When Good Athletes Do Bad Things
On March 14, a Syracuse men's lacrosse freshman was arrested for physically attacking a man and woman on Marshall Street. According to syracuse.com, the player, Hayes McGinley, tried to get into the women’s car. When she would not let him in, he grew increasingly hostile. A man came out and attempted to restrain McGinley, which resulted in a punch to the face. The woman began arguing with McGinley, and was subsequently punched in the face as well. He was eventually apprehended and charged with two counts of second-degree harassment and violations. Damn.
The report has since been publicized through multiple news outlets and has lead to McGinley's immediate suspension. The situation has vague echoes of last semester’s case with Hannah Strong, the Syracuse women’s soccer player who was caught on video using racial slurs. Strong was removed from the team, and the school exploded in conversation about the issue of institutional racism.
Since then, head lacrosse coach John Desko has released a statement on the team’s website: "Our program and the athletic department have strict rules and expectations for the behavior of our student-athletes. He did not meet those expectations."
Sports players behaving badly is no anomaly. Schools around the country have been dealing with high-profile student athletes getting into various shenanigans for years. It's all too common common for students to make not-so-smart decisions, but things get complicated when the student is in the media spotlight, such as an athlete.
Why do these incidents get so much more attention than others? For starters, in many schools, athletes are considered royalty. They bring in money for the school and enhance school pride. Therefore, whether they like it or not, athletes are forced into acting as role models to the rest of the school, acting as the face of the university. When that face gets tarnished, it hurts the reputation of the school much more than if a regular student did something.
Furthermore, in many cases, the school pays for athletes to come to their schools to play. Therefore, athletes perhaps owe the school good behavior in addition to good performance. Overall, free or reduced tuition should not result in bad behavior and jail time.
When an athlete accepts a place on a team at any university, they are in essence signing an agreement to exhibit good behavior, knowing they are stepping into a spotlight. Though it is harder for athletes to behave like normal college students for fear of being reported, being a student athlete comes with its perks. Student athletes are exchanging some personal privacy for lowered tuition, notoriety, and potential careers. For many, that is enough.
Photo by Adham Elsharkawi