Fame Should Not Equal Freedom

BY ANDREW SCHNEIDER

Because so many high profile athletes are considered role models for young children, it is always a shock when we hear that they have done something wrong. Whether it is using performance enhancing drugs, or something as horrible as taking another person’s life, it is hard to continue idolizing these players… at least at first.

There is almost always going to be some sort of coverage when an athlete commits a crime. No matter if the allegations are true or not, there will be a story about it somewhere. And the more famous the athlete, the bigger the story will be.

A few weeks ago, Colorado Avalanche goaltender Semyon Varlamov was arrested and charged for assault and kidnapping. There wasn’t much national coverage of the event, but two days later, he was allowed to travel with his team to Dallas, where he started the game in goal.

Although Varlamov isn’t necessarily a household name in the United States, he is one of the better goalies in the NHL this season. He is also one of many professional athletes who have gotten in trouble with the law during their playing careers. Ray Lewis, Ben Roethlisberger, and Kobe Bryant are just a few of the many other big name athletes who have been accused of some sort of illegal activity. Varlamov may still undergo a trial, but for now he is free to travel and play for the Avalanche. It seems as though that this is the outcome on too many occasions.

Other than what they have been doing in their sport, it has been while since we have heard anything about the three players mentioned above. Of course when their incidents first occurred, it was big news. But after the legal dust settled, they were able to go back to their teams and make millions of dollars doing what they love.

And it gets worse as athletes make more and more money. There are countless stories of star players getting pulled over for drunk driving or charged with possession of illegal substances. But all they get is a “small” fine of a few thousand dollars, the equivalent of a couple bucks for regular people like you and me, and then they return to their team where thousands of people cheer when they enter the game.

Apparently having millions of dollars and making a public apology on television is the magic combination to being forgiven. I’m not saying that everyone has forgotten about what some athletes have done. There are plenty of people who still think some stars should be punished, but we hardly ever hear from them.

It is almost the opposite of what happens in government. If a political figure does something wrong, that is often the thing people remember most. But when a top athlete is the one in question, their wrongdoings are often over shadowed by their trophies and rings.

I myself am an Avalanche fan, and I am glad that Varlamov has done well for them. But I also think that it is wrong for his actions to go unpunished. Even if it means him leaving the team, punishments should overrule paychecks.

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About The Richard A. Maxwell Sport Media Project

The Richard A. Maxwell Sport Media Project is a hub for teaching, research, and service related to sport media. The Project benefits students and faculty at Bowling Green State University, and offers outreach and media consulting to area and regional groups that work with student-athletes. Through collaborative efforts of the Sport Management program and the School of Media and Communication, BGSU students have the opportunity to learn such skills as sports writing, reporting, broadcasting, announcing, public relations, media relations, communication management and production. Faculty and other scholars have access to resources about the commercial and sociological aspects of sport.

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