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Athletes’ actions don’t reflect performance
Everyone loves a good controversy, and the wide world of sports has an ample supply. The focus on sports transgressions has recently shifted from teams onto individual athletes and their off-field antics.
Actors and musicians who reach a certain level of fame in their profession become celebrities. This status comes with the understanding that their personal lives will be publicly scrutinized, whether or not the issue has anything to do with their on-screen or on-stage performance. This can sometimes affect their careers, say, if an actor doesn’t get a role because of anti-Semitic remarks he made while intoxicated.
Now that individual athletes are acquiring celebrity status and their personal lives are being made public, the question remains whether or not it’s fair for teams to punish athletes for their private behavior.
The distinction between athletes and other types of celebrities lies in their degree of individuality. Players are part of a team more so than celebrities, so their individual actions often reflect on a greater number of people. Although I recognize and respect this distinction, I still think it’s unfair for athletes to be punished for their personal conduct.
Think about it in the context of your own life. Would you want your Friday night hijinks to have bearing on the work you do while in the office? Of course not. Tom Cruise may be a crazy religious zealot, but that doesn’t make him a bad actor, just like Chad Johnson isn’t a bad wide receiver just because he head-butted his wife. Bottom line: Your employer shouldn’t get to punish you based on what you did outside of work, as long as you don’t end up in jail.
Another distinction I would like to make is one between professional athletes and college athletes. I hold pro players to the standards of a typical employer-employee relationship, but college athletes are different because they’re technically employed as students and therefore abide by different standards. Anything they do is and should be considered for athletic punishment. Professional players, on the other hand, should be granted some semblance of separation between career and personal life.
Not to say athletes are immune to the judge and jury of public opinion. Go ahead and hate them all you want. It still doesn’t make them bad at their jobs.