Monsters of Sports: Why Stars Survive Scandal
Celebrities often seem untouchable. We live in a world where enough money can get you out of pretty much any tough situation. However, in recent years, things have been changing. While more people with money and influence are being held accountable for their actions (with a few notable exceptions), the world of sports seems to be in an insulated bubble where the rules really don’t apply.
Hollywood has seen several giants of the industry watch their careers end over the past few years. Actors Kevin Spacey and Bill Cosby, along with producer Harvey Weinstein, all face charges for various sexual misconduct-related activities, with Cosby and Weinstein currently serving time behind bars.
Dozens of smaller names have also seen their careers end or at least come off the rails due to accusations that varied in severity. In short, Hollywood seems to be doing a pretty good job of finally holding star accountable when it comes to charges of rape or lesser sexual misconduct charges.
Of course, the rich and famous in Hollywood and everywhere else are still are able to get away with a lot of other activities for which a normal person would face punishment. There are probably still many cases of people in power in the industry committing acts of sexual misconduct that they have used their money and influence to keep hidden.
Many musicians like R. Kelly have also seen their careers finally take a hit after decades of various accusations.
With politics, there seems to be a little more of a mixed bag. The effects of claims of sexual misconduct or other criminal behavior can easily sink a political career or seemingly have no effect. For decades some politicians have seen their ambitions dashed after revelations about consensual affairs.
On the flip side of that, though, you have politicians like former president Donald Trump. The former reality TV star faced little to no political backlash after multiple accusations of sexual assault were leveled against him. He still went on to win the presidential elections in 2016.
Many politicians do face punishment for various crimes or inappropriate behavior. However, those punishments seem to be incredibly scattershot. The punishment rarely fits the crime, either being too lenient or too harsh, but rarely just right.
When it comes to sports there does seem to be a talent level you reach where you become unsinkable.
The one exception to this seems to be if you are protesting racial injustice. Despite being a top 20 quarterback, Colin Kaepernick saw his career stall out if not end for good after the 2016 season. What did he do? He took a knee. Kaepernick was at the forefront of refusing to stand for the national anthem in an attempt to bring awareness about social injustice. For that, he seemed to be blackballed from the NFL.
You can compare the stats of Kaepernick with other starters in the league on one of the best football analytics sites and try to find a reason that he is no longer playing based on the numbers. All you will find is that the numbers don’t add up, and by all rights, the former NFL star should be leading a team looking to compete.
While Kaepernick has been kept out of the NFL for peacefully protesting, he is one of only two high-caliber players in the NFL who have seen their careers end due to non-football-related activity in recent years. The other player was Ray Rice, who was released by the Ravens and indefinitely banned by the NFL after a video surfaced of him in an elevator punching his fiancé in the face and dragging her out into the hallway.
Aside from a peaceful protest or a caught on video act of such severe violence, there doesn’t seem to be any other way for a star player to see their career come to an end.
Michael Vick lost a couple of years of his career due to dogfighting. However, while he was facing a suspension from the NFL, it all really coincided with his legal case and prison time, so the suspension didn’t do much since he wouldn’t have been able to play during that time anyway.
Other stars like Ben Roethlisberger and Antonio Brown have faced suspensions of four and eight games due to sexual assault charges against them. What’s really sad is that an eight-game suspension for sexual assault or rape is considered a heavy penalty in the NFL.
Of course, you do have lower-profile players who see their careers end over these types of charges. Teams don’t want to deal with the trouble of keeping a player on the team with this level of controversy surrounding them if they are only mediocre. They can find someone else who is close to their level to easily replace them. On the other hand, the big stars who can change the game are pretty much bulletproof.
The NFL and professional sports, in general, value the star more than other industries.
In the film and music industry, a record label may have trouble cutting ties with an artist who makes them a lot of money. However, the hit to their brand is now becoming more substantial if they continue to work with them. In sports, that isn’t the case, though. While some people may be upset about a team continuing to pay a monster, the teams do not really see their bottom lines hurt.
There is no significant drop in attendance, and any drop in attendance there is would probably be made worse if the star player wasn’t there and they weren’t performing as well.
A movie hiring one actor over another is rarely going to have much effect on how much the film grosses. The only time it is much of an issue is when the actor is part of a franchise, and the role would need to be recast. As a result, it is far easier to find yourself unwanted in Hollywood than it is in professional sports if you are a high-level talent.
Athletes need to face much stronger penalties include more lifetime bans for crimes they commit. It needs to happen at the highest level because if the teams are allowed to hire a top-level player to raise their playoff chances, you will almost always find a team willing to take the risk. Unless the player is Colin Kaepernick. The leagues need to punish the players rather than relying on the teams to do so.