LB Darius Fleming: Sports Ethics Hero

Darius FlemingMaybe the mere mention of the New England Patriots turns your stomach, or perhaps you wear New England Patriots pajamas to sleep (even in the summer) and live and die with every Tom Brady snap. Either way, it’s OK by us. This story is about a Patriots player, but the real story is about the choices that each one of us can make in life.

We’d be fools to not mention that the body of any athlete is his or her tool, and the higher one goes, high school to collegiate to professional, the more that body is honed and nurtured. If anyone could be self-indulgent about risking an injury, it could be a professional football player on the brink of the NFL playoffs. Apparently, Darius Fleming did not get the memo on avoiding injury and taking unnecessary risks. To set the scene (I will be taking a few notes and quotes from Mike Reiss’ ESPN piece of January 21, 2016 on the incident).

Darius Fleming was leaving practice for the AFC Divisional Round game versus Kansas City. This was on Thursday, January 14, 2016. According to the article:

“The 26-year-old Fleming said a large truck made an unexpected right turn on Route 1 while he was driving away from Gillette Stadium, which he said led to three cars colliding in front of his vehicle.

‘I was about to go around it,’ said Fleming, ‘but I noticed the lady in front of me, she kind of was jumping around the car, passenger seat, back seat, and I noticed smoke building up inside the car. I tried to open the doors and it wouldn’t work. So then I was just like, ‘I have to get her out of here. I don’t know if this lady can breathe or what.’”

The Choice, the Consequence, the Truth

Mr. Fleming could have driven past and ignored it. He didn’t.

The car seemed like it was filling with smoke. Car windows are pretty tough to break. He had no tools or rocks or any other objects, so fearful the smoke would overcome the woman. He indicated to the woman that he would break the passenger side window and help her out, to which she gratefully agreed.

Darius Fleming kicked in the window and received a gash in his leg that required 20 stitches. That was his choice and his short-term consequence. However, the truth and the longer-term consequence was that he acted ethically and he acted on behalf of someone who was unable to act for herself. He pulled the woman out of the car and went on his way. He didn’t want fanfare and he didn’t need standing ovations or trophies.

Ultimately, the police said that there wasn’t a fire, but that when an air bag deploys there can be smoke. It is an irrelevant point. The woman told the police she was trapped and had trouble breathing.

That Saturday, January 16, 2016, with 20 stitches in his leg, Darius Fleming played in the game against the Kansas City Chiefs. According to the article:

“Fleming said the stitches didn’t affect him during the game, although his initial thought was that he might be unavailable for the game. ‘I was just excited to be able to play. The first thing that came to mind was, Damn, my leg is cut up pretty bad, so I wasn’t sure how that would affect me, how it would affect my game. I was fine.’”

He repeatedly told reporters that what he did was no big thing and that he was not in any pain during the game. Had the incident not been posted to a friend’s Facebook account, no one would have known.

The Long-Term Consequences

Sports Ethics is frequently associated with stories of negative outcomes. Goodness knows, we write about those negative outcomes all of the time however, we should not allow the negatives to outweigh or over-shadow all of the good that is done.

Players are frequently categorized by the media and those who have “grudges” against sports in general, as being thugs or rapists or bullies or child abusers – or any other negative imaginable, as characteristic of all that is wrong in sports. All too often, “sports” is held to a very different standard than other professions. Should it? I don’t think so!

Speaking of the media, the media is already pouncing on Fleming’s story as being no big deal. That it was overblown. This is what many in the media with an agenda love to do. So to those writers who are apparently such experts on MVA’s, one of us (BW) writing this blog was a paramedic in a major city. Fleming did the right thing. While I have no doubt some of you would have gunned your vehicles past the accident.

Just this morning, I read of a female physician who assaulted an Uber driver; we have recently been exposed to stories of drug companies gouging patients; Chuck wrote a blog about a quack physician who was feeding useless concoctions to terminally-ill cancer patients. Does this make the entire healthcare industry a sham? I think not.

When Darius Fleming came to the woman’s assistance he was not thinking as a big-time professional athlete or a media darling, but as an ethical person. When the physician assaulted the Uber driver, she was a thug.

We can never overlook the fact that every choice has a consequence. Long-term, no matter where Darius Fleming goes in his life, his act has earned him an accolade far above anything sports can offer. He will be thought of as a good person.


(Written by Chuck Gallagher and Bruce Wolk)


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