Maybe the image-sensitive NFL should focus on strengthening marriages

The NFL has made head injury prevention a priority this year. They have increased the penalties on players making rough hits and they have stated that players diagnosed with a concussion have to sit out the rest of the game. These measures are great steps at rectifying what had become an increasingly dangerous game to play.

Regarding its reputation and image, one area in which the NFL doesn’t like to mention is infidelity. And it’s a big problem in pro sports.

I’m not suggesting that the NFL investigate the lives of their athletes. That approach would never work. (The only reason the NFL is investigating the Brett Favre allegations is because the woman in question was a fellow employee at the time –thus it became a workplace issue).  But perhaps the NFL and the other leagues could provide better advice to their athletes on how to deal with the temptations of fame and money.

ESPN published a story on the topic of infidelity in sports and it’s worth reading. I have to say I became even less interested in giving away my Sunday afternoons after reading this story.

Here’s how one athlete deals with the issue:

Some pledge not to get married while they are playing simply because of the temptations, and because they have seen how marriages and infidelity can complicate careers.

“A lot of coaches and players have a lot of distractions at home, and it will cause them not to play well,” says Bryant McKinnie, an unmarried left tackle for the Minnesota Vikings. “At the rookie symposium, we learned that 75 percent of NFL marriages end with divorce within two to three years after retirement. And that’s just something that’s always been on my mind.”

Seventy-five percent! That’s terrible!

I hope they aren’t only telling rookies this horrific statistic. I don’t deny that it’s true nor should they neglect to tell them about the danger. But after hearing something like that, I’m not surprised that athletes are deciding against marriage until after they retire.

The league should consider spending some of its resources on fostering a more marriage-friendly climate. Interview coaches, former athletes and wives — develop some recommendations. This is something that merits study. I’m not condemning Bryant McKinnie. But there’s got to be some better options.

In sports we tend to focus on the long-term effects of a head injury. But let’s not forget about the real impact of broken relationships as well.

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3 thoughts on “Maybe the image-sensitive NFL should focus on strengthening marriages

  1. GW why do I need 3 letters or more? says:

    Consider me idealistic for thinking that God’s grace can overcome even men being men.

  2. Nathan says:

    This isn’t a problem restricted to the NFL, as the article notes. Jose Canseco once wrote Roger Clemens was the only baseball player he was aware of who didn’t cheat on his wife. As it turned out, he did. Nevertheless, the other Nathan has it pretty much right: money and being on the road a lot, especially the latter. But there’s also the celebrity element of athletes. A lot of women want to hook up with them. Upper-middle class accountants stray, too, of course, but they aren’t getting the attention an athlete gets. When the Tiger Woods drama broke, a friend rightly points out that 99.9% of men have no clue what it’s like to have beautiful women throw themselves at them, and thus, it’s a hell of a lot harder for us to judge. I don’t know about you guys, but I like hot chicks. I could easily envision a situation where one after another is approaching me, and after several drinks, I cave. I suppose these athletes could stay in their rooms for the duration of the trip, but that’s not exactly reasonable. Of course, it’s one thing to be susceptible to the one-night stand–it’s a weakness that comes with our fallen nature–but it’s quite another that so many are like Tiger and maintaining multiple mistresses. That’s just unacceptable. I actually think the wisest course of action is Bryant McKinnie’s–don’t get married. It’s inevitable these guys will have sex on the road, so why violate the bond of marriage? George Brett, my favorite baseball player ever, didn’t get married until late in his career, and Derek Jeter has yet to make vows; you can’t tell me it’s because they can’t find Ms. Right. I think a lot of kids would be better off if they had dads who honored their vows, much less taking the Shawn Kemp road, but this is a problem that won’t go away so long as men are men and women who are attracted to fame and fortune are willing to go along.

  3. Nathan says:

    Here is an idea: Change how multi-year contracts and rookie guaranteed money works. This gets at the heart of one of the major problem in all US Professional Sports leagues today: So much money is on the line, that it almost compels players to either stay in too long for perceived financial need or rack up their expenses too high in the first few years of their career. In fact, a lot of rookies would probably be better served having their first contract mandated they put a certain percentage of their money away each year so they can get in to the mindset of be wise with their money early on.

    If you have less, you work with less and don’t spend money you don’t have (typically). I wouldn’t be surprised if most of these marriage issues have to do with money and the amount of time professional athletes spend away from their families these days. Of course, the problem with implementing these changes would like be the players union in each league.

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