The newest NFL controversaries surrounding Michael Vick and Vince Young (http://sports.espn.go.com/nfl/news/story?id=5335515) raise the often debated question on Sports Talk Radio of whether athletes are on the same level as you and me.  Are athletes held to a higher standard?  Or do they receive a free pass and a “second chance” in situations where we would not be so lucky?

This morning, on 97.5 The Fanatic, both the callers and the commentators kept throwing around the notion that “everyone deserves a second chance.”  As a result, it was ok for Michael Vick to be allowed back into the league.  It’s ok for Roethlisberger to return as the quarterback of the Steelers.  It’s ok for PacMan Jones to keep getting opportunities.  We all deserve a second chance… right?  In my opinion, in most circumstances, for professional athletes the answer should be no.

Too many athletes are immature kids who want the rewards without the responsibility.  In their mind, they’re victims, who are trapped by people scrutinizing their every move.  Look at Michael Vick.  If he wanted the freedom to hang out with his buddies from the dog-fighting operation, then all he had to do was pass on an NFL contract.  Whether he truly comprehended that its a package deal – riches and responsibility – he made a choice.  All of these athletes do.  In return for the power to provide for their immediate and extended families for generations to come (or simply to “make it rain” on strippers), they need to obey the laws of this country (including the drug and alcohol laws) and avoid the trouble that follows strip clubs and bars until their relatively short playing career is over.  But, unfortunately, that’s just my opinion, not the reality of the situation.

How do I know?  Compare yourself to top athletes out there.  If you were convicted a felony, would your employer let you return to work after your prison sentence?  Heck — if you were simply arrested and charged with a felony, would your employer terminate you?  Or, even better, if you failed a random drug test, would you receive a relatively short suspension and then be allowed to return at your normal rate of pay, which, unlike professional athletes, probably is not in the multi-million range?  Would your job at AEG Edwards or GlaxoSmithKline still be there?  Would your job at McDonalds or Wal-Mart be there, even if it meant you had to sign with another branch?  I feel confident to venture a guess that for 99% of the people who read this posting the answer is no.  Personally, I’d likely be fired and either have my license suspended or I would be disbarred, perhaps permanently cut-off from ever pursuing my passion for law

The same is not true, however, for pro athletes.  Athletes can break the laws of this country and the standards and rules of their workplace without more than a short suspension (if that).  The list of examples is long.  I can quickly think of: Vick, Roethlisberger, Vince Young, Manny Ramirez, Arenas, ARod, Artest, and Merriman.  These athletes sincerely believe they are held to a higher standard?  And, if they are, they are unfairly held to a higher standard?

I think its a ridiculous proposition that athletes are relegated to a status lower than ours and as a result we only view them under the magnifying glass.  They are privy to opportunities and privileges we will never be fortunate enough to possess.  Lets start with their salaries.  Now, I understand the economics of sports.  We, the consumer, are responsible for the astronomical salaries that professional athletes receive.  If we, the consumer, spent our money on education and health-related activities rather than entertainment, then the salaries would disappear.  Nevertheless, these professional athletes receive salaries in the millions.  The list I provided above probably has a combined salary of $300 million? $400 million?  With that privilege should come increased expectations.  Sport is entertainment to certain degree — every professional sport.  As a result, owners are paying for more than just athletic talent.  They are paying for a promotable product.  Whether athletes like it or not, it takes a lot to justify an ARod contract.  If you want elite money, then you better be ready to be elite both on or off the field.  Mo’ money, mo’ problems is another way of saying more money, more responsibility in my book.

Athletes are on the pedastal.  They are above us.  The athletes will have sports writers and fans from all over the country fighting for the their “second chance.”  If you really listen to a lot of fans, sports writers, and athletes, they all believe athletes are entitled to play professional sports.  Entitled to a second chance.  Does that work for the rest of us?  If you are a tremendous educator with natural gifts to teach to inspire, are you entitled to a faculty position?  Those education majors who get busted for underage drinking and then denied a teaching license, are they under the microscope?  Aren’t they entitled to a second chance and teaching job?  Nope.  You’re just like the rest of us non-athletes.  Rules and laws apply to us and second chances with our employers are rare.  You break the law or fail a random drug test – especially in this economy – you’re on the outside looking in, entitled to nothing.

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