~Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (5 Sept., 2006)
Kudos to Sports Illustrated for running the story, “College Football and Crime.” I’m also tipping my hat to CBS news, who co-conducted their 6-month research project. According to co-authors Jeff Benedict and Armen Keteyian, that investigation yielded some “ striking revelations,” including these:
• Seven percent of the players in the preseason Top 25 — 204 in all (1 of every 14) — had been charged with or cited for a crime, including dozens of players with multiple arrests.
• Of the 277 incidents uncovered, nearly 40 percent involved serious offenses, including 56 violent crimes such as assault and battery (25 cases), domestic violence (6), aggravated assault (4), robbery (4) and sex offenses (3). In addition there were 41 charges for property crimes, including burglary and theft and larceny.
• There were more than 105 drug and alcohol offenses, including DUI, drug possession and intent to distribute cocaine.
• Race was not a major factor. In the overall sample, 48 percent of the players were black and 44.5 percent were white. Sixty percent of the players with a criminal history were black and 38 percent were white.
• In cases in which the outcome was known, players were guilty or paid some penalty in nearly 60 percent of the 277 total incidents.
Players who would have been on last year’s rosters but had been charged and expelled from their teams before Sept. 1 — and there were dozens — were not counted in [the] sample. Nor did SI and CBS News have access to juvenile arrest records for roughly 80 percent of the players in the study.
In the aftermath of my own family’s experiences with this issue, you can color me not surprised. Our circumstances, as well as those of countless others’, opened my eyes to the widespread, insipid nature of this problem. [Sports Illustrated covered “our” story here, as did USA TODAY, among others.] That incident introduced me to those for whom denial is the first line of defense. Failing that, they assumed a fall-back position: avoidance over cure. For the first time ever, I was exposed to the “fanatic” side of fandom, and to some unsavory elements of sports competition. Our experiences and observations made us keenly aware of the serious nature of this problem, and of the smoke-and-mirrors tactics used to disguise its prevalence. Believing the issue warranted a wider conversation, I was inspired to follow through on my “Rosa Resolution.”
This article (and the coverage it’s been given since) strips away the potential for ignorance-as-defense, even for those entities who’ve turned a blind eye to the problem before now. Hurray for that! And huzzah to Governor Schwarzenegger and our California legislators, who helped us lead the charge awhile back. Some argue that our new law doen’t go far enough. I tend to agree. But hey, it’s a starting point, from which others can carry the banner forward.
Here’s hoping this article spurs nationwide interest, and that the follow-up conversations lead to tighter regulations, strictly enforced. Because a sense of fair play matters more than a single win, and doing the right thing is the mark of a true champion.