Enough Is Enough

I know I’ve touched on this before, including last week. As a sports fan, and someone who’s tried to teach athletes about responsibility and accountability – and seeing that the subject has inundated recent news – I need to jump on my soapbox once more about the ridiculousness of athletes who continue to violate team and league rules. They continue to get away with “crimes” within their game, or society, and still save their outrageous salaries, which are already insulting to hard-working people trying to survive in these trying economic times.

I’m aware many consider sports a business, and with all the money, sports’ licensing agreements, and memorabilia sales, you can’t disprove that, but the business seems to allow some to be bigger than what sports is, was, and should be.

We’ve seen 19-year-old young adults named the greatest college football/basketball player in America, thrown into the limelight, and people wondering what happened to cause them to make bad decisions in the real world, and the athlete expecting his/her status to encourage clemency for transgressions committed, and they’re punished with what amounts to slaps on the wrist.

We’ve seen athletes violate laws, then use ignorance in defense, hoping their athletic notoriety will be their “get out of jail free” card.

We’ve gone through the HGH/PED decade and heard all the “I didn’t do it,” or “I didn’t know this was, or contained, a banned substance,” etc.

We’ve now traveled down “Biogenesis Highway” and seen players who knew they’d be proved guilty scramble, trying to make deals which would give them the easiest possible punishment, once again, slapping the faces of people who work for $40,000 annually but attend games because of their love for the sport and need for some entertainment after working hard for that $40,000.

Most of the guilty players finally settled for the “plea bargain” deal agreed upon by MLB and its Players Association.

I’m not a genius, nor do I claim to have the solutions of world problems, but I think I have a suggestion to solve some of the aforementioned situations/scenarios in the sporting world. My suggestion has two words, “Zero Tolerance.”

I believe, if athletes violate league drug, or other major policy, they should be suspended without pay for one year and their contract should be suspended, with no appeals for leniency. They may return after that suspension at league minimum salary and play for two years at that amount, where, if they stay “clean” they may negotiate a new deal with the team for whom they play.

If they commit a second violation after the beginning or completion of their first one, then they should receive a lifetime ban from the sport, again, with no appeal possible.

We’re talking about grownups here. It’s not like they’re someone who doesn’t do their homework, or ate a cookie before dinner after mother said not to do that. We’re talking about “adults” who should know right from wrong and if choosing wrong, should be made to be accountable for their decision.

Athletes who commit a major crime due to alcohol, drugs, or anything else, and are found guilty by due process, should be formally, immediately, banned for life from their sport.

If they’re found guilty of lesser crimes, violators should be subjected to the consequences established under the law. For example, if it’s a first DWI/DUI offense, they may get fined. Multiple offenses may result in license suspension, and many more might result in revocation. Sports should adopt that same punishment philosophy regarding lesser league and crime violations to run concurrent with the criminal consequence.

Before reinstatement for drug, alcohol or lesser league or criminal violations, players should be mandated to get extensive counseling to help them make better decisions regarding their transgression.

At lower levels of sports (collegiate, interscholastic, youth leagues), plans should be created on national levels making each athlete responsible for the same certain rules, having the same consequences for violation, putting everyone on an even keel. Also, any suspension should eliminate any possibility for a post season award of any kind.

I know many might feel this would take away from the individuality of schools or programs, but different sets of standards and/or consequences allow imbalances in competition involving athletes from one area playing athletes from another.

Those things can be monitored by policy, but there are things that need to be implemented by common sense.

Naming 19-year-olds as best collegiate athletes in their sports must be done carefully, with much more than just a talent in a particular sport in mind. The same goes for how high school, middle school, and youth league players are treated and awarded. Athletes shouldn’t be labeled “the next Michael Jordan, Adrian Peterson, Tiger Woods, David Beckham, etc.,” while in middle school.

Young people shouldn’t have expectations too high to reach way too early in their lives, and all players should be made to abide by the same rules and consequences.

Schools should also stop recruiting young athletes as early as eighth grade.

Let’s face it, the situation has gotten way out of hand and enough is enough.

Until things become more consistent rule, expectation, and consequence wise, the problem will continue to escalate, and some players who might be a bit less talented but have the heart to play without cheating, may never get the chance because of the “more talented, undisciplined” athletes who take the sport for granted and look upon, and misinterpret, the privilege to play as their right to play.

There’s nothing wrong with “zero tolerance.” Perhaps, if used more often, and adhered to, sports might be kept in perspective, and its young people (and adults) might be made to be more accountable for wrong doings.

It’s just a thought.