Shameful Silence in sports must end

Adan Banks, Sports Editor

Professional sports players are the best of the best athletes; they are at the pinnacle of fame and fortune, earning millions of dollars every year from their appearances on television shows and commercials along with their participation in professional sports.  Posters of Lionel Messi and Stephen Curry hang in the rooms of aspiring athletes and superfans around the world, worshipped like gods of the sports they play.  What kind of icon blessed with extraordinary strength and world-renowned skills would hit an old man over a whiskey dispute?

The “notorious” Conor McGregor, UFC lightweight world champion, recently made headline news, and this time, it wasn’t for professional fighting.  A video surfaced of McGregor striking a 50-year-old man in an Irish pub after he refused a shot of whiskey sponsored by McGregor himself.  This behavior should be unacceptable not only because McGregor assaulted an old man, but because that act is a clear show of immaturity and recklessness.  However, only two days later on August 17 when MMA fighter Nate Diaz bested Anthony Pettis in UFC 241, the stories shifted with a focus on a possible rematch between McGregor and Diaz.  The media forgot about McGregor’s assault.

Stories like these are not as rare as they should be.  Mike Tyson, a beloved boxing world champion whose name will be remembered for his achievements, will not be remembered for beating his wife.  Tyson, a professional heavyweight boxer with a reach of over 71 inches, has openly admitted to “socking” his 5’5”, 117-pound wife, Robin Givens.  Givens endured the fists that have knocked out 44 professional boxers in his career.  The only repercussion Tyson received was a divorce from the wife he abused.  His story doesn’t end there.  In 1992, Tyson was convicted of raping Desiree Washington, 18-year-old Miss Black Rhode Island, and only served three years of his six-year sentence.  It isn’t widely known that Mike Tyson is a Tier II registered sex offender.  Instead, he will be remembered forever in the International Boxing Hall of Fame.

It’s not just trained fighters who are guilty of criminal violence; Oscar Pistorius was a South African paralympic sprinter, winning gold medals for his country and receiving international honors for his “outstanding achievement in the face of adversity” when he shot four bullets into the face of his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp on Valentines’ Day 2013.  He served one year in prison before he was released for good behavior.  Fortunately, after a series of further trials sparked by controversy over his absurdly short sentence, the South African court system brought him to justice and extended his sentence to 15 years.

Those athletes that hang on posters in your room, they aren’t gods.  If Tony Hawk, LeBron James or Michael Phelps hit an innocent man, shot their significant other or raped a girl in a dark alleyway, would they still be worshipped?  Would they be remembered for their records and Olympic gold medals or for the crimes they committed?  Would they even be punished?