Athletes are not above the law

Published Mar 20, 2013 at 10:24 am (Updated Mar 20, 2013 at 10:24 am)

Shortly after the guilty verdict was announced for 17-year-old Trent Mays and 16-year-old Ma’Lik Richmond, Ohio state Attorney General Mike DeWine announced that he is continuing his investigation in the semi-local turned national news story, the Steubenville rape case – and that he would consider filing charges against those who failed to come forward after the attack. Some evidence, including text messages, suggests that other teens, parents and even school officials and football coaches knew about the rape of the 16-year-old girl, but did not come forward.

In Ohio, officials, including coaches, are required by law to report suspected child abuse.

Sound familiar?

Unlike Jerry Sandusky, the former Penn State University assistant football coach who is set to remain behind bars for the rest of his life for his heinous crimes, Mays and Richmond were tried as juveniles and were only sentenced to at least one year in prison, though they could remain there until they are 21.

Success on the gridiron – or court or rink or field – does not place one above the law. For teammates, coaches or parents to remain silent in order to protect a football program or school reputation is beyond disgusting.

Moreover, athletes, be they professional, collegiate or high school, are looked up to by many adoring fans, including their peers and fellow students. They should conduct themselves as such. There’s an age-old stereotype of authority figures looking the other way on minor infractions by athletes, because they want their team/school/town to win the big game. Apparently, this notion has perpetuated itself into a much more serious set of circumstances not only in the bubble that is Penn State, but just across state lines in Steubenville, too. Of course, there are surely many other similar incidents that aren’t making national headlines right now.

Unfortunately, what happened in Penn State wasn’t a lesson enough to those in Steubenville. Hopefully, though, this is the last such incident where a coach or athlete feels so invincible that they believe themselves to be above the law. And hopefully, this is the last incident where those who should be trusted adults turn and look the other way.

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