Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Athletes, Privilege and the Law

Law, Order and Sports

World class athlete. College star. Professional athlete. It is not only a state of being, but it is most definitely a state of mind. What brings me to think about this is the conviction and sentencing of O.J. Simpson for murder. Did I say murder? I mean kidnapping, armed robbery and 10 other charges. This verdict came exactly 13 years to the day from when OJ was acquitted for the murders of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ron Goldman in what many saw as a travesty of justice, while others saw it as a huge civil rights win.

The current verdict also seems to come at a time when we may be ushering in a new age of reality for athletes who, for as far back as I can remember, have been treated with deference and a wink and a nod by the justice system. All because they can throw, catch, run or hit better than you or I can. This treatment has tended to transcend any racial, ethnic or religious boundaries and been based on athletic ability and or star power. We have historically seen the same type of treatment come out of Hollywood, where repetitive drunk driving and narcotics possession for the stars from television and the movies seem to get treated with a slap on the wrist and a few hours of community service.

Now there is no doubt that the OJ case has a life and history of its own, but we are reading more often the stories of crimes that in the past may have been swept under the rug, that are now being treated with a higher degree of seriousness and consequences for those involved.

Let's say I get into a fight in a bar, get caught driving drunk, steal something from my neighbors house, get caught with a knife or a gun or maybe even kill someone. What is going to happen to me? Who will defend me? I am just a regular guy, so the chances are that I will be at the mercy of the legal system. No special treatment or deals. Just the best attorney that I can afford who will lead me through the system. No question I will most likely be treated more fairly than those who cannot afford counsel of their own choosing and must go with the legal aid attorney that is assigned to their case. But at the mercy of the system none the less.

This is not to say that there have not been high profile convictions and sentencing for serious crimes because there most certainly have been (List Of Professional Sports People Convicted Of A Crime), but it seems that for those who are considered to be special in the public eye (aka valuable from a monetary stand point), there will be many people willing to lobby for them.

What the O.J. verdict shows us is that this is a bad guy, who more likely than not committed and got away with murder 13 years ago. He put together his legal dream team then that wiped the floor with a prosecution team in over its' head and a judge basking in the lime light. Many in the world cheered the verdict as if it were a civil rights victory more than a legal one. In reality it was really not a civil rights victory, because O.J. was not, and is not really a civil rights spokesman. He is a man who has been coddled and taken care of by the system all of his life because of his skills as a running back at USC and later for the Buffalo Bills. Self centered, self absorbed and incredible arrogant.

This has typically been the way that things work in society. How many campus crimes have been swept under the rug in order to keep the "franchise" player or players on the field and the glory and revenues continuing to roll into the particular schools coffers.

We are now hopefully seeing a move towards accountability no matter who you are or what you do for a living. Even if you do that something exceptionally well and make a lot of money for a lot of people.

Let's Let Justice Be What It is Supposed To Be: Justice For All

FYI: On Tuesday the 3-month Treasury bill yield was actually negative. This means your are lending the government money in order to lose, all in the desire to keep your principle safe. Interesting.

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