Editor’s Column: Empathy in tradegy

Last Saturday, I woke up to sad news as both a Buckeyes fan and a Steelers fan.  

Dwayne Haskins, a star quarterback at Ohio State in 2018 before being drafted in the first round of the 2019 NFL draft by the Washington Commanders and then played for the Pittsburgh Steelers, died after being hit by a dump truck.  

It was devastating enough hearing that the QB that I loved in 2018 was killed in such a tragic accident. Then I saw what two influential sports media members had to say. First came Adam Schefter, ESPN’s Senior NFL Insider.  

“Dwayne Haskins, a standout at Ohio State before struggling to catch on with Washington and Pittsburgh in the NFL, died this morning when he got hit by a car in South Florida, per his agent Cedrick Saunders. Haskins would have turned 25 years old on May 3,” Schefter said in a tweet.

Now, upon first reading, this tweet may not appear very bad. Let me ask you this: What do his struggles in the NFL have to do with anything? He did not live up to the lofty expectations presented to him early on in his career, but the man was 24 years old, and he still had a lot left in him. When announcing somebodies’ death, there is no reason to disparage the man.  

Why couldn’t Schefter say, “Dwayne Haskins, a standout at Ohio State before playing quarterback with Washington and Pittsburgh in the NFL, died this morning when he got hit by a car in South Florida,” 

Then comes aging NFL podcast host and former NFL executive Gil Brandt. This 90-year-old man shouldn’t have had a platform to speak on in the first place. Nowadays, he’s not even controlling what is presented to him. Nevertheless, Brandt didn’t wait until Haskin’s body was cold to release a load of disparaging remarks about the quarterback. 

The three main comments from Brandt: 

  • “He was a guy that was living to be dead.” 
  • “It was always something,” with Haskins. 
  • “Maybe if he stayed in school a year, he wouldn’t do silly things [like] jogging on a highway.” 

Brandt’s PR team quickly realized how horrible these comments were and tweeted on his Twitter account saying how sorry he was for such awful words.  

The comments from these NFL pundits show the true nature of what NFL players have to go through if they don’t live up to expectations. Suppose they make one mistake while in the public eye; it will not only follow them for the rest of their life but will be used to disparage even their death. 

It’s dehumanizing to these players to only be seen through what they have accomplished. Dwayne Haskins was not “living to be dead”; the only reason he was in South Florida was to train with his Pittsburgh Steelers teammates. 

He was trying to become a better player and even a better person, yet that did not stop media members from trying to embarrass him even in his death.  

When tragedy happens, empathy should be the first thing a human should feel: empathy for the person, his family, and the people close to him. If you can’t even show empathy moments after a person/player’s death, then you should not have a platform to talk about people who are living.