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Sunday, December 16 , 2018, 9:25 pm | Fair 52º


Randy Alcorn: From a Host of Critics, Unnecessary Roughness on the NFL

Like buzzards flocking to road kill, the media are feasting on several incidents of domestic violence committed, or allegedly committed, by a few professional football players. Squawking and screeching over every fetid morsel of real or suspected NFL sin, the ravenous media vultures are circling over wounded NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, and voraciously picking away at the career carcasses of the affected players.

While battering defenseless women and children is a most reprehensible crime, why is the NFL responsible for investigating, judging and punishing its employees for such off-duty criminal behavior? Isn’t that the function of the judicial system?

Imagine if everyone convicted or even accused of a crime or of a perceived immorality would have to forfeit his or her job. Every arrest or conviction for DUI, incorrect tax filing or possession of marijuana would result in job loss. If legal and moral purity were a requirement for employment, half of Congress would be unemployed. And, certainly, hundreds of Catholic priests would have been fired a long time ago.

When contemplating the extent, duration and severity of the sexual abuse of children by Catholic priests, the moral outrage directed at the NFL over the transgressions — real or alleged — by a few football players is curiously disproportionate. I don’t recall flocks of media buzzards circling over the Vatican for weeks on end calling for the pope’s resignation. If entire institutions are to be damned for the bad behavior of some of their members, why limit condemnation to professional sports leagues?

The typical response given to this question is that because football players are considered roll models for children they must be held to a singularly high standard of exemplary behavior and, therefore, any pedestal falls must be quickly, severely and publicly punished.


Professional athletes are not responsible for socializing children, parents are. One can argue that nearly any adult is a role model for some child. Ask boys who they admire, who they want to emulate, what they want to be when they grow up, and you will get a range of answers that typically includes fireman, policeman and doctor as well as professional athlete. Some kids even want to be rock stars.

Yet, how many rock stars are forced to stop performing because their flagrant immoral or illegal behavior might pervert young minds? How many police departments quickly, severely and publicly punish or fire cops who abuse police power? There have been far more transgressions by these “role models,” as well as attempted cover-ups of their criminal behavior, than anything found in the NFL. Why are so many more personal foul flags being thrown on professional athletes than on other failed role models?

Focus on any segment of adult society, any profession, and you will find spousal and child abuse. Doctors, lawyers, judges, police and politicians are all role models, yet some beat their wives and children. Even so, medical, judicial and political institutions are not seen to be indifferently incubating and harboring brutal criminals, but the NFL is.

Probably the most disturbing load of rubbish stemming from this NFL fiasco was dumped by a morally incensed sports commentator who ranted that the constitutional right to due process of law should be suspended or denied for anyone accused of crimes against children. Essentially, this guy is advocating a guilty-until-proven-innocent system of justice. Sort of like what existed centuries ago when one could be accused, even by children, of witchcraft, then bound in a rock-filled sack and thrown into a river. If the accused floated to the surface, he or she was innocent. If not, well, guilty as charged.

That seems to be what passes for justice in the NFL, at least for players accused of battering women or children. Imagine that because a 7-year-old accuses you of sexually or physically abusing him, you are presumed guilty. You lose your job, and go to jail, until you can prove your innocence.

Does the overwrought sports commentator not realize that with a system of justice that presumes guilt, anyone including himself could be subject to witch hunts? I never cease to be amazed and appalled by the eager willingness of people to surrender constitutional civil rights for some emotionally exaggerated, often poorly thought out, reason, typically to protect society from some evil like drugs, terrorism or, now, child abuse.

Let’s not jump offsides here. Because a few football players behave badly does not mean every player in the league is a moral reprobate any more than a few rogue cops mean all cops are arrogant thugs. And, it certainly does not mean that fundamental civil rights should be curtailed or suspended for anyone.

— Randy Alcorn is a Santa Barbara political observer. Contact him at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address), or click here to read previous columns. The opinions expressed are his own.

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