Professional athletes make a living for themselves by playing a sport. As a professional—whether that be a professional teacher, professor, lawyer or athlete —there are certain standards of ethical responsibility that one must abide by in order to maintain professionalism. Every action and decision requires heavier consequences due to the domino effect that decisions have involving a myriad of people. At least the consequences should be heavier.
Working professionals in all fields are leaders. As a leader in this world, it is important to understand the platform in which you reside. The definition of the verb to lead, according to Dictionary.com, is “to go before or with to show the way.” When rules are broken, it is imperative not only for the individual who broke the rules to be punished, but also for those watching to understand that those actions are not acceptable.
It is puzzling to look at punishments from the past and even current consequences within professional athletics due to the lack of severity in punishment. It’s almost as if professional athletes get off the hook easier than the average American because of their status and wealth. It is not easy for an athlete to exist in the limelight because their every move is under scrutiny. However, this does not mean a wealthy athlete can pay his way out of a bad decision to lessen the punishment.
In 2009, Donte Stallworth—a wide receiver for the Cleveland Browns at the time—was driving under the influence of alcohol and killed a pedestrian in the process. He was charged with DUI manslaughter and received a 30-day sentence in county jail with eight years of probation. The National Football League suspended him for one football season. In 2010, Stallworth suited up for the Baltimore Ravens.
Something must be done by those in charge. Precedents must be set for punishments and standards must be kept for all professionals, whether they’re an athlete or a businessman. It is likely that if Stallworth held a typical job as an average citizen like a counselor or teacher, he would have lost his job and his license.
A severe punishment is good. It is meant to teach the guilty person a lesson, to make them look within themselves and to encourage them to strive to live a better life. The perception of punishment is often misunderstood as a blow to one’s ego instead of as helpful and loving. The aim of a punishment is not to condemn athletes for what they’re doing. The goal of having harsh punishments is to walk alongside these superstar athletes and help them see that their mindset of being above the law is detrimental to others in society.
The night before Super Bowl XXIII in 1989, Stanley Wilson—the running back for the Cincinnati Bengals—was caught for the third time using cocaine. Previously, in 1985 and 1987, he was banned for the entirety of each season for his cocaine use. It took three strikes for Wilson to get banned from the NFL for good. Action should be taken when a player breaks the rules for the first time. They should be banned from the sport for good. It will set precedents and let all professional athletes know that there is no messing around.