Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Accountability Isn't Determined By Media Narrative

A quick Google search shows more than 81 million results for Aaron Hernandez, the former New England Patriots tight end who is facing first degree murder charges.

Another Google search shows about 1.1 million results for Ausur Walcott, a linebacker who signed with the Cleveland Browns as an undrafted rookie, then was released after facing charges of attempted first degree murder.

So why is it that one player is under the microscope far more than the other?

Granted, charges of first degree murder carry a greater penalty if there is conviction, than there is for charges of attempted murder. But both are charges of a serious nature.

Yet then the factors come into play that lead to the mainstream media deciding what’s more important to focus on. Hernandez played for the Patriots, a team that is supposed to have a quality organization that looks for players of high character. The Patriots are a perennial playoff contender and Hernandez was part of a high-profile offense that got everybody think about having two tight ends in the offense. Hernandez even has a Super Bowl appearance.

Walcott, on the other hand, was a player who didn’t get drafted, then signed with the Browns, an organization that has been a mess for some time and seems to be rebuilding every single year.

Yet in the eyes of the judicial system, how prominent one player was when compared to the other will have no bearing in terms of whatever sentence is handed out, should there be a conviction. A judge isn’t going to care that one player was in the Super Bowl and the other player’s NFL career likely ended before it had a chance to start.

But this is not how the mainstream media portrays it. Hernandez will be, front and center, about how the NFL is going to check for character issues. And the NFL is now looking at a policy to check player tattoos to determine what gang affiliations they may have — even though none of Hernandez’s tattoos have such an affilation.

Oh yeah: The media narrative is that tattoos mean “gang affiliation.” That’s why the NFL wants to go that route.

Back to Hernandez: The charges he faces also have led to the Patriots being put under more scrutiny, such as wondering how the Patriots could not have seen this coming and whether or not they actually pay attention to character issues. This leads to Bill Polian proclaiming he would never have drafted Hernandez, even though he was working in the Carolina Panthers’ front office the year they drafted Rae Carruth.

But the truth is, it was the media who started the narrative about how the Patriots have this “model organization” that always finds the “right players.” Now that Hernandez is out there, the narrative suddenly does not fit.

The truth is, there is no NFL team out there who is going to get it right every single time. And no NFL team is going to find a foolproof way to ensure they draft players who aren’t going to have a “character issue” of some type, whether it’s something as serious as what happened to Hernandez or Walcott, or something not as serious, but still a concern, such as a player who smokes marijuana in violation of NFL rules or a player who gets picked up for driving under the influence of alcohol.

The fact is, NFL players are human beings — and human beings make mistakes. Some are more significant than others, meaning a higher degree of accountability must be held.

But the accountability does not differ based on how much one is a celebrity or what career one choose to pursue. Accountability is based on the nature of the mistake made. When the judicial system must be involved, accountability is based on the nature of the crime and the factors that come into play.

That is all one must remember when it comes to holding Hernandez and Walcott accountable for any charges they are convicted of. The media’s narrative is not the way to determine accountability.  

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