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Sunday, Dec 21, 2014
Commentary

NFL arrests create an image problem

BY JIM INGRAHAM
The News-Herald

Published:

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How many plumbers have been arrested since the Super Bowl? Anybody know?

How about insurance men? School teachers? Jugglers? How many of them have been arrested since the Super Bowl?

Don't know? Me, either. The answer, probably, is nobody keeps track of stuff like that. But they do keep track of stuff like this:

Twenty-seven NFL players have been arrested since the Super Bowl. That's a little more than five per month. That's a lot. Or at least it seems like a lot.

Maybe it's not.

Maybe there are professions out there who have produced more arrests per capita since the Super Bowl than have NFL players. Maybe, in the big picture, 27 arrests within a given profession over a five-month period are not that unusual.

Or maybe it's highly unusual.

Either way, let's just say the NFL has a growing image problem. Because, unless you are directly affected by it, the number of jugglers who have been arrested since the Super Bowl probably isn't a big deal to most Americans.

However, the number of NFL players who have been arrested since the Super Bowl is kind of a big deal to Americans because NFL players, even the bad ones, are celebrities of sorts. They are, like Ron Burgundy, kind of a big deal. Role models for kids? Well, let's not get carried away.

They are richer than most of us, and when people richer than most of us get into trouble, most of us find that interesting.

Why, for example, would Aaron Hernandez, who less than a year ago signed a contract with the Patriots worth nearly $40 million, including a $12.5 million signing bonus, allegedly murder somebody - or at least put himself in a position in which he has been arrested on charges that he murdered someone?

Hernandez was one of two NFL players arrested last week. The other was Ausar Walcott, signed as a non-drafted free agent by the Browns, who quickly released him after he was arrested on charges of attempted murder.

So two NFL players were arrested last week, one on a murder charge, one on an attempted murder charge. I'm guessing Commissioner Roger Goodell has had better weeks.

Hernandez and Walcott are the latest entries on the NFL branch of the "Professional Athletes Behaving Badly" rap sheet.

Among some of the charges that resulted in the arrests of the other 25 NFL players since the Super Bowl are: child abuse; DUI (five); DWI; criminal mischief; marijuana possession, or suspicion of possession (three); failing to appear in court; public intoxication; resisting an officer; third-degree assault; simple battery; disorderly conduct and resisting arrest; bar fight; aggravated assault; drug and gun charges; assault charges; street racing and gun-in-luggage charges.

That's a lot of bad business in a five-month period by enough players to fill up about half of an NFL roster. Don't NFL players ever take vacations or go to the beach anymore?

What are we to make of these guys, and a professional sports league that produced them? Or maybe it has nothing at all to do with sports or sports leagues and everything to do with our culture.

Maybe the blame lies with a culture, in which from a very young age our best athletes are constantly catered to and indulged to the point it naturally promotes a sense of entitlement in these athletes that is reinforced throughout their developmental years, into and out of college, and leading to the big bucks bang the elite of the elite receive when they become professional athletes.

Chances are that has something to do with why many of them don't think the rules or the laws of society apply to them.

Except that doesn't account for the Derek Jeters, the Ray Allens, the Peyton Mannings, who even after they become rich and famous, still get it, don't give in to it and stay out of the dark corners of society and away from the embarrassing glare and chilling shutter click of the mugshot photographer down at headquarters.

This year's NFL 27 know all about that. All about bad food, bad accommodations and the bad choices that led to them. For the rest of us, it's enough to make you want to send your kids to juggling school.

Jim Ingraham writes for the News-Herald in Willoughby, Ohio.

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