In the face of the tumultuous year of off the field problems for NFL players (and one owner), the New York Giants are faced with a very serious question. The rumors of trouble for Dez Bryant, being reported left and right force the issue even further. It is not just the Giants, but every NFL franchise that must look into the mirror and contemplate their future actions. The question is, should the Giants hold their players to a higher standard?
Feb 6, 2015; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Minnesota Vikings running backAdrian Peterson
addresses the media outside the U.S. District Courthouse with his wife Ashley Brown Peterson as the NFL Players Association
The Ray Rice domestic violence story dominated sports media for months, and it’s a story that still lingers on. Adrian Peterson should be reinstated soon, which will start the furious nation-wide conversation about child abuse and alternative parenting measures. Now we are waiting for the Bryant video to drop like a bombshell, a video that we don’t even know exists.
The Baltimore Ravens recently held their “State of the Ravens” press conference in which owner Steve Bisciotti and general manager, Ozzie Newsome spoke to the press. The Ravens made it known to the world that they will not draft a player that has domestic violence incident in their past. Obviously the franchise is trying to avoid another nightmarish stranglehold of a scandal.
Jan 4, 2015; Arlington, TX, USA; Dallas Cowboys receiver Dez Bryant (88) runs after a reception against the Detroit Lions in the NFC Wild Card Playoff Game at AT&T Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports
The Giants rivals, the Dallas Cowboys, are now in a precarious situation. Bryant is set to hit the free agent market. The Cowboys certainly want Bryant back; he is one of the top playmakers in football and any team including the Giants, would love to have him play for them. Character concerns (or the concerns of a media circus that taints the team in the public eye) now cloud the decision making process for the Cowboys.
The Giants probably would not make a bid at employing Bryant, as they simply don’t have the cap space for the sensational receiver. For the sake of conversation, let us imagine that the Giants could bring in Bryant and that they wanted to do it badly.
Should the Giants take a chance that could bring them a dark cloud of public scrutiny? Should the Giants in this situation, ignore character concerns or red flags to enhance their roster? These would be the questions that the Giants decision makers would have to go through before adding Bryant to the roster. This situation does not just apply to the Bryant situation but to any potential free agent acquisition or draft pick.
The simple truth is that the Giants are in the business of winning football games, not battling for the moral high ground that is so coveted by the talking heads on sports television and radio. Surely, the Giants want to win with integrity and be thought of as a team that does it the “right way.” But the question is are the Giants obligated to hold their players to a higher standard?
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The cold truth is that the Giants don’t have to do that. The cold truth is that the Cowboys have no intention of cutting ties to Bryant and they’d gladly suffer a hailstorm of public dismay, rather than missing out on his dazzling touchdown receptions.
But here is something that nobody seems to understand. No team has to hold athletes to a higher standard because the standard isn’t low in the first place. Each team has an active roster of 53 players each week. Not including the practice squad or the injured reserves, this makes 1,696 players between 32 teams. Of those 1,696 players we are talking about a handful of bad apples.
The warm truth, that leads to a brighter and bigger picture is that professional football players aren’t the problematic, law breaking population that many claim them to be. I hear it all the time that these no good athletes make too much money. A sad utterance, when you realize that the large majority of NFL football players are working their tail’s off to stay employed, playing the game they love, all while not breaking any laws or bothering anybody.
I am in no way suggesting that the NFL is a utopia where bad things don’t happen; we’ve seen and heard way too often of the troubles professional football players can get into. I am saying though, that the overwhelming majority of NFL players are not bad apples.
Dec 7, 2014; Nashville, TN, USA;New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning (10) waves to fans as he leaves the field after his team defeated the Tennessee Titans 36-7 during the second half at LP Field. Mandatory Credit: Jim Brown-USA TODAY Sports
It’s not news, the players who don’t get into trouble are just being productive adults in our society. The media could not cling to a story about Eli Manning giving the bagger of a grocery store a high five, nobody would care. Meanwhile domestic violence, abuse of a child or an animal, the media could feast on that for months. That’s exactly what they do.
The main moral of the story here is twofold. First, NFL teams do not have to hold players to a higher standard. Most of their players are hard working adults looking to have success in their career of choice. The players that find trouble either get weeded out or earn a second chance by changing their behavior. Secondly, the Giants can choose not to draft or sign any player based on character concerns or previous problems with domestic violence or something else unsettling.
At the end of the day it comes down to choice. Teams will choose to act in a manner that they can live with. The cold truth is that talented but troubled players will often get a job in the NFL. Choosing the moral high ground can be admirable, and is probably the best path for an NFL franchise. The Giants can choose not to go after Bryant because of his transgressions (in the hypothetical that they financially could). The Giants could choose not to draft a red flag player like Dorial Green-Beckham or Marcus Peters. That’s all well and good, but it doesn’t mean that other teams will.