Here’s the Real Crime by Rick Reilly Related to Athletes in High School

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Updated: Aug 18, 2022
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Here’s the Real Crime by Rick Reilly Related to Athletes in High School essay

In the op-ed “Here’s the Real Crime,” by Rick Reilly, he suggests that athletes who break the law should be denied the ability to play their sport. He develops this argument by giving the example of Brandon Jackson from Lancaster High School, in which Jackson was allowed to play on his high school football team despite having been accused of “six counts of aggravated robbery with a deadly weapon” (Reilly par. 2). Reilly believes these accusations should be enough to “end his high school football career” (Reilly par. 3). Reilly explains that high school coaches do not want to remove student-athletes from the team due to their offenses, because playing sports provides opportunities for their future, like playing college football.

However, Reilly believes that not holding these students accountable for their actions lets them off too easy and ends up damaging them more, since they are not learning from their mistakes. Reilly shows this is not just a problem in high school, but in professional athletics, as well. He gives three examples of professional athletes who have continued to play in their sports team despite their aggression in their personal lives, such as “cheap-shot mugging” of other players and cameramen (Reilly par. 16). Reilly suggests that this problem, at the professional level, mirrors the problems at the high school level. He uses a sarcastic tone to impart to readers the absurdity of allowing criminals to play sports–whether they be professionals or high school students.

Reilly is correct in his claim that athletes who violate the law should be punished and denied the ability to play their sport not only because of the reasons Reilly asserted, but also because the athletes will only make their lives worse. They will damage themselves even more if they fail to learn from their mistakes and think that they can get away with anything. Along with this, the athlete may bring down the reputation of the team for something they didn’t do and harmfully affect others around them. Jackson was not the only one on his team who committed the crime, showing how he corrupted others around him and influenced them negatively. Leaving an athlete unpunished after doing a crime, like Jackson committed, is unjustified and allows the athlete to commit more crimes in the future.

First, criminals including athletes will end up hurting themselves if they are easily acquitted. If athletes are let off due to the sport they play, they will never be able to learn from their crimes. For example, instead of letting Jackson play football, “what’s best for the kid is making him pull weeds” so that he can reflect on the “boneheaded thing” he did (Reilly par. 14). Unless the athletes suffer from the consequences, they will genuinely never know what they did wrong. In result, they will continue to commit the same crime, or even worse, a more serious one such as murder. Additionally, with this mindset, the criminals will start to believe that they can do anything they want without paying for their crimes. Not only does this pertain to high school athletes, but it also regards famous players.

Even when Todd Bertuzzi, a professional athlete, “broke the neck of the Colorado Avalanche’s Steve Moore,” he was allowed to go “back in the NHL even though Moore still hasn’t returned” (Reilly par. 17). Allowing athletes to get away with crimes without punishment will not solve their problems or mistakes. Instead, they learn that they can do these actions without consequence, which causes them to become careless. It not only ruins their own lives, but even the lives of those around them.

In all aspects of life, no one wants to work with someone who is a dangerous troublemaker, because it ruins their image and surrounds them with harmful company. In the same way, teaming up athletes with criminals influences them in multiple negative ways. It easily allows the team’s reputation to be ruined. Reilly informs that “Terrell Owens told his coach to shut up and called his quarterback a hypocrite” (Reilly par. 17). Allowing a rebel to play on the team causes the audience to think poorly of them. The team will not be supported as much, because their image has been damaged by the criminal on the team. Allowing criminals to play on the same team will also negatively influence other players. Reilly asserts that “on Jan.18, Jackson and accomplices robbed six men of $270 dollars at gunpoint” (Reilly par. 2). Jackson’s malicious behavior influenced his teammates to commit serious crimes. Letting horrible influences play on teams affects the performance and chemistry of the team.

In summation, Reilly emphasizes that all criminals deserve the necessary consequences that are given to them. He asserts that even if it is a professional athlete, they should suffer from the results of breaking the law, instead of being able to play their sport. Letting criminals on a sports team disables them to learn from their crimes, which causes them to break more laws. Athletes who are criminals also harmfully affect their team as it can ruin the players and damage the team’s reputation. More crimes may be perpetrated due to the impacts of a criminal playing on their team. Although it can ruin a high school athlete’s future, it is still beneficial to them as they can reflect on the unjust actions they did. Athletes with any felonies should not be allowed to play their sport as there are numerous disadvantages that negatively affect our society. With a criminal off the hook, problems will continually arise unless the athlete is held accountable and punished accordingly.

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Here’s The Real Crime By Rick Reilly Related To Athletes In High School. (2022, Aug 18). Retrieved from