Why Do Athletes Do Stupid Things?

So I get into work today, sit down, and check out the usual websites.  Deadspin, ESPN, etc.  I’m browsing through ESPN’s frontpage (oooo, Tiger won!), and what do I see?  This:

I’ve been meaning to discuss this with someone. Watch the entire clip. This isn’t Blackmon’s first DUI, he got another, only TWO YEARS AGO, in 2010. What I love is Clayton’s remark: “Since this is his first in the NFL (Technically, homeboy isn’t even in the NFL yet), this may or may not (May or may not? There really is a chance for leeway in this?) go under player conduct. But if he is convicted he does face the possibility of a ONE OR TWO GAME (emphasis mine) suspension….this is going to put him on the radar of Roger Goodell.”

There are two things I want to discuss. First, what I can’t possibly understand is: How are athletes CONSTANTLY getting busted for crimes like this? How is it that Blackmon did this TWICE. I’ve had friends with DUIs (and not even “aggravated DUIs”, three times the limit? Jesus). DUIs ruin lives. Suspended license, felony on your record, thousands of dollars in fines, nothing about just ONE DUI is worth it. Now I understand that Blackmon being a professional athlete, rules are different. Felonies on your record don’t mean anything (I mean, come on, he gets two DUIs in two years, this recent one with a BAC three times the legal limit, and all he is looking at is a one or two game suspension?) in the NFL.

Now I am just assuming here, but I would imagine that back in 2010 when Blackmon got his FIRST DUI (I really can’t stress this enough, he’s 22, and already has two DUIs), he faced the normal consequences that I listed above. I might even be forgetting one or two. Him being Justin Blackmon, star athlete, sure fire NFL number one pick, I don’t understand how (or why) he would consider ever driving anywhere drunk in the first place. You can’t find someone to drive you home? You don’t have money for a cab? You don’t know SOMEONE in the general vicinity that you can crash with?

I understand, I understand, judge not lest ye be judged. I would be remiss to judge someone based off decisions they made in college. We have all been there (Blackmon’s first offense was classified as a misdemeanor).

What I am more concerned about is that he received his SECOND DUI in two years, with a BAC of .24, less than 48 hours ago. This is AFTER he had already gone through the process of his first DUI, and AFTER he had been drafted fifth overall by the Jacksonville Jaguars.

I think NOW would be a good time to puff out my chest and start with the “You couldn’t possibly think of a more responsible way to get home?” rountine. He didn’t even try the “I drive better when I’m drunk because I concentrate harder” route, he was pulled over driving 60 MPH IN A 35 MPH ZONE. He literally was giving zero fucks at the time. He was driving freeway speeds in a residential area, essentially. How drunk do you have to be to think, after you have already been caught driving drunk only two years ago, that it’s a good idea to get BACK into your car, drive away, and then proceed to drive almost twice the speed limit. However drunk a BAC of .24 gets you, I guess. I would think it would be weird to see houses and elementary schools zipping by so fast.

Now, the second, more provocative issue. Is the NFL, with its extremely lax punishments to crimes like these, exacerbating the problem? John Clayton talked about it in the clip above. Blackmon MIGHT be facing a one or two game suspension. Are you fucking kidding me? How is there such a large disconnect between regular workplace regulations and workplace regulations in the NFL (or professional sports, for that matter)?

The most pertinent example (other than the infamous Braylon Edwards as a Jet incident, where he tried to drive himself and four other people home with a BAC twice the legal limit, even though the Jets had a 24-hour driving service for players in New York to avoid PRECISELY THAT SITUATION) I can think of this is the dress code shenanigans that happened in the NBA a while back. For those unaware, David Stern instituted a dresscode in 2005. Here’s the wikipedia article about it.  But here is the part that I am talking about:

Critics such as Allen Iverson, Stephen Jackson, and Paul Pierce claim that the dress code will not change a person’s character regardless of what type of clothing they wear, and that associating hip-hop style of dress with crime or a bad image is racist. Iverson was also quoted to say, “the dress code is not who I am and doesn’t allow me to express myself.” Many NBA and non-NBA sports figures also claim that it targets young black males and is a slap against hip-hop culture which the NBA also exploits to its benefit when it suits them (such as promoting the NBA All-Star Game). Most NBA players are sponsored by companies such as, Nike, Adidas, Puma and Converse.

All of that.  Alllll of that?  Utter nonsense (Iverson’s quote is the best.  Would you storm into your boss’s office with that as your defense as to why you decided to wear a wifebeater and baggy jeans to the meeting?  “You’re not letting me EXPRESS MYSELF!”).  They are employed by the NBA.  Employers are allowed to regulate a proper, professional, and reasonable dress code.  Be an adult.  Shut up and wear a suit.   Argue for casual Fridays in the next CBA.

Those three example (Blackmon, Edwards, and the NBA dress code) paint a very vivid and concerning picture to me.  I’m sure there are dozens of other examples that I can’t think of off the top of my head.  The fact that athletes don’t have to adhere to the consequences and requirements from their employers is a huge issue.  I am not blaming the athletes.  Sure, Blackmon getting two DUIs is idiocy, but it’s not like his career is in jeporady.  Hell, we all remember Michael Vick, right?  This goes right along with the NBA’s financial crisis and lockout.  When the owners started handing out monstorous contracts to undeserving or unproven talent, what were the players supposed to do?  Tell the owners that they weren’t worth that much?  What are the NFL players supposed to do?  Not take advantage of the system?

When the NFL doesn’t come down on players when they break the law, it negatively reinforces that behavior.  Michael Vick murders dogs?  He’s a starter with a $100 million contract three years later.  Plaxico Burress shoots himself in the leg in a club?  He’s starting two years later.  Justin Blackmon gets two DUIs in two years BEFORE HE EVEN PLAYS A DOWN?  He “may or may not” get a one or two game suspension.  Any other person in any other profession with criminal records like these would find it nearly IMPOSSIBLE to land a job.

Would it seem crazy to suspend Blackmon for a year?  Why couldn’t Michael Vick be banned for life?  How come the only time we see bans and year long suspensions in sports is when they do something WITHIN the sport?  Pete Rose is banned for life for betting FOR HIS TEAM TO WIN EVERY GAME.  Does that really constitute the lifelong ban of one of the best players ever?  The infamous Ray Lewis stabbing case:

Following a Super Bowl XXXIV party in Atlanta on January 31, 2000, a fight broke out between Lewis and his companions and another group of people, resulting in the stabbing deaths of Jacinth Baker and Richard Lollar. Lewis and two companions, Reginald Oakley and Joseph Sweeting, were questioned by Atlanta police, and eleven days later the three men were indicted on murder and aggravated assault charges. The white suit Lewis was wearing the night of the killings has never been found. Fulton County District Attorney Paul Howard alleged that the bloodstained suit was dumped in a garbage bin outside a fast food restaurant.

Lewis claimed that the prosecution knew he was not involved in the murder but chose to go ahead with the case anyway, saying, “You don’t care if I’m guilty or not. You gonna make sure I go to jail for life.” Lewis’ attorneys, Don Samuel and Ed Garland, of the Atlanta law firm Garland, Samuel & Loeb, negotiated a plea agreement with Howard, the Fulton County District Attorney, where the murder charges against Lewis were dismissed in exchange for his testimony against Oakley and Sweeting, and his guilty plea to a misdemeanor charge of obstruction of justice.Lewis admitted that he gave a misleading statement to police on the morning after the killings. Superior Court Judge Alice D. Bonner sentenced Lewis to 12 months’ probation, the maximum sentence for a first-time offender; and he was fined $250,000 by the NFL, which was believed to be the highest fine levied against an NFL player for an infraction not involving substance abuse. Under the terms of the sentence, Lewis could not use drugs or alcohol during the duration of the probation.

Oakley and Sweeting were acquitted of the charges in June 2000. No other suspects have ever been arrested for the crime.

On April 29, 2004, Lewis reached a settlement with four-year-old India Lollar, born months after the death of her father Richard, preempting a scheduled civil proceeding. Lewis also reached an undisclosed settlement with Baker’s family.

Lewis never missed a game.  He was INDICTED IN A MURDER CASE.  Like, seriously?  What the hell is going on?  How come being a professional athlete is the only profession where issues with the authorities and consequences from your employer aren’t correlated properly?

I can hear you all saying, “Athletes are under more scruntiny, blah, blah, blah.”  Michael Phelps gets paparazzi’d htting a bong and the world explodes.  Kobe has an affair and everybody loses it.  Once again, not blaming the athletes.  They are doing what I would be doing in that situation, just a product of their environment.  My issue here is the nonsenscial, inconsistent, blatant self-serving way that the executives of the professional sports (the more I think about it, the more I think it’s mostly the NFL) police their respective organizations.  If multiple DUIs, carrying concealed weapons, getting into fights in clubs, murder, and drug use don’t levy harsher punishments, then we should stop being so upset and surprised when incidents like these keep happening.


Happy Monday, that guy who played the cello in high school is way better than you right now.