I would like to preface this by saying a few things. I understand that the NFL is a business where wins matter and not a community service project. Also I realize I am taking a rather conservative/negative stance on this issue. I'm not attempting to make an all-encompassing morality statement, just my take on this issue.
As we all know, one of the biggest debates in sports this week was whether or not the Jets' Braylon Edwards should have played following his arrest for drunken driving. The team chose to sit him out for one quarter against the Dolphins; which helped them win the game. However I feel this was the wrong decision for a couple reasons.
First, this was not a rare lapse in Edwards' character; he has had several legal and behavioral issues throughout his playing career.
- He was a drinking partner to Donte Stallworth on the night he drove while intoxicated resulting in a manslaughter charge
- He was pulled over for seven speeding violations during the last eight years (including driving 120mph in a 65mph zone)
- He assaulted a party promoter (for which he never expressed apology or remorse)
Rather than learning from these, he showed increasingly poor judgment each time. Out of all of these, DWI is arguably the worst and most dangerous offense. Lacking proper judgment or comprehension, Edwards could have been mere moments away from harming, if not killing himself or others.
Also, his blood alcohol content was twice the legal limit at 0.16. This is estimated to take about 6-8 drinks for a person of Edwards' size, not an amount that can be ignored or overlooked. He also ignored a program in place to take intoxicated players home, choosing to drive instead.
Had he crashed his car and killed an innocent bystander, there is little doubt he would have been suspended (assuming the precedent of the Stallworth case was followed.) The fact that—due to pure chance—no one was killed should not lessen a suspension from an entire year to less than a game.
Secondly, I feel that the attitude of the Jets as a whole (but particularly Edwards and GM Mike Tannenbaum) is especially disconcerting. Tannenbaum said the suspension was "not for the arrest as much as going out and being out until obviously five in the morning."
While I may be taking this comment at its most simple level, he is saying that he had no problem with the drunken driving. The "punishment" of being benched for one quarter is not even a slap on the wrist. To me this is the straw that breaks the camel's back when it comes to Jets behavior.
After a summer and fall in which the team allegedly sexually harassed a female reporter, Rex Ryan's swearing was broadcast to a nation, and Mark Sanchez, the supposed team leader, said his team needed to have fun. I don't expect football players to be saints and realize they are held to different standards than average citizens, but I feel like this much leniency is excessive. Like an ordinary employee, players can't be fired for every transgression, however they should not be free to behave outside the normal standards whenever they want as long as they still have talent.
I was also rubbed the wrong way (and I know this is a minor point) by the fact that Edwards danced following his touchdown. While it is the norm of the NFL to celebrate, I think in this situation, restraint should have prevailed. Especially to someone like myself who wanted Edwards suspended, the dance showed cockiness and a carefree attitude unfitting of someone who was arrested and could have been moments away from ruining someone's life under a week ago.
Lastly, I don't think the Jets' contention of following the precedent of how teams handled players with a DWI holds any water at all. To me that seems akin to a child using the excuse, "Everyone else did it," to explain away his misbehavior.
At the end of the day what other teams should not matter; a team should set its own standards and act accordingly when players violate them. I am not insinuating that the Jets condone drunk driving in any way, but this reaction seems to show that they are unwilling to break from the norm and set an example and seems cowardly and demonstrative of weak character.
At the end of the day, no one will debate that wins are the driving force behind the NFL and benching offending players would hurt a team's chances to accomplish that goal. However, I would like teams to take a stand more often and not play offenders when the commissioner does not mandate it.
I'll end with a rhetorical question: At what point is setting a standard of acceptable behavior worth sacrificing a win?