Having attended a Division 1 Big Ten university for the past two years, I have found that idolizing athletes and putting them on a pedestal that they may or may not deserve is a common occurrence. I am nothing but sure that this puts an unimaginable amount of pressure and stress on kids that have only just reached adulthood. This is a stage of their lives that is already eventful enough without having to constantly prove and improve their athletic and academic abilities to their peers, their university, their coaches, and their families. However this enormous responsibility seems to have an adverse affect on these student athletes when it comes to the amount of celebrity it gives them. In so many cases presented to me, from my own experiences, and the media, these athletes find themselves invincible and untouchable, protected by the fact that their university needs them to preform and no one wants to see them unsuccessful.
But at what cost?
This is a question that FSU’s head coach Jimbo Fischer unfortunately had to address twice in this past week, and I have no problem admitting that I am unbelievably happy that he addressed that question the way he did.
"Recent events at Florida State University involving members of my football team have brought a lot of attention to the school and program. It is important to me that our fans and the public be aware that I do not tolerate the type of behavior that was captured on video and that was most recently alleged. We spend a good deal of time educating our student-athletes about appropriate behavior and their responsibilities as representatives of Florida State. The majority of our players are exemplary, but clearly we must place an even stronger emphasis on this, and I personally promise we will. I remain committed to educating our young men and holding them accountable for their actions."
So first let’s talk about Dalvin Cook. Please keep in mind that this article is based only on what information has been released to the media via Florida’s State Attorney Willie Meggs and the two players’ respective lawyers, but this seems to me to be a classic case of rejection retaliation and damaged pride. This is a damaged pride that has been nothing but inflated since he began his football career as a D1 athlete that resulted in him justifying assaulting a woman by punching her repeatedly. Seriously, where did that logic come from? How is it that someone held to such a high standard is driven to jeopardize their reputation, career, and freedom when they already have so much going for them? Out of all the media coverage, articles, and postings about this incident, something said in the account of the victim herself to ESPN interviewers has stood out to me the most:
“They kept telling me they were football players. They kept telling me to Google them. They told me they were football players and they could buy me in two years.”
This is where Dalvin Cook’s logic came from.
So now let’s talk about De’Andre Johnson. Whether or not you believe it to be clear in the video that the woman he assaulted heavily provoked him, it’s hard to watch a 19 year old kid punch a woman half his size in the face and walk away. While he has since appeared to be extremely embarrassed and apologetic, I can’t help but wonder how he let himself get to that point in the first place. How can someone who has lived up to such high expectations on the field do the exact opposite off of the field? This behavior was certainly not taught to him by his parents, or his teachers, or his coaches; it was something he was able to justify within himself fostered by a specific environment he and hundreds of other D1 athletes have become accustomed to.
This article is not meant to be a generalization of all D1 football players and athletes. So many of these men deserve the adoration they are given for their achievements and character on and off the field. I also applaud Coach Fischer for his wisdom and fortitude in making the decision to indefinitely suspend these players (something the NFL could certainly learn a thing or two from) and hope that this is a lesson for these young men about how easily they can lose everything they have worked so hard for. But I also hope that, as students, we don’t find ourselves standing quietly by as the bystanders in the video released of De’Andre Johnson did simply because “these are football players that could buy us in two years.”