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NFL lacks firmness in handing out suspensions

By Alex Wise / Staff Writer

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And the NFL’s hot streak continues!

According to multiple recent media reports, the National Football League sources have confirmed that suspended 49ers linebacker Aldon Smith could have his ban cut by at least one game for “good behavior.”

I’m glad to hear that the NFL’s qualifications for “good behavior” are going a few weeks without telling people you have a bomb at an airport while avoiding drunk driving charges and marijuana busts. These violations of league policy — and the law, but who cares about that? — are what earned Smith his nine-game suspension, but that could be reduced as a reward for him acting, for a brief time, like every single other rationally functioning human being on planet earth.

I could be wrong, but I can’t imagine Aldon Smith — or most NFL players, for that matter — to be the type to voluntarily work in a soup kitchen or help kids with their homework at an after school program. Doing something positive for the community, anything that in some way helps others, is commendable. That type of action is what I would consider “good behavior,” or as the owners like to say, “model citizenship.” There shouldn’t be anything praiseworthy about not getting arrested for a while.

It still amazes me that professional athletes are held to such low standards. Even more amazing is that those standards are defined not by us as fans, but by league executives and other authority figures. Aldon Smith was suspended those games for legitimate reasons, but now he’ll be rewarded with a reduction because he lived up to normal societal standards? Because he obeyed the laws to which we’re all held accountable? It’s almost as if the league is telling Smith it expected worse from him but is happy he proved otherwise.

And this is when the NFL is failing both itself and its fanbase. I know that the league office is committing the vast majority of its efforts toward pretending the NFL cares about women in the wake of the Ray Rice scandal, and that must be exhausting. Thankfully, the Minnesota Vikings are competent enough to handle the suspension of Adrian Peterson on their own, or the league would be scrambling to invent reasons as to why they care about children in any capacity beyond the money their parents spend on snacks for them at games.

But the least the NFL can do is keep intact a suspension that resulted in part from a small act of terrorism. Aldon Smith’s suspension was deserved and fair, and he’s perfectly capable of waiting another few weeks to return. There’s no need to mess with it or change it in any way.

But this is the NFL, so common sense is far too much to expect.

I still stand by the fact that all of this could’ve been avoided had “Meet the Parents” been shown in the gen-ed film class Aldon Smith undoubtedly took while attending the University of Missouri. He clearly could’ve benefited from Gaylord Focker’s mistake, because the “you can’t say bomb on an airplane” scene is as much free legal counsel as it is entertainment. This should be mandatory viewing material for all draft-eligible athletes.

Anyway, it’s past time to stop making a mockery of multiple penal systems in the case of professional athletes. Rewards aren’t handed to average citizens for conventional behavior, and they shouldn’t be commonplace for those blessed with tremendous athletic ability. It’s nothing personal, Aldon, I promise. But you need to be made an example.

 

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NFL lacks firmness in handing out suspensions