He who is void of virtuous attachments in private life is, or very soon will be, void of all regard for his country. There is seldom an instance of a man guilty of betraying his country, who had not before lost the feeling of moral obligations in his private connections. — Samuel Adams (1722-1803) US patriot
The people of America are polarizing over the subject of National Football League players being chastised for immoral behavior off the field. Some think this should not be an issue for the NFL to handle – leave it to the courts. Others are outraged, apparently never before having seen abuse in action. Then there is the argument that we should/should not hold professional athletes up as role models. Add the question of when and how and to what extent the organization should react.
The problem goes so much deeper. If a politician who has done a great deal of good for his state or country transgresses in sexual matters, his career is finished. Businesses check out a prospective employee’s credit record to determine if he or she should be hired. Outstanding athletes in colleges are courted, bribed, and allowed to slide by on academics.
Let’s make a decision, America – do we think that a person’s moral practices (or immoral practices) are a reflection of the school, business or organization with which he or she is affiliated or not?
And when we have made that decision , then we should apply it across the board, no matter what the individual’s occupation might be. To do otherwise is sheer hypocrisy.
This isn’t a question of separating church and state, which most people apply at their own convenience. This is a question of whether or not we want to be a moral society. If so, we need to determine how we want to react to moral infringements.
With an impoverished economy, big business has the power. It’s a buyer’s market for corporations, to offer what little they need to and demand as much as they want as people struggle to get jobs that will allow them to live. The House of Representatives and the Senate offer such juicy retirement packages that a smart politician can run for a couple of terms then step down to cater to big business on the side. Professional sports are something that most people can still afford, whereas the arts are dwindling down to nonexistence. The NFL is no different from McDonalds – it is a profitable network of franchises.
So let’s look at the government, professional sports and corporations as being one and the same. Whether it’s customer service for Comcast, a man in the presidency, or a football player beating on his girlfriend, they all represent their organization as well as themselves; they all have contact with the public, and they all should be moral as well as efficient.
The public has long been over-tolerant of professional athletes because they bring much-needed relief from everyday troubles. The public also tends to separate “minor” indiscretions from major crimes. But what is considered “minor” for an athlete is considered major when a politician is involved. Politicians don’t even have to be violent – they only have to be horny. On the other hand, corporate brass can get away with all kinds of sins, as long as they aren’t caught, including lying to the public or their stockholders. Circumventing laws and paying off politicians are par for the course. Yet this same brass will insist on drug tests for prospective employees, background checks and even credit checks.
We as a people must decide what we are willing to tolerate and what we are not. Then we need to apply those values to everyone, regardless of the individuals’ position or entertainment value.
Now to put some bullets in the gun. It would be insane to legislate every little misdeed. Nor can we legislate what penalties business, athletics and government should mete out. This needs to be a grass roots movement. With the smart phones and computers in every home and hand, communication has become a part of everyday life. Let’s use it for more than entertainment. We need protected whistleblowers in every corner of our society. But exposure must be verified – another good use of those smart phones. Whenever the police overstep their bounds, whenever a politician acts immorally, whenever a corporation puts profit over people, whenever an athlete defiles another person, the proof should be verified then broadcast, just as advertising is, in e-mail and a central Web site.
Once the information is out, the public must boycott, cry out, and use their voting power to penalize the miscreants. Even atheists have ethics and moral values. Let’s stand up as a moral country to require all those people who represent our government, business and sports to be proper role models in personal life as well as public.