Sports, for the most part, are meant to distract us and give people who watch them hope and a reason to believe. Fans get emotionally invested in their team, and in players. Whether we love them or hate them, we feel a part of the game and a part of their lives. We know we aren’t, but as sports fans we like athletes to act certain ways so we can have someone to look up to. Athletes however want to be judged on their performance rather than character. This idea now brings forward a question, should we judge an athlete only on their contributions on the field or also based on characters?
Fans are quick to defend athletes they like, despite certain character flaws. Some of these athletes include former UFC Champion Jon Jones, MLB Superstar Bryce Harper, and former NFL Star Randy Moss among others. These guys are defended because they perform at very high levels, and it can be difficult to criticize an athlete you look up to. These same fans who defend the athletes who were mentioned will often cite their high level of performance as reasons to like them and to only evaluate them on productions, but will also want people like Grey Hardy banned from the NFL and Pete Rose banned from the Hall of Fame because of character issues. Now, I will never ever defend the reprehensible acts from Greg Hardy to his significant other at the time nor will I defend the illegal actions that Pete Rose committed while in the MLB, but if we’re arguing the level of production between these two players, Greg Hardy is regarded as one of the best pass rushers in the NFL having 6 sacks in only 12 games played last season and Pete Rose is currently the all-time hits leader in MLB history. If one can defend actions of Jon Jones, arguably the best UFC fighter in the world, why can’t someone defend Greg Hardy as he’s one of the best defensive players over the course of four seasons? Also, when another athlete such as Daniel Cormier, current UFC Light Heavyweight Champion was open about criticizing Jon Jones for his usage of drugs and reckless behavior, he gets booed. If someone is meant to be looked up to, wouldn’t it be the World Champion who went from Amateur Wrestling to Mixed Martial Arts and has never gotten into any trouble when it comes to the law, a clean athlete and he gets booed? Really?
Looking further into the culture of sports, we see that NFL owners actually have a similar mentality. Greg Hardy is currently working out with a few NFL teams as he hopes to be signed, despite his massive character issues and run-ins with law enforcement. While he gets rewarded, NFL Running Back Ray Rice has openly admitted his desire to donate his salary to help fund to Domestic Violence organizations to help victims open up and to create shelters, and he doesn’t even get a look. They’re ignoring positive character issues in favor of someone they believe to be a better player with far negative character issues. Is this the extent to which fans want character issues ignored?
As far as character issues and quality of the player, I am in favor of anyone receiving the opportunity to play if they can play. I do however have one exception though, I don’t believe violent criminals should be allowed the privilege to play national sports because it not only ruins the integrity of the game, but it also says the leagues are better than the law as if these violent criminals wouldn’t be able to get a job worth $100,000. Why do they deserve a job worth millions?