It seems like every time a professional athlete gets in trouble with the law, the response of the league is confused, tentative and often overturned.
Just last week running back Ray Rice was reinstated after that incredible video of him knocking the crap out of his then-girlfriend in an elevator. You can see the video here.
The Baltimore Ravens cut him and the NFL suspended him. But, an arbitrator just reinstated him and there are teams that, incredibly, have shown some interest in signing the 27-year-old running back.
The Rice case is just one of a string of professional athletes behaving badly and fans and non-fans alike are forced to sift through evidence, testimony, legal decisions, league and commissioner actions, sponsorship withdrawals and all manner of critical response to the poor action of our heroes.
Rice is not a new problem. Thirty years ago, two star Green Bay Packers, wide receiver James Lofton and running back Eddie Lee Ivery were accused of sexually assaulting a dancer in the stairwell of a Milwaukee strip club. The charges were dropped because of insufficient evidence.
Rice is probably going to get a job offer from some team in need of a running back and the team will talk all about how he "paid his debts to society and has rehabilitated his attitude."
If you stop and think about it, though, this is a guy who beat up the woman who would become his wife and most likely played a role in a conspiracy to either deny it happened or minimize the seriousness of the offense.
The other part of the story, of course, is the mud NFL commissioner Roger Goodell wallowed in with his waffling and indecisive disciplinary action which may, or may not, have involved another coverup.
What are we to do that will lend a sense of fairness and dignity to the investigations and punishments for bad behavior?
The answer, I think, lies with President Barack Obama, who has never met a czar he didn’t like.
I’d like to see him create a Professional Sports Code of Conduct czar. The rationale is that professional sports are very important to millions of Americans. I’d bet more people care about sports than they do about the war on drugs, which already has a czar.
The task for the czar would be very clear cut. Get the four professional leagues of baseball, basketball, football and hockey, along with the player’s union for each, to agree on a specific code of conduct for the athletes in those sports.
What we are going to try and do is come up with a series of steps and practices that all players, all owners and all leagues agree to. The code would cover various levels of conduct and prescribe penalties.
I’m not a lawyer and I don’t play one on TV, but I think this should be a relatively simple task, especially compared to the work of the Drug Czar.
The first thing to consider is the list of infractions that would necessitate some kind of special disciplinary action. There are only so many infractions that can make our list. Some infractions, like parking or speeding tickets, don’t even make the cut. A DUI makes the cut, of course. So does attempted murder. You get the idea.
Then the czar will coordinate a series of penalties for violations of the code of conduct. Everyone will agree to them. It’s really not that hard. The federal courts have sentencing guidelines that seem to work just fine. "You get convicted of this, here’s your sentence." Slam, bam, thank you ma’am.
I know everyone is saying that this is really a full-employment program for lawyers who will appeal every decision. But I’m not so sure. One of the guiding principles in situations like this is the old "who has the right to decide" rule. If you have the right to decide on a punishment, that’s it. No questions asked. Much like Adam Silver’s decision against Donald Sterling. Sterling was part of a group that had given Silver the right to decide, so, no questions asked.
The same thing holds true here. Players, unions, owners, commissioners and everyone else -- except the fans of course -- agree on what the infractions are and what the punishments should be. There will be room for extenuating circumstances, but they should be seriously mitigating.
I think something like this would lessen the ongoing drama of jocks behaving badly and would allow more time to focus on what’s really important -- the game.
So, come on Mr. President, one more czar and you could do a lot of good for the world of professional sport.
With a history in Milwaukee stretching back decades, Dave tries to bring a unique perspective to his writing, whether it's sports, politics, theater or any other issue.
He's seen Milwaukee grow, suffer pangs of growth, strive for success and has been involved in many efforts to both shape and re-shape the city. He's a happy man, now that he's quit playing golf, and enjoys music, his children and grandchildren and the myriad of sports in this state. He loves great food and hates bullies and people who think they are smarter than everyone else.
This whole Internet thing continues to baffle him, but he's willing to play the game as long as OnMilwaukee.com keeps lending him a helping hand. He is constantly amazed that just a few dedicated people can provide so much news and information to a hungry public.
Despite some opinions to the contrary, Dave likes most stuff. But he is a skeptic who constantly wonders about the world around him. So many questions, so few answers.