The bad boy in professional sports is really a tale as old as time. As fans, there’s most definitely some Jungian projection in which we get to live out our darkest fantasies and urges via any celebrity thrown onto the big or little screen. We throw around the one-liners from famous rants; we play the clips and recite the headlines for friends; we may even dress up as these people for Halloween. There’s a sort of dark comedy behind all of it. Sometimes, some of us even decide that these outlandish behaviors are a hint at what creates the level of success exhibited by these powerful figures.
We also, in deep contrast, condemn them quickly. We doom them in our hearts and minds when they perform poorly, just as quickly as we condemn them for real-life offenses. The finger-wagging and outright bashing in the 24-hour news cycle (and on social media) is often hard to even imagine from the view of someone who isn’t a star in any arena. We don’t get it. Many of us haven’t lived it. These people are plastic to us, and we crucify them for many of the same things that are kicking around in our own unconscious.
And while this performative tongue-lashing persists for a week or so, the average American has entirely too many forms of stimuli coming at them from multiple directions. The 24-hour news cycle carries all of this material out to sea, and it gets buried under another election, another scandal, and another social justice cause.
Maybe this is why I don’t take the average citizen to task about the lack of accountability in our athletes. I take the leagues and businessmen and women around them to task. This is where the problem that plagues our sports franchises resides.
This is how we get another Ja Morant.
Does another IG live with a gun in his hand? Who cares?
No, seriously…who cares? I won’t touch on his family or friends. I’m not interested in finger-pointing when it comes to people who can be so easily influenced by money or emotion or the ability to access parts of society we cannot even fathom comprehending without a black card in our wallets.
No, I’m talking to the league higher-ups and the ones in college who came before them…and the coaches in high school who came before them.
See, this pattern doesn’t just appear. If you backtrack the lives of many of the bad boys in professional sports, you’ll find some unsavory incidences in their history. Some of their behavior is blatant, and they’ve just been able to skate by because the community around them comes to a tacit agreement: We don’t compromise the future star. Some of the behavior has been buried underneath settlements, NDAs, threats, etc. That includes the high school level. Athletes such as Aaron Hernandez and the documentaries that came after his death really drove this reality home for many Americans, including myself.
Not to mention, we see these issues come up in the league every season over really serious issues. What comes to mind the most often are the sexual misconduct allegations, domestic violence, and simple assault…they are a constant. Yet, these charges always disappear into the ether when the right lawyers are on call; and the coaches/owners agree to fall in line with league policy and speed the athlete through the process of getting them back on the court or field.
In this way, the buck is constantly passed. Everyone is just doing their job, and the job can be summarized as charging one with the responsibility of propping up the athletes to continue to make money and obtain glory for the team.
Isn’t this why the league glanced over the fights, the intoxicated driving, and the rumor of murder in Aaron Hernandez’s past prior to becoming an NFL star? Isn’t this why the rape and sexual assault allegations attached to multiple players across multiple platforms generally go unpunished? Is this why a sexual act between Robert Kraft and a masseuse became more engaging in the media than Tyreek Hill’s history of child abuse? Isn’t this why Ja Morant could just vow to learn a few breathing exercises and go to minimal therapy sessions before returning to the league?
There’s just too much money to be made. I mean, can’t you see how fast Tyreek is? Can’t you see the numbers Morant puts on the scoreboard?
We can pay off anyone who got hurt, right?
So, maybe we should skip the news cycle of melodramatic grumbling over the behavior of Ja Morant. Let’s cut right to the chase, get him back in a uniform, and let the mainstream media derision blow over in a week.
At least then, we’re being honest.