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

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Updated: Aug 18, 2023
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In the op-ed, “Here’s the Real Crime,” Rick Reilly 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, who, despite being accused of “six counts of aggravated robbery with a deadly weapon” (Reilly, par. 2), was allowed to play on his high school football team. Reilly believes these accusations should be enough to “end his high school football career” (Reilly, par.

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3). He explains that high school coaches are reluctant to remove student-athletes from their teams due to their offenses because sports provide opportunities for their futures, such as playing college football.

However, Reilly believes that not holding these students accountable for their actions lets them off too easily 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 on their sports teams despite their aggression in their personal lives, such as the “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 damage the reputation of the team for something they didn’t do and negatively 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 committing a crime, like the one 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 the consequences, they will genuinely never know what they did wrong. As a 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. This doesn’t only 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 return to the NHL even though Moore has not been able to do so (Reilly, par. 17). Letting athletes escape punishments for their crimes will not address their problems or mistakes. Instead, it teaches them that they can act without consequences, which makes them careless. This not only ruins their own lives, but also those of the people 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, pairing athletes with criminals negatively influences them in multiple ways. It can easily tarnish the team’s reputation. As noted by Reilly, “Terrell Owens once told his coach to shut up and even called his quarterback a hypocrite” (Reilly, par. 17). Allowing disruptive elements onto the team can cause the audience to develop a poor impression of the team. The support for the team might dwindle, as their image has been marred by the criminal actions of a teammate. Permitting criminals to play on the same team also has a negative impact on other players. Reilly points out that “on Jan. 18, Jackson and his accomplices robbed six men of $270 at gunpoint” (Reilly, par. 2). Jackson’s malicious behavior spuriously led his teammates down the path of serious crime. Therefore, the decision to allow damaging influences onto teams compromises 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 the results of breaking the law, instead of being able to continue playing their sport. Letting criminals onto a sports team prevents them from learning from their crimes, which may lead to them breaking more laws. Athletes who are criminals can also negatively affect their team, potentially ruining the players and damaging the team’s reputation. More crimes may be committed due to the impact of a criminal playing on the team. Although potential consequences can ruin a high school athlete’s future, it is nevertheless beneficial for them as they are given an opportunity to reflect on their unjust actions. Athletes with any felonies should not be allowed to play their sport as there are numerous disadvantages that negatively impact our society. If a criminal is let 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