BALTIMORE, MD - AUGUST 07: Running back Ray Rice #27 of the Baltimore Ravens looses his helmet after being tackled by strong safety Antoine Bethea #24 of the San Francisco 49ers during the first half of an NFL pre-season game at M&T Bank Stadium on August 7, 2014 in Baltimore, Maryland.  (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)

Essay: Adrian Peterson & Ray Rice: Excuses

Eric Kleist

Professor Friel



NFL Fans are up in arms about the recent domestic violence issues stemming from the alleged crimes of Ray Rice and Adrian Peterson. Ray Rice was caught on videotape punching his wife in a Las Vegas casino elevator. Adrian Peterson was charged with child abuse for beating his son with a stick. The NFL has been criticized for not acting fast enough with disciplinary action. Critics are tackling the issues stating things such as NFL players are not ideal role models. The NFL has been accused of allowing and even promoting this behavior by covering up other related incidents to protect the shield. Both players come from poor neighborhoods and some are claiming the rags-to-riches story of Rice and Peterson could be a contributing factor. Others are placing blame on the brain damage that can occur from repetitive concussions caused by the sport. Are these just excuses so we can continue to glorify football players as role models; or are these justifications backed by evidence that should be considered when analyzing their actions? Let’s analyze these factors and see if they are excuses or reasonable justifications.

The first major issue is the claim that NFL players are role models and setting a bad example for the youth of America. Unless we are imposing a draft soon, NFL players should not be idolized, nor hold the position of a role model in society. This by no way means they are automatically a menace to society; but it does make us look at who we call role models. They engage in a game of combat, with an offense and a defense. Let’s look at some job definitions for three different positions of a football team:

Quarterback: The captain of the squad. He is the one in charge of calling the plays and advancing the ball through the defense to lead his team further down the field and on to the opponent’s territory. If he holds the ball too long he is tackled to the ground.

Running Back: A player who runs with the ball, evading enemies by quick maneuvers and use of his arms to push off the defensive players who want nothing more than to bring him to the ground.

Safety: These players fall back once the quarterback is in possession of the ball and are the teams last line of defense to protect against passing the ball downfield and skipping all of the other defensive players.

Which position would you want your child to have as a role model? The answer is obvious, none of them. If we look at NFL Players as role models, we may as well use the video games Call of Duty or Gears of War as life lessons our children should learn from. NFL Players are idolized because of their extraordinary skills on the field. To be a role model you must inspire others to do good in all aspects of your life. You must demonstrate your ability to be an exemplary citizen for your cause, your community, and your people. Just because you can throw or catch a football exceptionally well, does not mean you have all of the qualities needed to be a role model. Paid sponsorship and endorsement may sell shoes and sports drinks, but at the same time it gives athletes too much of a social responsibility that they are not living up too.

The obscene amounts of money they receive from the league and corporate sponsors cause them to view themselves as superhuman and is part of the reason they exert extreme amounts of confidence that children view as an admirable trait. When you are rewarded so handsomely for playing a simple game; it is easy to understand why players get those feelings. As a football player you rise through the ranks of Pop-Warner football then high school ball. The best players
then get drafted out of college by the NFL. When you are in college you start to see your dreams of making it to the NFL come close to fruition. The pressures and importance of a college degree start to dwindle as you get closer to seeing your dreams come true. When that happens you only focus on the game and how you can achieve your goals on the football field instead of in the classroom. While attending school, you are idolized by your classmates, and hated by the kids of other rival schools. While playing at other schools you hear curse words and slander instead of love and respect. How hard of a transition must that be for a star players

To excel at football you must dedicate all of your time and energy to the game. Defensive players must maintain a mentality of doing whatever they can to stop the opponent. On the offensive side you have to be prepared to get through the line of scrimmage. To consistently achieve those goals you must train like a warrior, be treated like a slave, and have the mindset of a killer. How else would you go out on the field and stare down a defensive line much larger than you and not just run away avoiding injury and possible defeat.

NFL players have a much higher rate of brain damage due to concussions received on the field. You cannot expect to be constantly hit in the head and not suffer long term side effects. According to Yvonne W. Lui, M.D, Chief of Radiology at NYU, “there are structural changes toPage 4 the brain after a single concussive episode.” Statistics can be hard to come by that accurately account for the number of concussions an NFL player has throughout his career. This is due to the fact that most concussions you are not actually unconscious, and no medical examination is rendered. Gary Plummer who played football alongside the late Junior Seau states in USA Today that he guesses he had over one thousand concussions during his career. If one concussion can do irreversible brain damage; imagine the effects of one thousand or more during a ten to twenty year period. Concussions are serious and validated even further by a recent lawsuit filed against the NFL by fourteen ex-players. The lawsuit claims the NFL knew for years of the link between concussions and long-term health problems.

Concussions could be an additional reason NFL players may be at higher risk to make mistakes such as the one’s Adrian Peterson and Ray Rice recently committed. Post concussion syndrome is a disease with a range of symptoms including mood and anger problems,concentration difficulties, headaches and fatigue, and less control over impulsive decisions. In addition sufferers often report memory and socialization problems, frequent headaches, and personality changes. (Clinic, 2014)

I do not place blame on the critics for speaking up against the sport and its players. How can we expect someone who goes out and trains under those conditions to come home and act as a perfect parent or spouse? Fans of football have to take in to consideration the conditions they train under and the game they are paid to play. The conditions of the game make players much more likely to bring home that anger and rage they generate on the field. With all of that said, you cannot justify your actions by the excuses you can find. They should not be allowed to commit such behavior off the field, and punishment for the players is well deserved.

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