Athletes cautioned against abuse

Alex Burbidge, Reporter

In the world of sports, there is no darker topic than domestic and drug abuse. In high school and college, many athletes are finding themselves becoming involved, and it can have serious consequences for the athlete.

The National Football League has seen many cases of domestic abuse over the years, and it is taking steps to help make sure young athletes avoid these situations by holding conferences that teach coaches how to talk to their teams about domestic abuse.

The NCAA is notoriously silent on issues like domestic abuse. When Jameis Winston, then- Florida State quarterback, did an interview in 2013, he was flooded with questions about his alleged rape charges. An NCAA official rushed Winston away to avoid these questions.

On the other side, Tyreek Hill, Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver, was immediately dismissed from Oklahoma State University when news broke of his domestic abuse arrest. Hill was then accepted by the University of West Alabama, and allowed to play.

At the high school level, these issues are less prominent than at the college or professional level, but are still there. Matt Johnson, athletic director, said, “There needs to be a clear expectation communicated to young people that the consequences of their behaviors can and will negatively affect their ability to be on teams at the college level.” He added that since he has been athletic director, he isn’t aware of any local student athletes convicted of domestic abuse.

Many programs are dedicated to preventing teenagers from becoming addicted to drugs, and helping them get over their addictions. In many cases, however, the consequences of abuse can offer more help than these programs. “If the crime occurred at school, then along with the legal consequences, the school and district policies would apply as the student would no longer be in good standing and that would prevent the student from participating in any activities for an undetermined amount of time based on the severity of the crime,” Johnson said. The realization that these actions have consequences may often be enough to scare athletes into avoiding drugs and domestic abuse.

It has also been suggested that the violent nature of contact sports, such as football, could also have an effect on off-field behavior. Johnson does not believe this, saying that people who participate in domestic abuse are a product of many factors, and he has seen many more cases of football having a positive effect on student athletes’ lives.

Johnson strongly discourages students from becoming involved in drug and domestic abuse. “Being a teenager is hard,” he said.  “There are so many influences and situations where decision-making is hard.  Relationships become emotional with a lot of investment.  I would encourage every teen to identify one adult who they trust.  An older sibling, teacher, coach, counselor, pastor, or parent who they feel like they can tell them anything without judgment.  Having that outlet and that person to lean on in those tough situations can help guide a teen to better decision making.”