Do athletes deserve our forgiveness?

I love sports. I love watching sports, cheering on my teams, and rooting for my favorite players. The ups and the downs; I love it. I love sports. I also love talking about sports, which is one of the main reasons I started writing pieces for RBD. To me, that means talking about the good, the bad, and even the ugly.

Today I’m writing about the really ugly.

Just in the past few weeks the NFL has seen some very disturbing stories about a few high-profile players.

Peyton Manning has been the talk of the sports world recently, and not for winning another Super Bowl, or his alleged use of HGH. Just last week, the New York Daily News’ Shaun King brought back to light something that has somehow been ignored for nearly 20 years now. Back in 1996, while he was in college playing for Tennessee, Manning allegedly sexually assaulted a team trainer in the locker room. The Mannings did what they could to keep it under wraps, but unfortunately for them, it looks like it’s about to completely blow up in their faces.

Just a couple weeks ago, New York Giants defensive tackle Jay Bromley was accused of attempted rape after setting up a meeting with a woman he met on Instagram. Bromley told police the woman tried to extort money from him. Police recently announced that he won’t be charged, after authorities determined the sexual contact he had had with that woman was consensual.

LeSean McCoy could be one a several persons charged with aggravated assault, after an alleged incident took place at a nightclub involving two off-duty police officers. Warrants could be issued soon and McCoy’s lawyer has said his client would turn himself in if he is charged.

Another story making waves is the continuously amazing life (and not in a good way) of Johnny Manziel. He was under investigation after an alleged domestic violence incident took place at an upscale hotel in Dallas. According to the police report, Manziel hit Colleen Crowley, his ex-girlfriend, “several times” during the incident. Crowley’s attorney says her client’s eardrum was ruptured because of the incident. After finding a lack of evidence, Dallas police announced that they closed the case, and that Manziel wouldn’t be charged.

After the incident, Paul Manziel, Johnny’s father, spoke out saying he was afraid for his son’s life if Johnny did not get professional help.

I mention these stories not to drag names through the mud, but to point out how prevalent these events have become in sports.

Year after year, more and more high-profile names are being linked to domestic violence. Names very familiar and, in some cases, very big:

Greg Hardy.

Ray McDonald.

Aroldis Chapman.

Domestic violence sometimes seems like a topic no one wants to talk about. That is to say, no one wants to talk about a subject that is likely to make a lot of people uncomfortable. But the conversation needs to happen nonetheless. We’ve reached a ‘point of no return.’ We have to be more open and honest and transparent about the ways in which we talk about and deal with this issue.

I know some people will ask almost immediately: ‘What about Ray Rice? Or even Patrick Kane? Adrian Peterson? Jameis Winston? You have to mention them!’ Not only are Hardy, McDonald, and Chapman connected by domestic violence, all three men have also managed to escape punishment from the law. While some of the other men have gotten off just as lightly, if not more so, I would like to focus on these three here.

Greg Hardy, who beat up a former girlfriend, had been convicted by a judge on an assault charge, but the case was later dismissed on appeal after the woman refused to cooperate with the district attorney’s office. It was reported she received a settlement in a civil lawsuit. Hardy missed 15 games in 2014 while with the Carolina Panthers and another four in 2015 as a member of the Dallas Cowboys because of the incident.

In August of 2014, Ray McDonald was arrested on domestic violence charges. The charges were later dropped by prosecutors due to “insufficient evidence.” McDonald has faced a series of new charges since then, ranging from domestic violence to rape.

Back in December, Aroldis Chapman, then a member of the Cincinnati Reds, was being investigated after allegedly firing eight gunshots in the garage of his home near Miami, Florida. Chapman’s girlfriend told police he choked her and shoved her against a wall. That was according to the October, 2015 police report. Prosecutors cited conflicting accounts and insufficient evidence as reasons for not pursuing the case further. In the midst of all this, Chapman was traded to the Yankees.

What I find most troubling about these incidents in particular is how forgiving teams, and to some extent fans, have been when it comes to these very serious accusations. After the Panthers essentially let go of Hardy, owner Jerry Jones and the Cowboys swooped in and signed him. Six months prior, Jones referred to domestic violence as “intolerable” and that it would be “adjudicated accordingly.” Jerry Jones is in his mid-70s, so maybe he just forgot about those comments when he signed Hardy to an $11 million deal. Anything is possible, right? Whatever the case, the Cowboys do have a track record when it comes to signing players with great skill, but highly questionable character.

The San Francisco 49ers held onto defensive end Ray McDonald even after the initial accusations came out. However, once the news of a sexual assault investigation was reported in December 2014, the 49ers decided to cut ties with the embattled player. However, the productive veteran didn’t have to wait very long for another chance. In March of 2015, the Chicago Bears signed McDonald to a one-year contract. The deal was short lived, as McDonald was arrested for domestic violence a second time after he “physically assaulted the victim while she was holding a baby.” His baby, no less, and the woman being his ex-fiancée. What led McDonald to these unforgivable actions we may never know, but he’s clearly made name for himself. Just not the one he was probably hoping for.

To round out this fabulous trio, we have Aroldis Chapman, who was apparently heading to the Los Angeles Dodgers in a trade. Before the deal could be finalized, though, the story of the October incident came out and the Dodgers backed out. Less than 20 days after the Dodgers had decided to walk away from one of the most dominating relievers in baseball, the New York Yankees swooped in and made a move for Chapman (at a much cheaper cost). Now that prosecutors won’t be moving forward with charges, Chapman, and the Yankees, are off the hook. He could still be suspended by the Commissioner’s office under the newly implemented domestic violence policy even without criminal charges.

The point of all this, everything I’ve written about these three and the others I’ve mentioned, is to demonstrate how willing some of us are to forgive and forget. In this case, it’s all in the hope of making a couple of extra bucks.

What does that say about us as people? As a community? So many of the players caught up in these situations tend to find themselves there again and again. It’s not an accident. It’s no coincidence. To think so would be foolish.

I’ll finish with this thought:

I’m a Yankees fan. I will most likely make it to at least one game this year. Will I root for Aroldis Chapman? No. Will I cheer if he performs well and the team wins? Yes. I am a fan of the team but, in this case, will not root for the player.

These players, these people, need to earn back our trust and our respect instead of us giving it back to them so freely.

Maybe then the culutre in sports will begin to change.

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