NFL deterring improper conduct

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Maybe major league sports are finally getting the picture. As player salaries get higher, it seems player attitudes get worse. Players are getting less and less like role models and more and more like thugs.

The number of exemplary players on and off the field, like the Magic Johnsons, Dan Marinos and Nolan Ryans of old, are being replaced by a new breed of athlete. A breed that doesn&8217;t look at their situation as a blessing that comes with responsibility &8212; a responsibility to their teammates, to their fellow players, to the league, to fans and to the law.

Look at the brawl with the Pistons and Pacers, where players went into the stands and started exchanging blows with the fans. Look at Adam &8220;Pacman&8221; Jones and Chris Henry. Watch as the bad attitude seen in the pro arena bleeds over into college sports with the Miami and Florida International scrap.

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Professional athletes and alarmingly more college athletes see themselves as demigods who are above the law rather than an individual that was presented with a God given talent. More and more instances seem to arise with these blessed few showing their butts through ignorant and offensive behavior.

With the exception of a rare few, the sports role model is gone.

But the new national Football League commissioner, Roger Goodell, has taken notice of this recent plight among athletes, especially those in his league, and has taken steps to rid the NFL of the obnoxious and sometimes criminal behavior certain players exhibit. Specifically he has announced suspensions for two problem children of the league, Adam &8220;Pacman&8221; Jones of the Tennessee Titans and Chris Henry of the Cincinnati Bengals, for their erratic behavior.

Goodell, who has been the reigning commissioner for only seven months, has made a significant step and set a president for all sports, pro and otherwise, about what behavior should be allowed for talented athletes.

Of course drastic times call for drastic measures.

The 23-year-old Jones has been interviewed by the police in 10 separate instances since he has arrived in the league and shown himself to be a dominant return man and cornerback. Currently his suspension has been set for the duration of the entire 2007 season, though it could be longer or shorter depending on a pending trail in Georgia and a case he is involved in, but has yet to be charge in, that occurred in Las Vegas.

Henry on the other hand was arrested four times in a 14-month period that led to a two game suspension by his team. Of course he is not the only Bengal to get into trouble as nine different players for the franchise have been arrested in nine months.

Not only does this new era of crackdowns on inappropriate behavior have the support of the coaches of the NFL and the individual franchises that have to deal with the behavior, but it also has received the backing and further steps to correct the problem are being pushed by the players themselves. The NFL Players Association has asked that new rules be implemented that would ensure a stronger league discipline policy. It has even been suggested a three-strike rule be implemented.

I have to applaud these efforts to crack down on the outrageous conduct that has been exhibited in the past. I hope, much like the bad behavior spread through sports big and small, professional and amateur, so will this new era of crackdown.

Being an individual and being the quirky player is one thing, but the ludicrous antics that have been showcased must stop before they erode the reputation of professional sports any further. It is time to go back to the days of respectable, example setting athletes.