As Aaron Hernandez sits in a Massachusetts prison cell following his arrest for the alleged murder of Odin Lloyd, there’s a growing sense among fans, journalists and even some teams that NFL franchises should be holding their players to a higher standard off the field.
The thinking seems to be that if teams would stop prioritizing talent over character when forming their rosters, then players with checkered pasts — both violent and otherwise — would be sifted out of the league, and the NFL’s image problem would no longer be the black eye that it is.
It becomes difficult to try to set a standard for what is and isn’t acceptable among players, however, when the folks doing the cracking down aren’t living up to their own expectations.
According to this helpful database from the San Diego Union-Tribune, there have been 40 instances of NFL player arrests since the start of 2013, but the guys in helmets aren’t the only ones finding trouble.
Sure, the Lions penalized Lewand, to the tune of a one-month suspension and $100,000 fine, and Heckert and Russell will reportedly meet a similar fate, with team president Joe Ellis telling the Denver Post that, "(his) expectation is the discipline will be severe."
But having to deal with issues involving drinking and driving at all is a bad look for a league still reeling from Josh Brent’s intoxicated manslaughter charge from last season, and it gives the league little credibility should it ramp up its efforts to blackball other players who find trouble away from the workplace.
Now, does a middle-aged suit getting a DUI carry the same weight as a multi-millionaire football star allegedly committing murder (Hernandez), assaulting a woman at a club (Pacman Jones), passing out in a car full of guns and drugs (Michael Goodson), or all of the things that Titus Young is alleged to have done? Of course not.
But there’s still a hypocrisy that can’t be ignored, and if the NFL truly wants to make a statement to current and future players about what the league stands for and what the league will accept from its employees, executives across the board need to make sure they’re acting in a way that is in line with their own message.