dr. Richard Lapchick started a prevention program in 1984 called Project TEAMWORK, which was deemed “America’s most successful violence prevention program”‘ by public opinion analyst Lou Harris. The program works with junior high school athletes throught the professional ranks and focuses on social behavior while stressing that especially for an athlete, violence, drugs and other deviant behaviors are not acceptable.
This past May I went to see the movie the movie ” The Great Gatsby” in Nantucket with my youngest daughter. Bill Belichick, a summer resident of the island, viewed the movie a few rows behind us.
The book (and the movie) is a study in the layers of decadence and excess and its potential results. The story is deemed as a caution to accompany the American Dream. Many have said that F. Scott Fitzgerald made a bold departure from the norm when he wrote about the shallowness and emptiness that a wealthy lifestyle can afford.
Today, we see Gatsby in the vacuous lifestyle led by athletes who seemingly have it all. It has become commonplace to find sports media camped out on the steps of a courthouse.
And in Hernandez’s case, while “innocent until proven guilty” is the cornerstone of the American judicial system, the evidence seems to be overwhelming, even down to the small details such as how Bubblicious bubble gum was found not only in Hernandez’s home in North Attleboro but in a rental car allegedly used in the crime.
Sadly, the mounting evidence, like the bubble gum seems to be sticking.