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Should Players With Felonies Be Allowed to Play in the NFL?

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This week’s opinion is a controversial subject and one that is sure to elicit negative reaction by some. Should NFL players with felonies be allowed to play in the NFL?

My opinion is that any player who has been found guilty of a felony, in which a violent act or acts took place, should be banned from the NFL for life. My opinion isn’t based on any legal issues. It’s an opinion from a fan.

Would that mean that Michael Vick, an ex-con convicted for his part in a dog fighting ring, would be banned from the NFL? Yes. Does that mean Minnesota Vikings player Chris Cook should be banned from the NFL for an incident in which it was alleged that he beat up his girlfriend. Chris Cook has been charged with domestic battery. Yes, he should be banned for life if convicted.

While I’m sure there is some legal argument that a team or the NFL can’t publicly ban a player who has a felony, the game may be taken more seriously by its fans if the NFL took that approach. Some American corporations won’t hire an ex-felon, so why can’t the NFL have that same approach?

My reasoning for banning someone with a felony has less to do with moral reasons and more to do with eliminating a violent person from a physically violent sport.

With the recent findings by the NFL that the New Orleans Saints had a bounty program that rewarded its players for injuring their opponents and knocking them out of the game, would convicted felons be more prone to taking part in that program? While I don’t have any stats if felons were involved, I do believe the risk increases. I think it makes an inherently violent athlete, who has been found guilty of a violent crime, more prone to taking part in these activities.

I also believe that someone with a felony who has already disregarded the law and didn’t have respect for his fellow human beings is more prone to showing disrespect for their opponents.

Sure, someone can be rehabilitated, but should the NFL be that second chance? No. The NFL has taken player injuries, especially concussions, seriously under Roger Goodell’s leadership. I think having players who’ve been shown to disrespect opponents or civilians should have no place in the game.

The other reason that I feel this way has to do with money. The NFL is being sued left, right, and center these days by ex-players due to injuries they sustained during their playing days. If a felon were to seriously injure an opponent, could the NFL be sued by that player?

I’m guessing it will open the NFL up to future lawsuits. An injured player could claim that the NFL knew of the player’s violent past but disregarded that information and put NFL player at risk.

I think that there’s too much at stake in the current NFL for the league to allow individuals with violent criminal pasts to be allowed to play at this level. I know that’s probably not a popular opinion, but that’s how I feel.

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  • If a convicted felon has paid his debt to society then there’s no reason whatsoever why he shouldn’t be allowed to play in the NFL.

    We’re not talking about giving a convicted bank robber a job as an armored car driver here. The argument about eliminating the potential for violent conduct doesn’t hold water. There are dirty players in any sport, and you can bet your bottom dollar that the vast majority of them are completely law-abiding in their lives off the field.

    If you’re going to ban people, ban them for persistent disregard of the rules of the game, not for an old crime they’ve served their time for.

  • Isn’t it true that most job applications ask if you’ve been convicted of a crime? If you answer yes, even if it isn’t a felony, your chances for being hired are slim. Now add to the fact that the NFL would be hiring a person convicted of a violent crime, the same rules must follow. It’s a violent sport to begin with. Adding a person who had a disregard for another person is adding fuel to the fire.

    I have no problem with the felon being hired in for another job just not one that will fuel his violent tendencies.

  • zingzing

    if you banned every football player that has shown violent tendencies, it would just be a bunch of kickers and place holders running around doing kicky things out there.

    this is why the world has soccer. (i could not let that opportunity pass, that’s all.)

    violence is at the center of the game. aggression is as well. just because someone got caught does not mean the guy beside him without a rap sheet is any different, nor is he worse or better. prosecution and conviction is a rather random criteria for deciding such a thing, when we’d all be convicted of all sorts of crimes if our crimes were only known. at least i would. i do all sorts of illegal shit.

    and go vikings! chris cook is innocent! (i kinda doubt that last sentence.)

  • zingzing

    “Isn’t it true that most job applications ask if you’ve been convicted of a crime? If you answer yes, even if it isn’t a felony, your chances for being hired are slim.”

    and that’s a shame, because it just leads to a cycle of criminal behavior, prison, criminal behavior, prison, etc, ad nauseum.

  • I agree that some job apps shouldn’t ask the question but some should. If you’re applying for a job as an accountant and you’ve been convicted of stealing, the job might not be for you.

    I’m using the same criteria for applying for this violent job.

    BTW, If Chris Cook is innocent, the Mayans must be right. LOL

  • Zingzing

    Well, that works in childcare. But not in a job where you hit people for a living. In jobs where physical violence is completely unacceptable, a person with a violent past should be barred. But the NFL isn’t that job. And it’s not like felony convictions aren’t going to fuck up your career. Even if cook isn’t convicted, minnesota’s going to look at him as a potential liability. If he is, minnesota’s not going to welcome back a starting corner who only was able to start 5 or 6 games because he decided to beat his girlfriend. He may get another contract somewhere, but it won’t be anything like he would have gotten. If he did beat her, he better have really enjoyed it, because he was paying hundreds of thousands for every minute of it.

  • “I do all sorts of illegal shit.” Zinzing, it’s not my business what you do but my article was referring to violent felons. I’m not talking misdemeanors or even non-violent felonies.

  • Chris Cook, according to Wikipedia, stands 6′ 2″ and weighs 212 pounds. I doubt his girlfriend does.

    That (if he is indeed guilty) makes him a coward, which is probably a bigger disqualifier in the NFL than being violent.

  • Elsie

    People seem to make this about aggression and violence. Although football is a sport that is aggressive (and at times violent) that does not make it ok for people without morality to play. Vick is a convicted criminal who kids look up to, because he makes a lot of money- thanks to the NFL. Criminals should not be held in high esteem, that is why our society continues to crumble. Where is the punishment in it? Many movie stars and TV actors are required to sign “morality causes” and yet we allow football players to kill dogs, beat women, rape women, and we allow them to go on making money. There is something VERY wrong with this.

  • Vick is a convicted criminal who kids look up to, because he makes a lot of money

    Elsie, kids look up to Vick because he’s a star football player, not because he fights/fought dogs or makes a lot of money.

    Criminals should not be held in high esteem, that is why our society continues to crumble. Where is the punishment in it?

    The punishment for committing a violent crime is what it’s always been. Vick went to prison. So, if he’s found guilty, will Cook. Isn’t that punishment enough? Why submit them to double jeopardy?

    There is something VERY wrong with this.

    There’s something even wronger with a society that doesn’t allow for the possibility of redemption.

  • Suzanne

    I am so, so, so tired of hearing people say the Vick “paid his debt”. Anyone who can honestly think that needs their head examined. Those convicted of felonious crimes should NOT be allowed to make a living playing Football. I like Zingzing’s comment about we would only have place kickers and place holders…LOL. So funny, and unfortunately true.
    What we are telling these lifetime criminals is that it’s okay…give them a slap on the wrist and give ’em a paycheck.

  • Suzanne, unless you know the intimate details of Vick’s sojourn in prison, I don’t think you’re in a position to say that all he got was “a slap on the wrist”.

    If all they’d done was fine him and give him a couple of weeks of community service, then maybe.

  • Well lets put it this way: The dogs Vick tortured and killed got it far worse than Vick.

  • That’s the way the law is, Sport. Killing members of some species gets you a life sentence; killing members of others doesn’t.

    You want to change that, talk to your Congressman, not the NFL Commissioner.

  • Dread, since the NFL commissioner has a personal conduct policy, I as a fan have every right to have an opinion that his personal conduct policy include verbiage that bans a violent felon form playing in his league.

    That policy might be the most effective policy in punishing butchers who hurt people and animals!

  • Just as I have a right to disagree with you. But I thought the discussion had shifted to the question of whether the legal punishment was sufficient and/or appropriate. Even though Vick has served and completed his legally sanctioned sentence, you seem to want the NFL (which, last time I checked, is not an arm of the criminal justice system) to punish him again, which is a form of vigilantism.

  • Dread, of course you have an opinion and I do love lively debates, which is the reason why I write opinions like this one. BTW, the NFL often suspends a player after they’ve served their jail sentence. In the case of Vic, he was initially suspended indefinitely by the comish. That sentence was later reduced to having him sit out the first 5 games (pre-season games) of the Philadelphia Eagles season. So it seems as if the Comish does have the ability to suspending or banning a player who is convicted of a violent crime.

  • Rancho Ranger

    what a silly idea. football is a violent sport, so being prone to violence is a benefit to the job. just because you have an opinion doesn’t mean it’s worth anything. are you going to protest and not watch the games? if not, then why should anyone care. looking forward to your next column, should drivers with speeding tickets being allowed to race cars?

  • Rancho, while you have your opinion they seem to be baseless. Why should I continue writing here? Because I want to. It seems as if the other people who disagree with my opinion, still comment and appreciate that we all have opinions. Some of those other critics have read past opinions and commented on them and still read this one.

    My point about the violence isn’t that the NFL is a physical sport but that I don’t believe that certain felons (Violent ones) would appreciate the Comish’s tough policy agaisnt certain violent hits and wouldn’t follow them.

    The game needs players who are physical but follow the rules of the league and try and prevent serious injuries as much as possible.

    Your way of thinking would be to accept a defensive player grabbing an NFL QB by the head, ramming it into the ground and stomping on it, just because the game is violent!

  • Rancho Ranger

    Who said anything about you not writing here? If the site wants to publish poorly reasoned opinions, that’s on them. Someone is a tad oversensitive, which suggests football isn’t for you. Trying watching non-contact sports like bowling. Speaking of baseless, what do you base your belief about felons and league policy? It noticeably fails to take into account a person can change their ways and that some innocent folks get wrongly charged with crimes. You’ve not established that once a person has broken a law they won’t follow any other rules. Your last sentence is so ridiculous and patently false it’s not worth responding to and shows how weak your position is.

  • I like an honest debate and I don’t care if someone disagrees with me. You’re not the only one who disagrees with me but you’re not debating, you’re attacking. You might think you have all the answers and are smart but I think you’re full of it. I’m really so sensitive that I can’t take on a egomaniac, like yourself. I don’t think so. You’re easy to defend against. At least the others have made coherent arguments.

  • Zingzing

    Cook has been acquitted… Minnesota says he will have his chance, NFL says they will not punish him.

  • He was found not guilty and his ex-girlfriend had recanted her story. That’s why the NFL isn’t suspending him. My article clearly states a convicted felon convicted of a violent crime should be banned. Cook wasn’t convicted.

  • zingzing

    i was just saying, that’s all… you mentioned him the article. somehow i don’t think he’s actually innocent even if he was acquitted. but even if he had been convicted, that wouldn’t mean he was guilty. he would have just been found so by the court. the innocent are imprisoned sometimes, and the guilty get off sometimes. so it’s not a foolproof measure of a person.

    punishment is one thing, even if you have already been punished. outright banishment is a little draconian. everyone deserves a second chance. a third is pushing it though…

  • Not here to Debate

    lets talk about all the crap yall do with your life. what are you hiding behind the closest that no one has seen yet? Nobody is perfect! im not saying that raping women and killing dogs is ok, but banned? lets be foreal here.

  • B

    Its because of ignorant, wreckless, and loud mouth people such as yourself that people who may have made a mistake in life are doomed to repeat it constantly. Playing any sport professionally should be based on ability and dedication not on your criminal history. The nfl is the most widely recognized sports organization on the planet, what isn’t being taken seriously? I live in kc and nothing is taken more seriously than the start of football every year. I see you writing your little opinion on a screen but challenge you to go tell Vick or Cook that they shouldnt play ball and see how “violent” they get. Here’s a better idea, keep your opinions to yourself.

  • Football is a violent sport. People with felonies could pose an issue to the safety of other players. That safety comes first. Some felons, violent ones are prone to repeating that crime. It’s like saying a convicted pedophile should be allowed to teach our children. That’s complete and utter nonsense!

    • Joseph Morton

      i think that it should depend on the felon they commit if there murders or rapist then no they shouldnt be aloud to play but others should be given a chance

  • Unreal

    Violence is at the center of the game? Are you kidding me? NO VIOLENCE IS NOT AT THE CENTER OF THE GAME!!!! and the reason anyone thinks thats the way it is, is all because not a single defensive player in the NFL knows how to tackle anymore…its all about “big hits”….Football is a game of tackling…WRAP TACKLING…thats how you’re supposed to bring players down…i haven’t seen a wrap tackle since …god i can’t even tell you the last time i saw a wrap tackle…the game has evolved into run as fast as you can into the player with the ball and see what happens…yeah, because i really wanna watch that…the NFL is a joke and will never return to the way its supposed to be….bash me all you want, but you know i’m right

  • Unreal

    Oh and as far as felons being able to be allowed to play in the NFL…seriously?…if i was a convicted felon do you think i’d have a remote chance of getting a job?….

    all the drug, dui, battery, and domestic violence charges happening and these guys make millions upon millions of dollars…am i the only person that sees anything wrong with this picture?…don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of players among the NFL who are good people…but good god what a joke…basketball, baseball, and football are a laughing stock anymore…

  • D

    Some of us have them and don’t plan on hurting anyone