A Better Ethic: On the NFL Scandals

This is a current issues post that is not characteristic of this blog. Some of you might disagree with me on this one. That’s okay. I welcome any discussion you wish to contribute.


The private indiscretions happening with several NFL players have overshadowed the season’s long-awaited start. It’s really sad to see our major leagues embroiled in scandal for any reason, from violence to doping.

But whereas less of it is engendered by sport itself (meaning that if people weren’t part of the game, opportunism and scandals, like doping, probably wouldn’t exist), most of it concerns social issues appearing across all spectrums of society.

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For the most part (qualified), I feel that the swift action and stern judgments handed down so far are fair and necessary. There should be serious consequences at this level. Moreover, I always take particular interest in the way society reacts. It’s usually vociferous and intolerable—and rightly so with most of these matters.

Lance Armstrong Ken Conley, NC

Lance Armstrong
Ken Conley, NC

How did you react to Mike Vick’s heinous involvements? I’ll bet you’re still appalled by Aaron Hernandez’s crimes. And you certainly weren’t amused when you saw the Ray Rice video.

So an unequivocal ‘NO’ to this type of behavior, in the league and the larger society, is very appropriate and easily understood.

But then the ball gets rolling and social commentary festers and people go off the deep end. I always start hearing David’s words: “I’d rather be punished by God, whose mercy is great, than fall into human hands”!

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We say we’re Christians and observe life through a Christian lens, or with “God’s eyes.” So let’s talk about that.

There are people who’ve paid their debt to society and others who fight tooth-and-nail to make sure they remain incarcerated since it just can’t be true that those persons are any different now than when they committed their crimes nor will they ever be.

Michael Vick will always be a cruel person and animal abuser in some folk’s minds. Lance Armstrong will never cease to be a lying cheat. And Tiger Woods…oh heavens!

My question is, Is there a way to redeem a person? Is there a way to support a person emotionally, to say “I love you and stand by you, but I don’t/I won’t accept _______”? And if you say ‘No’, then how do you propose that a person will ever change, if he’s not offered encouragement and help to become an admirable individual.

Hopefully, these athletes have such genuine (and godly) presences in their lives.

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Ray Rice (Domain)

Ray Rice

The Christian’s reaction doesn’t go to that Nth degree to scold, like the world, but tangentially to heal and redeem. That doesn’t mean we don’t hate sin and criminality and injustice. (I said tangentially.) Yet we can’t glamorize Jesus doing for us what we only overlook doing for our neighbor.

Sometimes we can become too bent on retribution and making examples out of people—there’s place for the latter; so caught up in judging that we forsake grace. But only grace restores.

Do I believe in judicial punishment? I do. But—hear me—if we don’t reaffirm people, we will only help recriminate them; and much is to be said about this issue in our justice system today.

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I don’t know if we really see how the principles Jesus taught are so culturally revolutionary. They’re cataclysmic. In fact, Ephesians suggests the grand possibility of converting society’s institutions with a socially transforming gospel that is fully modeled and operative in the Church.

Where Christians will best prove their ability to restore is in their homes and in church polity and discipline.

I recall reading about a pastor that had fallen to some indiscretion. By the world’s thinking (and some Christian’s) that man probably should be axed. But how ought we deal with such people? We certainly wouldn’t want to make him or his family haters of God and the church for the way they are treated.

Tiger Woods The Lakelander, CC

Tiger Woods
The Lakelander, CC

It was mentioned that this minister was willing to work through his ordeal in a 1-2-year restoration process that included counseling and trust-building among the people he had served. Interestingly, the decision was also made to keep him on the payroll because, although he had made a grave mistake, his family and others relying on his paycheck were not to be punished for his imprudence.

He needed restoration; his family didn’t need to suffer for it all again.

I found that really thoughtful and gracious. This is the spirit of what I’m getting at. Giving in to censure and retaliation can have unexpected consequences and make people worse than if we simply demonstrate a little care and consideration. There must be a way to redeem.

WHAT DO YOU THINK?

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14 thoughts on “A Better Ethic: On the NFL Scandals

    • Thanks, Mark. I agree: those decisions cannot be easy, although necessary. Glad you raised the point, too. I had a friend express his opinion that such responsibility belongs to the legal system alone, not the NFL or a person’s job. I can’t agree with that, but it becomes hard to explain why sometimes. That’s certainly not the case with some jobs.

      • I disagree with your friend. If I, as an employee, step out of line with the law, my employer has every right to discipline, censure, or fire me. That is employment at will and if I embarrass them, I will be gone. Being much more high profile and detrimental to the image of the organization, the athletes are at a whole different level of accountability. Tell me Adrian Peterson’s issue isn’t costing the Vikings millions.

  1. Good Saturday, Michael! I feel exactly as you do. I think this is the only scriptural method. If the perpetrator is willing then the restoration process should be the first choice. Good one man. Have a great day!!!

  2. If you’ve not read “Culture of Honor” by Danny Silk, I highly recommend it. It will turn your thinking upside down and spin it around a couple of times.

      • The book has a very fresh perspective about dealing with the failures and shortcomings of others in a way that reconnects them to their calling in life. It has the goal of maintaining relational connection in a way that disempowers failure to disqualify us from our destiny. Check it out on Amazon, as well as his book “Keep Your Love On”. KYLO was written for interpersonal relationships; CoH was written more for the Church.

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