Michael Vick, Donte Stallworth, Ben Roethlisberger, Tiger Woods, Ray Lewis, Reggie Bush and Cam Newton all have one thing in common: they are revered by the American public. Though some of the players listed above are held in higher regard than others, they still have a major influence on many lives throughout the American nation.
However, being revered by the American public is not the only thing they have in common; they also share the bond of having been accused of infractions or crimes, and some of them have even been convicted.
Perhaps the most well-known case as well as one of the more recent cases has to deal with, Michael Vick.
Though one of the most talented athletes in the NFL, Vick has had a rough past few years.
In August of 2007, Vick pleaded guilty to felony dog fighting charges and was sentenced to 21 months in prison. Now, this may not seem like such a big deal to the average fan. You see this player, he does his bad actions, and then he pays the price for it.
But Michael Vick's case is starting to illustrate a trend taking place throughout our nation: athletes are consistently given the biggest breaks and have all their wrongs looked past just because they can perform on a professional athletic stage.
This year, we were able to witness the "re-birth" of Michael Vick. He stunned the nation with his passing and running ability which he used to flash for the Atlanta Falcons during their championship run.
People, once again, fell in love with him and seemed to put his recent criminal history behind him.
All of a sudden, the nation seems to forget those animals which Michael Vick had viciously put to death for the purpose of entertainment. They only see how good he is on the field and thus consider him, "reformed."
This is the biggest flaw in American sports society in today's age.
Americans and athletic bodies are too forgiving of athletes as long as they are able to perform on the field. Once an athlete accomplishes a big feat in an athletic arena, people are so quick to only judge them based on their on-field actions.
Another athlete who greatly exemplifies this fact is Ben Roethlisberger.
Say what you want about the way he plays the game, Roethlisberger is one of the elite quarterbacks in the NFL today. He won the 2005 Super Bowl (though not with impressive statistics) and will now be facing the Green Bay Packers in Super Bowl XLV.
But, how many people can now recall all of the sex scandals that have surrounded him and his character? Though never charged with any type of crime, is there really anybody in the nation that does not believe Roethlisberger had assaulted this girl?
The only reason the DA did not bring charges against Roethlisberger was because he could not prove beyond reasonable doubt that Ben had committed this act, although he did admit there was quite the evidence pile against Roethlisberger. And now, even after serving a six-game suspension (reduced to four by Commissioner Roger Goodell) for violation of the NFL's conduct policy, "Big Ben" is being adored by the nation once more.
The media took flight to see him crying after Pittsburgh's win and dubbed him a very passionate and caring human being. While he may be caring and passionate, Roethlisberger has a dark history of sexual assaults as well as ending up in wrong situations.
The nation, as well as the media, needs to remember what these people have done.
Now, I know I am going to receive a lot of flak for an article which argues against giving these athletes "second-chances" in a nation which was essentially built upon the idea of second-chances, but the truth is, our society should not be idolizing people who have committed certain acts during their lives.
Sure, marijuana use and possession is probably forgivable (who hasn't smoked pot during their lifetime or known someone who has and not reported it?), but higher level offenses (such as those of DUI, DUI manslaughter, murder, sex offenses, embezzlement, animal abuse and perjury) should be more penalized in the sports world.
It is too often that one day we are criticizing an athlete and condemning their actions off-the-field and the next day we are praising them for their accomplishments on the field and basically erasing everything that has occurred in the past.
Now, while this may be part of the human condition to "live in the moment and not the past", these athletes need to be dealt with in a different way than they are right now.
Athletes are being held like they are gods.
They dominate each and every other person on this planet because they have greater amounts of physical prowess. I even find myself dropping my jaw in awe at the many athletes around my campus and am very impressed by their physical skills.
But, one thing that I believe the nation has to come to realize is that we are all human.
Though our physical presence may be different, in the end, we are more alike than different. For these athletes to get off easy on charges a normal man would face prison time for is just wrong.
There is something wrong with justice and society that allows these athletes to slip through the cracks.
Just because a person can higher a better lawyer does not mean they should get away with murder (yes, that is an O.J. Simpson reference there—and sorry, O.J. fans, he did kill them).
The youth who now view society playing a back-and-forth game with these athletes are becoming confused and can't begin to tell the difference between what is right and what is wrong.
They see these high profile athletes getting away with acts of violence and rage just because they are "better than the average man." Children come to idolize the types of living and style of athletes and come to think that if they are one day athletic like their idols, that they too will be able to rise above justice.
In a country that preaches justice and equality for all, when you look at the lives that athletes live, you will hardly notice any equality.
Trust me, I am a huge sports fan and idolize many players, but I believe that the ones who make bad mistakes should not be put back into the lime-light. No matter how reformed they proclaim to be or the different programs they start to participate in after they have committed a crime, the truth is that they should not be idols of society.
It should be punishment for their unjust actions to be cast aside and out of good fortune of society. It is not right for the common man to be punished harshly while he watches athletes get away with murder, rape and abuse.
I am not advocating that all athletes who commit crimes should be kicked out of their respective sports (for it is their way of living and means of sustenance), I am arguing that we should not hold these athletes in such high regard and devote so much attention to them.
There is something wrong with a society that at one point condemns a person only to love him the next just because of a physical attribute they possess.
Wake up, America.