In today’s society in professional sports, football is arguably the best sport in the nation, given its millions of viewers and the amount of money it makes every year, especially for the ads and commercials. Football fans are always eager for the start of a new season, from the first week of the regular season to the Super Bowl, hoping their team can make the playoffs and win it all in the end. Afterwards, they dread the gap between the conclusion of the NFL season to the next one, waiting for their favorite sport to return. It’s obvious that NFL players feel the same way, only they’re actually playing the game for two reasons—they love the game and they get paid. However, it’s unfortunate that some players complain about certain aspects to their coaches, whether it’s money or anything else personal. Depending on what they complain about, their complaints could be bad enough to suffer consequences, like getting released from their respective teams. The same outcome could also occur if they don’t keep their social media clean. They should also watch what they do and avoid getting in trouble. Playing football is a privilege, not a right.
Unfortunately, some NFL players take and have taken it too far when it comes to complaining to their bosses. Every player has their right to freedom of speech, but what they say can potentially get them in serious trouble. Sometimes their complaints can lead to threats. For example, former Chicago Bears nose tackle Jeremiah Ratliff had a heated exchange with general manager Ryan Pace and other team officials in October 2015. Apparently, his exchange with him involved threatening his family, thus leading Ratliff to his release from the Bears. According to a police report, he said he “felt like killing everybody in the building.” He may have also said, “I am the devil” and “wished staff members’ children would die.” Ratliff’s complaining led from a heated exchange to threats against others, which is considered worse than being a team cancer on his part.
Evidently, NFL players like most normal people love using social media to communicate and have fun, but what they post can sometimes cause concern and controversy within their team environments. Take former Chicago Bears tight end Martellus Bennett (He was recently traded to the New England Patriots), for instance. When he was with the Dallas Cowboys, he made himself known by making controversial videos, like his “Black Olympics” film on YouTube, and making controversial quotes during radio interviews. Sometimes he’d bash opposing players, particularly at the tight end position. In a 2015 interview, he said that “Jimmy Graham can’t block worth (expletive)” and said similar things about Antonio Gates and Julius Thomas regarding their inability to block (according to Bennett). It’s no secret that Bennett loves to speak his mind, but sometimes what he says can put his character into question.
Sometimes, there are players who continually make the same mistake of not watching what they say whether it’s verbally in person, or on social media. Ex-Cleveland Browns quarterback Johnny Manziel had that problem since his college days at Texas A&M University. After winning the Heisman as a redshirt freshman, he drew attention to himself during the off-season. Red flags have caught up to him since his June 2012 arrest due to a fight in College Station, TX, but his character was put more into question when he tweeted that he “can’t wait to leave College Station” after getting a parking ticket. His tweet about it included an expletive too. More and more speculation came out about him after he was suspected of signing autographs in 2013 for money, which led to a suspension for half of the first game against Rice. When he declared for the draft and landed with the Cleveland Browns, many expected him to continually damage his reputation, and they were right. In a 2014 preseason game against the Washington Redskins, he flipped the bird at Washington’s benched and got fined $12,000 for his gesture. He was expected to change his attitude after completing rehab for alcoholic addiction, but blunder after blunder kept coming his way. After attempting to hit a fan with a water bottle and enduring an alleged domestic violence incident with his ex-girlfriend before and during the 2015 season, the Browns released him. Manziel was given multiple chances to get his act together, yet he blew it. It wouldn’t be a surprise if he made the same mistakes if another NFL team signs him.
Additionally, Jacksonville Jaguars wide receiver Justin Blackmon is also a repeat offender. Before his 2012 rookie season, he was arrested for DUI and that was only the start of his problems. In the 2013 off-season, he violated the NFL’s Substance Abuse Policy and served a four-game suspension (the usual punishment for that kind of violation) at the beginning of the upcoming season. However, he made the same mistake in the middle of the 2013 season and was suspended the rest of the year. He couldn’t even play in 2014 and troubles still got to him. Not even checking into rehab after an arrest for possession of marijuana could completely help him. After his application for reinstatement was denied before the 2015 season, he had another DUI arrest this past December. He’s still with the Jaguars, but it’s doubtful that he’s going to be with them much longer. The same thing could be said for Cleveland Browns wide receiver Josh Gordon, since he repeatedly violated the league’s substance abuse policy. After having a prolific 2013 season, he was handed a year-long suspension for the 2014 season, but it was eventually reduced to ten games. However, he tested positive for alcohol and missed the 2015 season. He’s still in Cleveland, but has yet to know whether or not he’ll be reinstated for the 2016 season.
All in all, football players should be glad they have the ability to play the sport to escape the everyday pressures of life, from high school, to full scholarships in college, and making millions professionally. However, they should remind themselves that it’s a privilege to play football and that what they say and do can either benefit or harm their reputation and credibility. For players, it’s not about their careers, it’s what they do with them.