Several months after he was charged with raping a South Carolina woman, former NFL running back David Meggett is in jail again, charged the other day with raping a 21-year-old woman in her North Charleston home. Meggett had been out on bond in connection with another sexual assault charge. Both South Carolina arrests occurred while Meggett was serving out two years probation for a 2006 sexual battery charge in North Carolina.

The running back played for the New York Giants, the New York Jets and New England during his 10-year NFL career. In 1990, while he was with the Giants, Meggett was found not guilty of soliciting sex from an undercover police officer in Baltimore. Eight years later, he was charged with assaulting a woman in a Toronto hotel room after she refused to continue having sex with him, but that charge was dropped. The Patriots released Meggett in 1998 after the Toronto charge

From David Meggett to Michael Vick, who ruined his career and lost a $130 million contract after pleading guilty to federal dog fighting conspiracy charges, to Plaxico Burress who accidentally shot himself in the leg while carrying an illegally concealed gun into a New York nightclub, to Adam “Pacman” Jones who has been arrested 10 times since his 2005 draft day and was recently “released” by the Dallas Cowboys, crimes committed by athletes appear to be on the rise. Sports apologists claim that it only "seems" like athletes commit more crimes because they are widely publicized due to the athlete's fame.

So how prevalent is the incidence of crimes among athletes?

According to published reports, a new incident of athlete crime emerges once every two days. Domestic violence surpasses all other athlete crimes in a number of reports. The Benedict-Crosset Study of sexual assaults at thirty major Division I universities reported that athletes commit one in three college sexual assaults. The three-year study concluded that while male student-athletes comprise 3.3% of the college population, they represent 19% of sexual assault perpetrators and 35% of domestic violence perpetrators.

A Georgetown study found that although varsity student-athletes made up just over 11 percent of Georgetown's undergraduate population, they were arrested and charged with violent assaults by D.C. prosecutors at a rate more than double that of the general student body. But even when these athletes were charged with crimes, court records revealed that the charges were dismissed every time. National statistics reflect a similar trend. When athletes are charged with crimes, their conviction rate is only 38% compared to 80% of the general population.

Some experts suggest that athletes commit a higher number of crimes because they are taught aggression at an early age, along with the need to win. With expensive scholarships and huge salaries, many athletes see themselves as “special” and expect to get their way. Athletes often believe they are immune to the rules and laws the rest of us live by.

I participated in team sports from the time I was a child until I graduated from college. I remember repeatedly hearing that sports build character. In hindsight, perhaps it isn’t the sports themselves that build character, but the adults who coach the teams and mentor athletes. Young athletes often model the behavior and attitudes of their coaches and of the athletes they idolize. I watch few sports now in large part because I’ve grown tired of the showboating, the high-fives, the trash talking and the fights. A routine tackle today elicits a “celebration” that rivals the winning team’s Super Bowl celebration.

Whatever the cause in the increase of crimes perpetuated by athletes, one thing is certain. Athletes are not above the law. This is a message that should be taught and enforced at an early age. And it is incumbent upon coaches, mentors and our judicial system to ensure that student and professional athletes are treated no differently than anyone else.

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Comment by Christopher Valen on January 18, 2009 at 12:43am
I agree that sports doesn't have to economically benefit the city or state. The problem is that professional sports is sold to the public as an economic benefit, which is untrue, as the Indiana study and others have illustrated. The current owner of the Vikings is trying to sell his new stadium idea using the "economic" argument of creating jobs during the recession. He conveniently fails to mention how those jobs would quickly vanish after the stadium is constructed. As McFetridge points out, losing a team will not impact the economy of a large urban center. Those entertainment dollars will be spent on other venues. I don't "hate" professional sports. I'm more of a baseball fan, and the Twins tend to operate more cheaply and efficiently than other teams. Their players are generally a group of good guys who stay out of trouble, unlike our football team. However, taxpayers should never be expected to pay for billionaire owned stadiums. Particularly since baseball is the only major professional sport without a salary cap. The latest unbelievable salaries the New York Yankees paid out clearly illustrates why baseball needs to get a handle on salaries. Baseball owners could pay for their own stadiums if they paid their players less and players would still be paid more than their worth.
Comment by John McFetridge on January 17, 2009 at 12:36pm
The problem seems to be different rules for different people. It starts at an early age with "star" athletes not having the rules applied to them in the same way they are applied to everyone else (I suppose there are other exceptions, too).

And yes, I've read a couple of those studies about the economic benefits of pro sports teams, there was a very good book written on the subject by a couple of professors in Indiana which pretty much boiled down to any urban centre big enough to support a pro team was too big an economy to be affected by losing a team.
Comment by John Dishon on January 17, 2009 at 11:37am
Ah yes, the State of Hockey. I say let the Vikings go. More room for the Wild, who are a fun team to watch.

It doesn't necessarily have to economically benefit the city or the state. Sports are part of human culture; I doubt anything would make sports go away. If there are criminals, young or old, the criminals should shoulder the blame. It would be nothing more than scapegoating to blame crime on the influence of athletes. If someone copies an athlete's actions, it's that person's fault, not the athlete's. Personal responsibility needs to be emphasized more, I think.
Comment by Christopher Valen on January 17, 2009 at 11:02am
Hockey is big here in Minnesota as well. We've got a Hockey Hall of Fame in Eveleth, MN. Herb Brooks coached the Olympic team that defeated the Russians, the Minnesota Gopher hockey team and Minnesota Wild are nearly always sold out, no matter what the state of the economy. Carl Pohlad, the billionaire owner of the Minnesota Twins just died. His sons are running the ball club now. Pohlad basically blackmailed Minneapolis into bankrolling a new stadium, which will open in
2010 thanks to tax dollars. The Minnesota Vikings have been begging for a new stadium for years. Their lease is up in 2011, I believe, and, of course, there's great fear among the diehards that the Vikings will move if they don't get the state or a city to finance most of the stadium. I got off track a bit, but the point is, sports are vastly overvalued and overrated. Numerous studies have shown that the costs far outweigh any economic benefits to the state or cities. When you factor in the outrageous salaries, the increasing rates of crime, and the negative influence more athletes are having on the younger generation, I think it's time to rethink the whole notion of sports as "entertainment".
Comment by John McFetridge on January 17, 2009 at 9:08am
Oh yeah, Canada is incredibly insecure. Stuck in the middle, our British-French heritage has been replaced by American influence. I guess it's why we overvalue hockey so much. It's changing, but as always change happens slowly.
Comment by John Dishon on January 17, 2009 at 7:15am
Canada's obsession with hockey seems to me (as an outsider) to be like a crazy girlfriend you can't break up with out of fear. I get so sick of hearing people say "hockey is our sport" over and over again. I watched this 10 part documentary on the history of hockey in Canada, and it got really creepy toward the end with everyone, even Wayne Gretzky, saying how hockey was their sport and no one can take that away from them. Of course the rest of the world knows this and no one is even trying to take it away from them. Canada comes off to me as a very insecure country.

But back to the subject, yeah I think athletes are treated differently. I had a friend in high school who was a Rodes Scholar, a President's Scholar, got a 34 or 35 on the ACT (highest is 36), was accepted to Harvard....yet Duke University rejected her. My guess is because she didn't play sports, but of course I don't know that for sure. Sports gets precedence over everything.

At my university, Western Kentucky University, they recently bumped the football team up to 1A division, the big time, TV bowl game division, even though the university isn't quite big enough for that. They built a brand new stadium and now our team gets its ass handed to it by 1A teams instead of winning national championships as it used to as a 1AA team. But it means more money.
Comment by John McFetridge on January 17, 2009 at 6:56am
Athletes often believe they are immune to the rules the rest of us live by because most often they are. They "see themselves" as special because they're treated as special. Athletes are a great example of punishment as discouraging repeat behaviour - because so often they avoid punishment for bad behaviour.

In Canada we have a system of junior hockey that takes 16-17 year old boys away from their families and treats them as very special. Every once in a while there's a newspaper article (or more rarely a book) that exposes a dark side of this system but hockey is so much a part of the culture here, we don't want to hear it.

This is a bigger issue than the media will ever admit.
Comment by Dana King on January 17, 2009 at 6:44am
I wish I had somehting to add, but you've nailed it. I'm only commenting to agree completely.

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