SPORTS COLUMN: Held to a higher standard

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Comparing NBA players to NFL players

By James Howey

The NFL is obviously the most popular sport in America by far. The Super Bowl was the most watched television program ever and was a complete blowout and the gambling/ fantasy football aspects of the sport continue to grow every year. One way this has been shown the past 10 years is how much more venom and vitriol other athletes in leagues like the NBA and the MLB get even when the NFL has had more arrests than either of those leagues in recent years.

Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice was recently arrested for hitting his fiancé unconscious in a Las Vegas casino; and even with security video showing Rice dragging her out of an elevator, not too much has come out of it in the news. I’ve heard some people say, “Well, let’s not judge him in the court of public opinion.” Anyone with half a brain knows sports fans or we, the media, have absolutely no issue with judging someone in court of public opinion. Could you imagine if an NBA player like Carmelo Anthony or Dwight Howard had been seen dragging their fiancé out of an elevator? The media would be at DEFCON 1.

Look at how much Kobe Bryant’s rape case in 2003 has affected his image. Bryant is often looked at as selfish, a ball hog and is one of the most disliked athletes in sports. Meanwhile, Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger has had two similar situations involving young women who both accused Roethlisberger of rape, and one of which resulted in a six game suspension. Roethlisberger’s popularity has really not taken much of a hit and these situations are not brought up as the brunt of jokes, as opposed to Bryant’s case which is commonly a joke used on Family Guy or late night talk shows.

Alex Rodriguez is arguably the most disliked athlete in sports. Rodriguez is a liar and narcissistic, but he didn’t hit a woman, he isn’t a drug dealer or a murder. You walk into any sports bar in America and ask a guy about Rodriguez and you will be hard pressed to find someone who doesn’t completely hate Rodriguez.

Now this begs the question: why do NFL players seem to get a pass in the public? One reason is how brilliantly the NFL is marketed — and I do mean brilliantly. The NFL has taken advantage of how popular fantasy football is with the Red Zone channel on DIRECTV that shows every scoring play live and whenever a team is in the red zone. The NFL recently launched a lingerie line. Why? The biggest problem facing the NFL is getting young kids to play despite the rampant safety issues with concussions. So you target young women, ages 18-30, who wear lingerie and who will eventually decide whether they want their sons to play football.

The way football is watched and the way football players look on the field is another reason. We watch football games from a much farther viewing point than baseball or basketball. We don’t see as much of them as we see with basketball or baseball players. We see mostly the team logo and uniform which is what we associate with football instead of individual players, which we mostly associate with basketball and baseball. We don’t see the tattoos that most athletes have and we aren’t close enough to hear them curse.

Think about how football players look on the field; they really look more like robots than people. We oftentimes just think of football players as cold-blooded killing machines and when one of them gets in trouble it’s looked as no big deal. Opposed to basketball and baseball players, where we see them close up as humans with all their flaws — on and off the field.

Contact James Howey, sports editor, at jhowey@jccc.edu.

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