Pro sports rack up scandals like points


USA Today

Chicago Blackhawks GM Stan Bowman answers to reporters after the Blackhawks sexual assault scandal reaches the light.

The past few weeks in the world of sports have yet again been filled with new scandals. The Chicago Blackhawks have been accused of covering up a brutal sexual assault case during their first Stanley Cup run in 2010, and a Las Vegas Raiders wide receiver Henry Ruggs was involved in a deadly DUI with reports of him going 156 mph with a Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) nearly double the legal limit. However, this is just the latest of a plethora of scandals this year, including Jon Gruden’s racist and homophobic email scandal, Kyrie Irving and Aaron Rodger’s playing status with their refusal to get the vaccine and the Phoenix Suns’ owner Robert Sarver’s years of racist and misogynistic abuse finally seeing light. Through my years of consciously watching sports (I’d say since about 12 years old), the industry has seen an endless amount of sexual assault allegations and cover ups, domestic violence cases, hostile workplaces, cheating and doping scandals and likely every other discriminatory and unethical incident you can think of. Not to mention all the events that happened before I even began following sports. And yet, even while all of these horrifically immoral incidents occur, the public is fed sports as a great mediator —a beautiful community that brings people together regardless of race, gender, political beliefs, ethnicity, etc. The hypocrisy is evident.

Whether it be the players, owners or league management, all sides of the sporting realm have had their fair share of blame and responsibility for their roles in all scandals. The sheer amount and repetitiveness of these events is almost comical at this point. When I was younger, it might have amazed or confused me as to how all these people found themselves in so much differing trouble. However, after following these associations with undying passion for years now, these scandals are the same old same old. I find myself wondering the same questions: are all these people involved in America’s tens of billions of dollar entertainment industry really such awful people? Does the constant media attention and fame bring up altercations that would not be discovered in the case of an average American? Are these athletes a reflection of being raised on pure athletic ability and nothing else?

I could go on and on. Take cheating and doping scandals for an example; Alex Rodriguez has admitted that he only started doping after signing (at the time one of the richest MLB contracts of all time). That era of MLB is now commonly known as the “steroid era” due to the rampant use of performance-enhancing substances (PEDs) across the league, all while Hall of Fame commissioner Bud Selig turned a blind eye. Also going on in that time of pro sports was Lance Armstrong’s reign of domination on the Tour de France while doping. Those scandals can have an “excuse” or reasoning with the pressure to succeed for these athletes simply became too great; the constant thought in the back of their minds to fulfill these gigantic expectations.

While these scandals are no doubt a disgrace (don’t even get me started on the Houston Astros cheating scandal), the domestic violence and other horrific allegations thrown at athletes are also insane. While some of these accusations have been proven innocent such as Patrick Kane and Derrick Rose’s cases, with some claiming these allegations to be attempts at money grabbing from these successful athletes, the majority of these cases are often settled with a payoff such as Kobe Bryant and Ben Roethlisberger’s case (it’s important to note that these cases were before the uprising and justice seen in the #MeToo movement) resulting in some murky thoughts surrounding the overall accusations. Yet for any of these settled and unclear cases, there is a clearly guilty case such as the Ray Rice or Kareem Hunt incidents. Both men were caught on camera physically assaulting women. You also have a solid handful of MLB players who have served multiple game suspensions for domestic abuse including Addison Russell, Aroldis Chapman, Roberto Osuna and the latest scandal with 2020 Cy Young winner Trevor Bauer facing potential jail time for his domestic violence case.

Just listing all these cases amazes me. It’s mind boggling the sheer amount of athletes caught for things like this; does the media attention just bring all these to the public eye? It’s quite possible that an average 9 to 5 worker could come home and abuse his wife and his coworkers would never know. I can’t provide much more than that for an “answer” to the problem of domestic abuse other than the thoughts of how the media chooses to heighten these horrible acts by players, but it provides an interesting yet sad topic to think about how often these things happen in the sporting world. American society has glorified athletes for their otherworldly feats on their respective playing fields, but yet we often forget this dark side of them. As NBA great Charles Barkley once said, “I’m not a role model… just because I dunk a basketball doesn’t mean I should raise your kids.” That quote has rung true time and time again over the years.

And for the owners and league officials: Are they really this crooked? Covering up every unethical behavioral scandal that ensues their organization. The influence of being responsible for such a cash cow in American society must twist their mind. Donald Sterling, Dan Snyder and now Robert Sarver are just a few examples of pro sports owners who have been accused or busted of creating a hostile, misogynistic and racist work environment in their organizations. Sterling was busted for his racist mindset of feeling superior to his majority black basketball team and forced to give up his team. This example of racism ingrained in the minds of powerful league owners was thought to be an isolated incident, but lo and behold, Sarver has been accused of the same type of offenses. The Chicago Blackhawks have just recently been embroiled in a sexual abuse case where an assistant coach drugged and assaulted a player while the organization did not act on the accusations. They then let the coach celebrate their Stanley Cup championship victory with the rest of the team. Team USA gymnastics covered up team doctor Larry Nassar’s 18 years of sexual abuse. Over 300 athletes came forward in that case.

Why is the recurring theme always the organization’s lack of action on these evil men? Colin Kaepernick was quickly shunned and sent packing when he tried to use his platform to elevate a controversial topic yet Aaron Rodgers walked away with a slap on the wrist for spewing conspiracies about the vaccines. The hypocrisy remains evident. There will probably never be a valid explanation for either side of these cases and knowing the sports world, these accusations and mishandlings won’t be the last.

While I can’t speak to the true character of any pro athlete, having not personally known any, these scandals always seem to cloud over the countless good deeds many pro athletes also do. It’s a shame because obviously not everyone involved with pro sports is a terrible person. Yet the sheer amount of these incidents seems so unproportional. This all may be just something the country has normalized with the industry. It may be the heightened limelight these associations are under, the pressure of billions of dollars and it may just be the overall culture of some of these groups of people, but we will never truly understand the thought process behind all of these cases and individuals involved in one specific industry. Cases like these will riddle sports for ages to come, yet there will be no conclusion for the public eye.