Former NFL safety Darrin Sharper, now an analyst for the league's in-house network, is under fire for allegedly drugging and raping up to seven women during during a five-month span from 2013 to 2014, another black eye for a league with far too much negative press and not nearly enough accountability.
Michael Parente -- MP@990wbob.com
The sociopath in Miami who damn near bullied one of his teammates into retirement is probably counting his blessings this week. Thank God for that other guy from the NFL Network serving up Roofie Coladas, or the tight end in New England who allegedly killed another guy last summer and might even be linked to more homicides. Thank God someone else is in the news for a change.
Actually, if you’re an NFL player on the wrong side of the law, all you need to do is a wait a few days until a fellow baller – perhaps even a teammate – winds up on the police blotter.
The way things are going these days, commissioner Roger Goodell probably wishes Richard Sherman’s fat mouth was still his biggest problem instead of having to deal with bullies, rapists and murderers raising legitimate questions about the immoral – sometimes illegal – reprehensible behavior running rampant throughout the NFL.
As if Aaron Hernandez being dragged from his mansion in June in connection with a homicide wasn’t enough of a black eye, Goodell had to answer questions about locker-room ethics in November when Jonathan Martin walked away from the Miami Dolphins in the wake of bullying allegations against Richie Incognito and several other teammates, proving NFL players know no boundaries when it comes to the scope of crimes they’re liable to commit. In the era of 140-character Tweets and texts, the list of offenses ranges from childish to callous with little to no middle ground.
You’d think the excitement of the postseason would’ve suppressed some of the negativity, especially with another highly-romanticized Brady-Manning playoff showdown grabbing huge ratings in January, and yet two days before the big game in Denver, former NFL safety Darrin Sharper – an analyst for the league’s in-house network, no less – gets arrested on two separate counts of sexual assault. Turns out Sharper may have drugged and raped seven women between 2013 and 2014.
And somewhere near the bottom of the police log, which might as well replace the transaction report in the NFL, Ravens’ running back Ray Rice is in a bit of hot water stemming from an altercation at an Atlantic City casino this past weekend.
What gives, Roger?
Some people will blame the commissioner. Maybe he’s too hard on the players, therefore they’ve tuned him out. Despite his efforts to enforce stricter punishments for player misconduct, the NFL’s arrest rate has risen by more than 60 percent since he took office seven years ago.
Some will even blame concussions, claiming the players don’t know any better because they’ve taken one too many hits to the head.
Blame the system. It’s no surprise the NFL and NBA, leagues with no minor-league feeder systems forcing players to pay their dues in humbling, sometimes mortifying, environments, have the highest rate of knuckleheads in professional sports.
ArrestNation.com, a website that tracks yearly arrests among all sports, both college and professional, counted 245 arrests, citations and charges among pro and college football players (71 in the NFL and an alarming 174 at the college level) in 2013. Even if the list for college players includes frivolous NCAA violations, no other sport is even close. Basketball players finished a distant second with 68 while baseball (23) and hockey players (8) accounted for only 31 arrests combined, less than half of the arrests among basketball players.
A killer or rapist is just as likely to pick up a hockey stick as he is a basketball, but one can’t help but think a four-hour bus ride on a one-lane highway in Sioux Falls or a Thursday-night hockey game at an antiquated rink in frosty Utica would go a long way toward wiping the smile of entitlement off any athlete’s face. There’s something to be said for paying your dues at the minor-league level in baseball and hockey, where most players make less money than what college football and basketball players pocket illegally from overzealous boosters. And while it’s unfair to suggest the seedy, raunchy environments surrounding college football and basketball breed sex offenders and murderers, they do little to teach humility and respect to student-athletes who’ve been canonized for their physical gifts since high school.
National Signing Day in college football gets more coverage – literally wall-to-wall footage of high-school seniors signing their name on a piece of paper – than most NHL games. No wonder NFL players are so detached. The same goes for NBA players, some of whom begin making millions as everyday starters fresh out of high school, bypassing college and everything it’s supposed to teach you about being an adult in the real world.
This isn’t a race or class issue. It’s an issue of entitlement and humility. Some athletes feel they’re entitled to certain privileges, whether it’s respect, as in the case of Aaron Hernandez, or perhaps attention, which might have been the driving force behind Darrin Sharper’s alleged crimes. And what these athletes lack in humility, they more than make up for with disposable income most young baseball and hockey players could only dream of while riding the bus to their next minor-league game in a town they’ve never heard of.
If the NFL, and, to some degree, the NBA, wants fewer names on the police blotter and more faces in the crowd as inspiring role models, then it needs to find a way to reach young athletes before they grow into incorrigible, entitled divas capable of far worse than minor arrogance and presumption. The Richie Incognitos and Darrin Sharpers of the world could use a humbling experience or two, and the NFL could use the positive press for a change.
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