No matter who you are, you must watch what you say. Although NFL players are truly evaluated by their performance on the football field, fans and front offices care about player behavior off the field. Maturity is defined not only by a player developing leadership skills and talent, but also by how an athlete conducts himself or herself outside the game.
New England Patriots linebacker Brandon Spikes royally screwed up. On Wednesday, he tweeted “I’m homophobic just like I’m arachnophobic. I have nothing against homosexuals or spiders, but I’d still scream if I found one in my bathtub!” What is wrong with him? How can anyone be such a bigot and say something so inappropriate. It really does not matter if you were joking or not, it’s flat out immature. If a player can have the self-discipline to not lead with his helmet on a tackle, there should be nothing stopping him from acting intelligently off the field. Some players say some stupid things and subsequently get fined from the league. If Roger Goodell does not take action with Spikes (and even if he does), the Patriots front office should certainly punish him. After all, this is not the first offensive thing that Spikes has done, having recently called the replacement referees Foot Locker employees. This kind of behavior should not be tolerated, especially in light of Orlando Cruz recently coming out as the first openly gay man in boxing.
Cruz’s announcement had been a monumental step in professional sports, especially in a so-called “manly” sport such as boxing. It defies the barriers placed against openness in sports, where being gay is unfortunately not acceptable. Although you see many athletes advocate LGBT rights in commercials and advertisements, we rarely see a player come out as gay or lesbian. Cruz has sent a message to the sports world that athletes should embrace both their personal and professional identity, as they are one and the same. As much as fans support a player’s triumphs, they should also cheer for their character and integrity. Nothing has changed for Cruz, who defends his title on October 19th against Jorge Pazos, except that he can be who he is.
The world of professional sports has taken great strides toward acceptance, but it is the stupidity of people like Spikes who hinder such progress.