“Rape. Murder. It’s just a shot away.” — The Rolling Stones, “Gimme Shelter”
I usually don’t start articles with a quote, but considering the events of this week, I think it’s appropriate. Tragedy struck the University of Virginia earlier this week, as men’s lacrosse player George Huguely admitted responsibility for the death of woman’s lacrosse player Yeardley Love.
Whether or not he is charged with murder or some form of manslaughter has yet to be determined.
Today, more shocking news developed: Hall of Fame linebacker Lawrence Taylor was arrested and charged with the rape of a 16 year old girl. He could face up to four years in prison if convicted.
It’s not just the events of this week.
It's the alleged rape by Ben Roethlisberger, the murder of high school football coach Ed Thomas by a former player, felony weapons charges against the Washington Wizards' Gilbert Arenas, and Boston Bruins' Marc Savard allegedly biting an opponent in a playoff game, among others.
It begs the question: What drives an athlete to such violent and otherwise illegal actions?
They've been given everything anyone could want: Money, fame, cars, a free education.
What urges athletes to break the law given their privileged lifestyles?
To use a cliché, with great power comes great responsibility. Professional athletes are role models to millions of children across the country.
The message that some athletes are sending to these kids is that rape, murder, drunk driving, drug use, and assault are all permissible.
As a human being, rather than a sports fan, I’m disgusted with this type of behavior.
And to you, the athlete: what of the families of your victims?
They have to live with the consequences of your actions every day for the rest of their lives. They suffer because of your behavior, and to you, it’s nothing more than a public relations fiasco.
I’m well aware that athletes are a small percentage of the population, and yes, many other people commit violent crimes as well. But it’s the social status of the professional athlete that brings it to national attention and exposes their indiscretions to the rest of the world. Don’t tell me you didn’t know any better.
The violence has to stop.
It’s not a request; it’s an ultimatum.
You’re alienating your fans, and letting your teammates, organization, and the entire league down. It’s only a matter of time before everyone gets fed up with it and you vanish from the public eye.
You may be a famous athlete, but you’re a person first, and so are we. When you forget your humanity, you lose your soul.