Have We Become So Outraged, We’ve Lost Judgment?

Jonathan TaylorThese are tough times for ethics and collegiate or professional football. In every sense, harsh penalties for crimes such as domestic violence, sexual assaults, bullying and drug/alcohol abuse were very long overdue.

In past years, many coaches, teams and athletic departments were complicit with the off-the-field antics of athletes. Sports Ethics considerations were thrown aside. Were they wrong to overlook these behaviors? Absolutely. A small percentage of abusers, rapists, bullies and petty (and no so petty) criminals, were allowed to mess things up for all of the fine men and women who knew right from wrong.

Though the public dissatisfaction with athletes had been simmering for a long time, the tipping point was undoubtedly the Ray Rice incident. Professional football has still not fully “recovered” from the incident. The case exploded through professional sports and it was long, long overdue. The public finally allowed its outrage to be felt. Even diehard fans had to come face-to-face with the fact that an athlete who assaults a woman is a bum. The NFL and the NCAA both moved from their glacially slow reactions to domestic violence and finally did something. We can never go back to the old days.

Outrage is a tricky word

Another problem occurs however, when our collective outrage to one particular situation carries over to all other situations. If a jewelry store near to me was robbed by a man who jumped off his bicycle, ran into the store, stole a few Omega watches and then rode off, I can’t assume that every other person on a bicycle is a thief. It is not fair; it is not ethical. Even if the jewelry store owner thinks another person on a bicycle was out to steal from him, unless there is proof, it is best not to falsely accuse until the facts are in and properly assessed.

Just a few days ago, Alabama football player Jonathan Taylor was thrown off the team based on the accusations of his former girlfriend, Gina Marie Nawab. She claimed to the police that Taylor had assaulted her, and she had the bruises and the damage to her apartment to prove it. This was serious, serious stuff.

It didn’t help that last summer the 6-foot-4, 335-pound lineman was kicked off the University of Georgia football team for punching a woman. Alabama gave him a second chance, but they made it clear they had a zero-tolerance policy.

When Nawab came forward with the accusations, he was immediately thrown off the team. Here’s the problem. According to the Associated Press (April 2, 2015):

“The woman who said former Alabama football player Jonathan Taylor assaulted her now says she made it up because she thought he was cheating on her, according to court documents.

A deposition released Thursday by Tuscaloosa County District Court indicates the 24-year-old woman, identified as Gina Marie Nawab, said the bruises on her neck were self-inflicted and damage to a door in her apartment was already there. She was charged with False Reporting to Law Enforcement.”

Suppose, just suppose, that in this case Jonathan Taylor is completely innocent? What then my friends and followers? Have we rushed to judgment? Maybe, but there are other problems.

Due to university policy – a policy I well understand – Jonathan Taylor is not eligible for re-admission. Unless the university declares an exception, he is finished. It is also a well-established fact, that when Taylor is brought up for arraignment, most juries will have a tough time being convinced (no matter what the young woman claims) that Taylor did not commit the crime.

Our choices and our consequences

We look at a man as athletically strong and gifted and powerful as Jonathan Taylor, and we forget how young he is and how his ethical choices in life are still being formed. There is a back story to this case, as there usually is in such situations. Taylor cheated on this ex-girlfriend more than once. She said she was getting back at him.

She may be wrong, but it still does not let him off the hook. He is messing up.

He is a D-1 football player in perhaps the most prestigious program in the nation. We can argue all you’d like about that fact, but that isn’t the issue here. He is young and has a very powerful platform. He could go into the NFL from here and those around him feel it and know it. He has many opportunities to make bad choices and many choices to do things the right way. He is choosing wrong.

Ethics training could have helped immensely in this case. Sports Ethics trains individually in confidential sessions or to teams and associations and departments. This young man may have a tremendous future ahead of him, or it may end at the arraignment. Though the university may have falsely rushed to judgment, he has done nothing to help himself. He may never take the field for Alabama.

I wish I could have helped him many months ago.





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