L.T. May Stand for Legal Troubles

Frank GrayCorrespondent IMay 8, 2010

NEW YORK - APRIL 22:  Former NFL Players Dieon Sanders and Lawrence Taylor stand on stage during the 2010 NFL Draft at Radio City Music Hall on April 22, 2010 in New York City.  (Photo by Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images)
Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images

This past week has been dominated primarily by one story and one man, the former NFL superstar Lawrence Taylor. Taylor has found himself in the midst of yet another whirlwind of legal troubles. It's not tax evasion or drug addictions. This time, as everyone by now probably knows, it is centered around soliciting underaged prostitution.

In the past few days, everyone has weighed in on his guilt or their shock and appalled reactions. Too many opinions and too many observations on his guilt. I will not weigh in on that particular issue. I want to delve deeper into the issue.

The essential question I wish to explore is one that has two parts. First, what would cause someone of his stature to resort to such actions in the first place? Second, as a follow up, why is the reaction of the population so different because of his stature? Let's address the first.

What would cause someone of his stature to resort to such actions in the first place? Over the past few years in the media-happy, technology age, there have been too many stories of similar nature. Far too many public figures with wealth and status have gotten into legal troubles because they are unable to control their impulses.

The most prevalent in the collective population's memory is that of Tiger Woods. There have been many more as well. We could write an entire book based on the stupidity of the celebrity mindset taking a gamble and getting caught. That is not my focus here though. I would like to attempt to figure out why the Steve Phillips', Tiger Woods', Jesse James' and Harold Reynolds' of the world take the chance in the first place.

I believe the answer, like the question, is two-fold. It would be simple to just dismiss it as ego run a muck and move onto the next big story. It would be far too convenient to call it pride and start quoting old proverbs. I've already heard the old saying "pride goeth before the fall." That's great.

In fact, that's true, but it doesn't help the situation. It only makes it worse. It's like pouring lemon juice on a cut. This is the typical reaction of a judgmental population that has too much time to go scoping through other peoples' lives to make themselves feel better about their own.

I will not judge Taylor. I refuse to be a part of the "I told you so" crowd. Taylor has issues, both as a man and as a human being. He has shown himself to be a fragmented man both at home and in his personal life outside of the home. But why? Are wealth and stature the only contributing factors?

Perhaps the answer to that is deeper. Perhaps most of these celebrities, athletes included, come into the wealth and the fame without truly being ready for the adjustment in lifestyle. When they do make the adjustments in lifestyle, it is with excess help of their own personalized vices. They often bring their old friends into the mix to share in their new found status. That is always a downfall.

Envy and jealousy of friends are just as much of a factor as self-pride or ego. It is as if these celebrities need someone to manage them every second of everyday. In other words, they need a keeper. The population as a whole relishes the opportunity to be that keeper.

But, in the words of Nino Brown in, one of my wife's favorite movies, New Jack City, "Am I my brother's keeper?"  The answer to that is no. We are not responsible for anyone but ourselves and our own affairs. The same is true with celebrities and athletes.

Taylor, in this case, was introduced to the pimp by a friend. Taylor, also to my knowledge, has never admitted to knowing that she was underage. But the action overall was irresponsible. Naturally it is our instinct as a society to point the finger and gossip. However, in this case, not all of the facts have been released.

It is commonplace to for us all to come to a conclusion before we have all of the information. It is almost acceptable, but before we all judge a person for the infidelities and their transgressions, let us remember that we all have our own as well. We are not much different. It is with that in mind that I suggest these people need our help, not our chastisement.

From the runaway teenager, to the ex-con pimp, all the way to Taylor himself, they need help from a society that has overlooked them for their entire lives. Taylor, in particular has been accepted for his accomplishments, but no one ever accepted him as a person.

That brings me to my second question. Why is the reaction from the population so different because of his stature? I have read so many articles and opinions that show the fan's love and respect for him. The common response has been "he was great once, so I still love him." That's a tremendous mentality, but why do we dismiss a person's actions based on their accomplishments?

I for one, will always remember how Taylor dominated the NFL and redefined his position. He led my favorite team to glory. Twice. But is that enough to discard any wrongdoing? No, of course not. However, there are some who act as if it is. The problem with that is by dismissing the action based on a bias, the perpetrator of the action does not get the proper help that they need and deserve.

Taylor may be able to get the help he needs if he decided he had a problem in the first place. He must accept that he has a problem. If all he hears is supportive comments like, "I love you L.T., and it doesn't matter, you're still awesome," it will not help him to accept the problem. We cannot just discard the problem.

He was wrong. He admitted it. He may have been set up as well, but he was still willingly in the wrong place at the wrong time. That is an attitude that must be addressed. He must accept responsibility for himself and his actions. We all have to, so why not him? Why is a celebrity exempt from this?

The answer is, they're not. But we all treat them as if they were, depending on if we really like the person or not. If we accept the particular celebrity and his/her accomplishments and those accomplishments are a mainstay in our memories and our lives, then we are willing to give a reprieve to that celebrity for the sake of cherishing or not damaging our fragile psyche.

Are we that shallow that we cannot allow a person the freedom to make mistakes and help themselves learn from those errors? He must get help. I will always remember his contributions to the sport of football and to my youth, but I can also separate the accolades from the actions.

They are two different things. It is with that in mind that I suggest we remember him in our thoughts and prayers. We hope for him to confront his demons and move past them a wiser and stronger person. As should we all.