If there is any form of bad behavior that can defame one’s reputation, it’s being criminalized. This frowned-upon scandal has become much too common, especially in the National Football League. Multiple players have been charged with discouraging acts like New England Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez, Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson, Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice, Dallas Cowboys defensive lineman Greg Hardy and Florida State quarterback and projected first overall NFL Draft pick Jameis Winston.
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has spoken to the media on how the NFL has amended its policy on conduct and behavior. At first, it was a lenient four-game suspension. Now, the individual can only play unless they are reinstated or cleared from their charges. Otherwise, they are not allowed to be present on team facilities.
When these incidents were occurring rapidly, the NFL was being heavily criticized and degraded, to where the league was presumed to be filled with “an army full of criminals and thugs.” Goodell was not content with the reputation the league received. The NFL has aspirations to make the league prolific, professional and responsible. Goodell wanted to make it conceivably clear that no violence or other act of assault would be permitted or condoned in the league.
Domestic violence is responsible for 85 of the 714 arrests of NFL players since 2000, according to a collection of data assembled by USA Today. The most significant case that pushed the league’s tolerance overboard was the Ray Rice incident. There was clear and sufficient evidence from a New Jersey casino elevator camera of him punching and then knocking out his now-wife Janay Palmer, who did not press charges. The day the Baltimore Ravens organization saw the video, they immediately terminated his contract and released him.
Patriots tight end Hernandez was previously sentenced to life in prison after facing multiple accounts of first-degree murder. He was convicted of murdering 27-year-old semi-pro football player Odin Lloyd back in 2013. Hernandez also has been shunned by the New England Patriots franchise.
Former Vikings starting running back Peterson was one of the top players in the NFL. He had been deactivated from the Vikings on accusations of child abuse in Texas. He allegedly whipped his 4-year-old son repeatedly with a “switch.” Peterson stated that he used this kind of punishment as discipline. He was suspended, and the Vikings agreed to not play him until he was cleared of his charges. He has now been reinstated into the NFL and wants a big contract from Minnesota.
Cowboys defensive lineman Greg Hardy brutally abused his former girlfriend and threatened to kill her. He faced two counts of assault charges and was later released by his former team, the Carolina Panthers.
Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston was accused of sexually assaulting a woman but was cleared from the case last year. Now, the woman is continuing her quest for justice and is suing Winston. Earlier in April of 2014, Winston was caught shoplifting in a Florida supermarket, stealing up to $30 worth of crab legs. He faced a two-game suspension from his baseball team, 20 hours of community service and had to pay for the crab legs. It’s going to take a long time for the league to fix its soiled reputation and prioritize its future issues in order to handle them responsibly. Criminal activity may still pop up in the future, but the NFL needs to try its best to prevent it or else it will cause even more damage to its image.