Teams should not ignore extra baggage athletes carry no matter skill level

By Matt Boecker

DeKALB — There are plenty of die-hard sports fans who will cheer on their team through thick and thin. However, the bonds that fans have with their teams are being tested as we learn more about athletes and their personal lives.

With the continued emergence of the internet and technology, we know more about athletes’ personal lives than ever before. In some cases, we see a pleasant side of athletes we didn’t know about. In other instances, we learn about the dark side of athletes.

As we discover some of our favorite players aren’t always model citizens, it puts fans in a wrestling match between their fandom and their morals.

During the Chicago Cubs’ championship season in 2016, they acquired pitcher Aroldis Chapman from the New York Yankees. Many agree that Chapman was the final piece necessary for the Cubs to win the World Series. However, Chapman came with some baggage. 

On March 1, 2016, Major League Baseball suspended Chapman for 30 games after he violated the league’s domestic abuse policy. Chapman was not prosecuted due to conflicting reports and insufficient evidence. However, MLB had grounds to suspend Chapman when he admitted to getting into an argument with his girlfriend, which led to Chapman firing eight bullets from a handgun in his garage. No injuries occurred as a result of Chapman’s actions.

“I knew him as a Cincinnati Red, and when he would come in against the Cubs, thinking, ‘Man, he’s really good,’” junior and human health sciences major Jake Larson said. “(Chapman) topped out at 105 MPH with his fastball and is nearly untouchable when he’s on fire. He was the true definition of a shutdown closer.”

Despite his skill, Larson, who has been a Cubs fan since the age of six, was still unsure of how to feel about the team’s pitcher.

“It’s like a sour taste in your mouth,” Larson said. “I loved him as a player, but then you hear him talking postgame and immediately remember this guy probably isn’t the best.”

But things like domestic abuse always vary from case-to-case. Not every situation is exactly the same, and each situation should be handled differently depending on the variables. This is what helped Larson accept Chapman as a Cub.

{{tncms-inline alignment=”center” content=”<p>“When it comes to domestic violence or abuse of a child, if you lay your hands on them, I’m a no-go,” Larson said. “Addison Russell supposedly physically abused his wife. He can get off my team, I don’t ever want to see him again. If you just get really angry or just have an anger issue, but you can hold yourself back from inflicting physical harm on someone, obviously it’s not good and you should get help to try and be better, but I’m ok with you being on the team.”</p>” id=”53713c2d-226f-43cc-94b5-999f477d4886″ style-type=”quote” title=”Jack Larson” type=”relcontent” width=”full”}}

The Cincinnati Bengals put their fans’ loyalty to the test when they drafted running back Joe Mixon from the University of Oklahoma in the 2017 NFL Draft.

In 2014, before Mixon played a game as an Oklahoma Sooner, he was charged with misdemeanor assault for punching a woman in the face at a bar, which caused four broken bones in the woman’s face. Mixon was suspended for the entire 2014 football season, and a few months after the incident, entered a plea deal that maintained his innocence. Mixon played his first game in 2015 and went on to have a stellar career as a Sooner. In 2016, police released footage to the public of Mixon punching the woman.

Corey Johnson, senior sports management major, has been a Bengals fan for 13 years, but finds himself losing interest in the team because of their decisions.

“When he was at Oklahoma, he was the most talented running back [in college football] in my eyes,” Johnson said. 

However, for Johnson the baggage that Mixon carried wasn’t worth the impact he could make on the field.

“It’s one thing if she comes and confronts you and starts hitting you,” Johsnon said. “I kind of understand that, but he was the one who put himself in that situation and he could’ve walked away.”

Drafting Mixon wasn’t the final straw that caused Johnson to lose loyalty for the Bengals. It was some hypocrisy from the team that pushed Johnson over the edge.

“In 2018, the Bengals backup quarterback was Jeff Driskel,” Johnson said. “Their starting quarterback, Andy Dalton, got hurt in week 11, and they had the opportunity to bring in Colin Kaepernick or play Jeff Driskel, and they just kept Driskel. Driskel is a bad quarterback, he’s not good. I don’t know if Kaepernick was an amazing quarterback, but he was better than Driskel. They decided not to go with Kaepernick’s politics, but at the same time they have a guy like Joe Mixon, who hit a woman.”

Athletes should all be held to the same standard, whether they’re the worst or best player on a team’s roster.

If teams can cut a below average player for their actions off the field, then teams should cut their best player if they carry out similar actions. Top tier athletes shouldn’t be excused for being bad people just because they can score a lot of touchdowns or record a lot of strikeouts. Teams shouldn’t prioritize winning over unmoral actions.

For fans, it’s necessary to make ones’ own assessment of each player that has skeletons in their closet. A line must be drawn where teams either give the player a second chance because they think players are deserving of it. Or, if teams do something that makes fans feel uneasy and fans don’t think it is forgivable, then it’s up to one to decide for oneself if one’s fandom outweighs the teams’ actions.