From Caron Butler to Chris Andersen: How Should We Handle Troubled Athletes?

Todd ParmeleeSenior Analyst IMarch 5, 2008

Sports at all levels give athletes multiple chances to succeed.  Sometimes those chances payoff, other times they do not.

Chris "Birdman" Andersen rejoined the New Orleans Hornets yesterday.  The 6'10" forward was suspended from the NBA in 2006 for violating the league’s drug policy.  Will the Birdman become the next Ricky Williams?

Ricky Williams—the two-time Doak Walker winner, one time Heisman winner—has been suspended multiple times for violating the NFL’s drug policy.  Williams had his contract renewed this past January with the Miami Dolphins, but he's been given far too many chances.

Take the University at Albany, for example.  They have a top-flight lacrosse player named Mike Banks on their team.  Banks is a former member of the street gang the Bloods in Norwalk, Connecticut.  He spent five months incarcerated for shooting a man with a hunting rifle and burglarizing a home when he was 15.

Banks is currently on probation and will remain so until he turns 20 years old.   The University at Albany took a chance this kid who had multiple scrapes with the law.

Caron Butler of the Washington Wizards was arrested 15 times before the age of 15 in Racine, Wisconsin.  Butler spent two years at the University of Connecticut before he was drafted by the Miami Heat.

Butler has been named to two All-Star teams.  More importantly, he has stayed out of trouble.   

Where would Butler be today if he had been given a chance?   If he were not able to turn his life around with basketball, he could be in jail.   

Adam "Pacman" Jones is a guy that should not be given another chance.  Problems seem to follow Jones, and the Tennessee Titans and NFL should part ways with him.

The fact of the matter, though, is that "Pacman" is immensely talented and some NFL team will give him another chance.  Sometimes teams are better off with less talented players that will not cause distractions.   Distractions and subsequent controversy can destroy team chemistry. 

Last, but not least, Michael Vick should be mentioned.  Vick is currently incarcerated at Federal Prison Camp in Leavenworth, Kansas.  He is participating in a drug program, which most likely will speed up his release date.

When Vick is released from prison sometime in 2009, will an NFL team have the audacity to take a chance on the convicted felon?  Jamal Lewis received a second chance.  Shouldn’t Vick receive his?

Pro athletes should receive second and third chances when they face substance abuse issues, but not when their crimes are violent—this sets the wrong example.  

For young athletes, like Banks and Bulter, organized sports provide an outlet for success.  They have shown that second chances really do pay off.


For a great story on Mike Banks, check out Lacrosse Magazine