Chat with the chief: Crimes in sports are still crimes

Last week in the National Football League, Cleveland Browns defensive end Myles Garrett ripped the helmet off of Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Mason Rudolph and proceeded to slam it into his skull.

If this happened in some bar or some parking lot, this would be seen as assault. However, once again, athletes get off with a pass. Not only that, but they band together, with the help of sports fans, to play off a criminal act as a “part of the game.”

To be clear, Rudolph played his part in the incident as the instigator of the whole melee that took place. While he wasn’t suspended, he should have been. He should have gotten a fairly expensive fine as well.

Also, I feel it’s important to recognize that Rudolph himself declined to press charges against Garrett.

It still feels like people are misunderstanding the magnitude of this situation. That’s how I see it in my eyes. Besides having had seen the most horrid display of behavior I have ever seen on a football field, I also saw a legitimate criminal action take place.

If that helmet had hit just a few inches from where it had, everyone else would see it that way as well, because it would have led to much more grave consequences.

Do you know who else might have viewed this differently? Perhaps all those players willing to stand up for Garrett would be singing a different tune about the incident. However, even if this situation would have led to much more severe results for Rudolph, chances are nothing would be different.

Don’t get me wrong. As someone who has played organized sports all my life, I recognize that in most instances, a brotherhood is formed among members of a team. The team becomes your family, which is not a bad thing at all. Of course, until it is.

In the cases of a league such as the NFL, this unbreakable bond spreads beyond locker rooms, almost like a wildfire. Now obviously in this case, sides must be taken. However, those sides were largely drawn up before the incident even occurred.

This sort of blind faith has been in sports for generations, and it clearly isn’t any different in this instance. Rudolph himself displayed that fact by not pressing charges. In fact, it even spreads beyond the locker rooms, as fans also partake in putting on the blinders when such acts occur.

Take for example a comment I’ve both heard and seen regularly on social media. “Rudolph signed up to play in the NFL. He knows football is a violent sport.”

This is said as a way to somehow play the incident off as just “part of the game” or something to that effect. Yet, as someone who played football for four years in high school, never once did I witness someone taking off an opposing player’s helmet and whacking them upside the head with it.

I have witnessed assault on numerous occasions outside of the football field, and most of the time it was never as violent as what I viewed on my television screen watching Thursday Night Football.

Garrett got a hefty fine. He also got an indefinite suspension from the NFL.

However, what he didn’t get was jail time, which is what any other individual would get had committed the very same action anywhere else.

It just goes to show that we hold people on the “athletic battlefields” so to speak, to much lower levels than the rest of society, and those athletes play right into those standards.

It’s one thing that we as a society allow athletes, especially premier college and professional athletes, to commit crimes outside the arena or the stadium or whatever type of place they play in, and then let them come back into their respective league and compete in their respective sports as if they never did anything wrong, regardless of the violence of said crime. It’s a whole different conversation when we begin letting crimes on a football field be seen as a “part of the game.”

That’s got to be the line in today’s society at the very least. If not, then a precedent is being set that athletes can do whatever they want with zero consequences.

Of course, it seems like we lost our morals when it comes to sports a long time ago. I mean heck, Garrett was just a wee bit too competitive, right? Surely he didn’t mean to commit a misdemeanor, but he did. I’m sure Garrett is a good person. I haven’t heard anything poor about his character previously in my life. However, he, like all athletes who display this behavior, need to be held accountable.

If not now, when?