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Media needs to point finger in right direction

Posted: July 12, 2014 - 11:08pm  |  Updated: July 12, 2014 - 11:50pm

When Columbia County arrests from the week of and through the long July Fourth holiday were made public, 18 of the 78 arrests (23 percent) were for driving under the influence of alcohol/drugs, including two while piloting a watercraft.

Actions have consequences. Like most other things in “real life,” no hue and cry will go up for those men and women who are not in the public eye. Some around them will suggest they get help, treatment may become court-mandated and their employers may or may not kick them to the curb. Ultimately, they will be the ones taking responsibility for their own poor decisions.

In the athletic world, many times we look to insulate our heroes. When Cleveland Browns’ wide receiver Josh Gordon was arrested July 5 for driving while intoxicated, the finger pointing in the media began almost immediately. Who was responsible for Gordon’s plight?

Gordon has been fighting demons for a while. He was already facing a year-long suspension this coming season for violating the NFL’s drug policy (marijuana) and served a two-game suspension last season for a violation of the NFL’s substance-abuse policy.

There are some who say the Browns are to blame, that signs were there when he came out in 2012 from Baylor University. Instability in the organization led to him slipping through the cracks. That sounds much like the talk when New England Patriots’ tight end Aaron Hernandez was in the process of being indicted for murder last summer.

In a story posted on profootballtalk.nbcsports.com on June 20, two weeks before Gordon’s arrest, Michael David Smith profiled former Cleveland Browns’ receiver Donte Stallworth who was preparing to talk to rookies at the NFL’s rookie symposium.

In March of 2009, Stallworth was driving drunk and killed Mario Reyes who was attempting to cross the street. He paid a confidential settlement to the victim’s family, spent 30 days in jail, was given 1,000 hours of community service and his driver’s licence was revoked for life. It doesn’t sound like much to me, but at least he continues to show remorse and took responsibility for the incident from the outset.

“It is something I will live with for the rest of my life,” he said. “It is something when I eventually have children one day that I will have to explain to them why their father made this decision and what they can learn from my mistake and my decision. I want it to resonate with these young guys. DUIs are totally preventable.”

In the past few years, without rehashing all of it, there have been instances of our high school athletes caught drinking underage on school trips. They were held accountable and punishment came swiftly. They were not coddled or given a free pass for being athletes – as it should be – nor were they unfairly singled out for being athletes. Hopefully the message sank in.

So back to the question: Who is responsible for Gordon’s plight? There may be outside forces influencing him, but in the end, the man in Gordon’s mirror is the one who should answer that.

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