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Athletes’ ability to atone for past acts astonishing

By Jake Mulick
Staff Writer

How good of an athlete does a person have to be so that the general public ignores just how terrible of a human being they are? In case nobody really notices, a fair amount of athletes have massively deplorable characteristics. From infidelity to drug abuse to a general disregard for the law, athletes all over the world have developed a cavalcade of negative qualities, but for whatever reason, the general public is able to selectively overlook certain athletes’ condemnable actions.

Kobe Bryant appears in a courtroom during his sexual assault trial on Oct. 9, 2003. (AP Photo)
Kobe Bryant appears in a courtroom during his sexual assault trial on Oct. 9, 2003. (AP Photo)

I suppose the archetype of a deplorable athlete would be Los Angeles Lakers basketball player Kobe Bryant. In 2003, Bryant was charged with sexually assaulting a 19-year-old girl in a hotel in Colorado. Bryant was charged with criminal and civil suits, which destroyed his public image at the time. While the criminal counts were dropped, Bryant did agree to an out-of-court settlement due to the civil case brought against him. Bryant also apologized for the incident, while claiming he didn’t realize the true nature of the sexual encounter between the two of them, according to MSNBC. 

Now here’s the thing I realized during Bryant’s farewell tour: Nobody cares about the case anymore. No headlines read, “Sexual assault offender and five-time NBA champion retires this season.” Regardless of the fact that this reads as a horrendous headline, it still illustrates my point that the public is able to forgive and forget the actions of well-known athletes. No major media outlet, in any way, made reference to the massive scandal Bryant was a part of during his seventh year in the NBA.

The article concerning the scandal is about equal in length to that of the article concerning the languages Bryant speaks. Why is that? Bryant’s accolades are almost too long to reference in one article alone. He is without a doubt a future hall of famer and one of the greatest guards to ever play basketball. But why does that make him exempt?

Former President Bill Clinton, for example, partook in a sexual encounter that garnered massive media attention, while also leading a country through a time of wonderful prosperity. While his accomplishments are, in a lot of ways, much more impressive than Bryant’s, his affair is brought up often, tainting his legacy as president. Bryant faces very little perceptual ramifications for his sexual misconduct and most people even go so far as forgetting that he was cheating on his wife while in the middle of it all.

I say this in light of the most recent scandal involving basketball player D’Angelo Russell. Russell recorded a private conversation between himself and Lakers’s teammate Nick Young.

During the conversation, Young discussed that he had interest in other women. The problem? Young is engaged to be married to rapper Iggy Azalea. Russell came under massive fire for this video when it surfaced and, in turn, he became villainized by the entire sporting community for releasing it.

My only question is: What will he have to do for everybody to forget and forgive him for this? Win five titles? Score over 30,000 points? Win two Olympic gold medals? While these feats are not out of the realm for an up-and-coming talent such as Russell, they are incredibly unlikely. What he will have to do in order to restore his public image is unbeknownst to me, but perhaps his current teammate, Bryant, will be able to help him as a gift as he departs from his illustrious basketball career.


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