The sports world is heating up. The NBA and NHL playoffs are both in full swing. The MLB has come out of the gate strong. NFL fans just enjoyed their annual draft less than a week ago. These sports, even with all of their differences, have one major thing in common: Suspensions. When players misbehave, break the rules, or take banned substances, their respective league is expected to take action. In the past few months, the NBA, NHL, MLB, and even the NFL have suspended players they found were in violation of conduct. The amount of games suspended has ranged from one to fifty, and some believe that certain suspensions may be too harsh or too lenient. With the exception of policies on banned substances, there are no solid rules concerning the severity of suspensions in any of these leagues. The recent plethora of bans has raised the question: Should there be written rules for all suspensions in sports?
The answer is yes. To fully understand why, one must look at some of the more recent suspensions around the leagues. Most recently in the NBA, Rajon Rondo had to sit out the second game of his playoff series for making contact with a referee. Metta World Peace had to sit out seven games for viciously elbowing Oklahoma City’s James Harden in the head. In the MLB, Delmon Young was suspended seven games after being incarcerated on aggravated harassment charges, in which he shouted anti-Semitic slurs at a man before tackling him to the ground. It does not take a genius to see that these players’ actions are becoming more violent. Yet no player got suspended for more than 15% of their season. We look to professional athletes to be a role model for kids learning how to play the game. And how do they respond? Violence. In order to put this in perspective, if Young was to play in the seven games he missed, he would have made about $260K. In other words, Young is forced to forfeit a pittance of his salary, and all of a sudden, he is scot-free. He’ll be back to playing outfield by early next week. In summation, the NBA and MLB have been too lenient when it has come to suspensions dealing with violence.
The other side of the argument is represented by the NFL. After finding that New Orleans Saints players were being paid to injure players on the opposing team, Roger Goodell, the commissioner of the NFL, suspended linebacker Jonathan Vilma and head coach Sean Payton for the season. Now Rams coach Gregg Williams is possibly facing a ban for life for his role in the bounty scandal. While some may say that the suspensions were based on the fact that the Saints lied multiple times to the NFL, it cannot be denied that the issue involves the violence within the sport. Once again, this occurred in the sport of football. This sport condones hard hits. The play isn’t over until the ball, or more importantly, the player carrying it hits the ground. How can you determine when paying players to hit others is crossing the line? Isn’t that what most defensive players make a living off of? In comparison, if Jonathan Vilma took performance-enhancing drugs instead of participating in a bounty program, he would be suspended for ¼ of the games he is currently set to miss in the 2012 season. Is this fair? The penalties for violence in the NFL need to be reduced. How many players can you ban for the season before the average fan decides to change the channel?
Other cases of possible suspension imbalances are present even outside the realm of violence. Miami Marlins pitcher Juan Carlos Oviedo (formally known as Leo Nunez) is suspended for 8 weeks as soon as he returns to America from the Dominican Republic. Oviedo lied about his name and age in order to create an easier path to the big leagues. Major League Baseball feels as if this is a violation of the rules. Is it right for the commissioner to punish a man who can’t even straighten out his VISA problems? Ryan Braun is currently enjoying a suspension-free season after appealing a 50 game ban by the MLB. After unnaturally high levels of testosterone were found in his system, Braun escaped the punishment through exploiting a technicality. Did these players deserve what they got? Should leagues cut down on the suspensions, as players like Manny Ramirez and Ron Artest seem to never learn? Or should they make them longer in a quest to make an example of the player? If so, the league must remember that professional sports is a multi-billion dollar business. Fans come to watch the players on the court and on the field, not on the sidelines.