Reserving judgment, respecting althletes’ legal rights

 

Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston is a current Heisman Trophy candidate and currently stands accused of rape of a female student on campus.

Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston is a current Heisman Trophy candidate and currently stands accused of rape of a female student on campus.

By Charles Glover Jr.

Athletes often generate as much attention as musicians and actors. They also attract more publicity than most politicians. The constant spotlight on athletes makes it unlikely that the public will patiently wait for information to come out when a legal matter presents itself. But, as athletes such as Michael Vick, Roger Clements, Aaron Hernandez and now, Jameis Winston, have come to recognize, it is important to obtain and adhere to legal counsel instead of satisfying the public’s desire for information when confronting accusations that have legal implications.

Roger Clemens faced federal charges of lying to Congress about his use of performance-enhancing drugs in 2008. Though many believed he was guilty, Clemens was acquitted of those charges in 2012.

Roger Clemens faced federal charges of lying to Congress about his use of performance-enhancing drugs in 2008. Though many believed he was guilty, Clemens was acquitted of those charges in 2012.

The willingness of the public to allow for an athlete’s personal life to remain private drastically changes when the legal system is involved. It is often viewed as a betrayal of the public’s trust when an athlete is accused of being involved with something that might be illegal. However, the scrutiny a troubled athlete experiences is not consistent. In fact, it typically seems that what a person is accused of matters even more than who is accused.

Aaron Hernandez was arrested in 2013 and charged with the multiple felonies including the murder of Odin Lloyd. He remains in custody until he has his day in court.

Aaron Hernandez was arrested in 2013 and charged with the multiple felonies including the murder of Odin Lloyd. He remains in custody until he has his day in court.

The adage innocent until proven guilty does not apply in the court of public opinion and the worse the alleged crime, the harder it is for the athlete to maintain a positive public image until the resolution of their legal conflict. This disparity stems from the lack of information an accused athlete will provide about legal issues which they face. Legally, it is prudent for the athlete to say as little as possible. The burden of proof is on the state (or government) to find enough evidence to charge and eventually convict the person they accuse of committing a crime. Although some information is available to the public, fans would like answers sooner than later. However, the criminal justice system does not move swiftly so accused athletes can find themselves at the center of questions they are legally required to answer publicly for months or even years before there is a resolution to the case.

Michael Vick has worked extremely hard to repair his image after being convicted for various crimes related to dog fighting in 2007. Vick has been a model citizen since returning to the NFL in 2009.

Michael Vick has worked extremely hard to repair his image after being convicted for various crimes related to dog fighting in 2007. Vick has been a model citizen since returning to the NFL in 2009.

The athletes involved in legal issues get far more attention than the victims in the same case because the athlete is already a public persona before the legal matters were introduced. The public’s fascination with the athlete’s legal outcome seems to do a disservice to the loved ones of the victims (alleged or confirmed). If an athlete is guilty of a crime, they have far greater issues than the public’s opinion of them. Yet, if that athlete wants to continue a career in sports, winning back the favor of the public is important. However, if an athlete is not guilty or falsely accused of a crime, that athlete does not receive a public apology from all who assumed that athlete’s guilt. When it comes to legal matters, the court of public opinion can gather the facts, speculate or even pontificate, without leaving  the judgment to the actual court system.–OnPointPress.net–

 

Charles Glover, Jr. is a sports aficionado and a management training consultant.

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