Donte Whitner Is Not the Problem

Todd MorseAnalyst IApril 14, 2009

ORCHARD PARK, NY - SEPTEMBER 7:  Donte Whitner #20 of the Buffalo Bills moves on the field during the game against the Seattle Seahawks at Ralph Wilson Stadium on September 7, 2008 in Orchard Park, New York. (Photo by Rick Stewart/Getty Images)

How many of us have ever been in a situation in which the life of someone we care about, or more specifically, the life of a member of our family, is being legitimately threatened?

“My cousin’s out there, and they’ve got guns." 

That's what the police report states Donte Whitner said to a police officer before he was handcuffed, tasered, and arrested outside the House of Blues in Cleveland.  

We know that Whitner is 23 years old and, like all NFL stars, has been catered to his entire life. He lives in the world of the NFL, not in Regular Peopleville. When he was drafted, character and leadership were the qualities that Bills brass said made him their choice.  

You see, fans are regular people, and the character and leadership it takes to be a leader among laypeople is not the same as that necessary in an NFL locker room. Here, empathy is important, while sympathy is not.  

It may be depressing, but NFL players get arrested at 3 a.m. outside of clubs, and they make decisions and take actions with negative results. Those facts don't make what Whitner did acceptable, as there are times when the realm of pro football and the real world collide. But such events should spark empathy in us onlookers.

Whitner did not disgrace the organization, he did not disgrace the fans. He will still be respected in his locker room, and he will still be a productive member of the Bills organization. The media overreacted when the story first broke.  

It is fine to criticize Whitner for his actions and decisions. That's what normal folk do in their daily lives.

To some, it may be a black-and-white issue, either you break the law or you don't.  

I just don't think it's that easy. I have never had the life of a family member threatened, nor have I been extorted, adored, harassed or catered to. Whitner's story is a glimpse into the dark side of being famous and being in the National Football League.  

For every decision there is a consequence, and in every life there are hurdles.Try to put yourself in Donte's shoes.

“My cousin’s out there, and they’ve got guns." 

What would you do?