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The NFL: The Land of (a Second) Opportunity

Photo by AP Photo/David Karp

Have you ever been given a second chance? In the NFL, second chances are being handed out almost as often as Girl Scouts hand out Thin Mints.

Many star players in the NFL have recently been accused or convicted of crimes.

Michael Vick, who has experienced the most controversy and fanfare due to his crimes, spent 21 months in prison from 2007-08 after being charged with involvement in a dog fighting ring in Virginia. He was subsequently suspended by the NFL for the time he spent in prison, but was reinstated in 2009 and has since starred for the Philadelphia Eagles.

Plaxico Burress was charged with unlawful possession of a handgun in New York in November 2008 after he accidentally shot himself in the leg with the concealed weapon in a night club. He also served a two year prison sentence and suspension from the NFL for the 2009 and 2010 seasons, but was reinstated in July 2011 to the New York Jets.

Ben Roethlisberger has been accused on two separate occasions of sexual assault. Though both sets of charges were dropped, he was suspended for the first four games of the 2010 season and was reinstated to the Pittsburg Steelers.

These high profile examples are just a small sample of the large number of NFL athletes who have been charged with  crimes. Athletes do have to serve their prison sentences, but once their punishment is served and the life of their suspension (if they are even given one) has played out, most players simply return to the NFL and get on with their routine and occupation. They seem to be given a proverbial “get out of jail free” card by the courts and NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell; rarely does an athlete who is a first-time offender retire because of their legal troubles.

With this in mind, I asked 10 students at Loyola University Chicago what their opinion was on allowing players who’ve been accused or arrested for crimes back into the NFL for a second chance. The majority of the students were in favor of giving every player a second chance unconditionally.

“If regular people deserve a second chance, then pro athletes should have a second chance,” said Usama Muhammed, 19. “They are regular people, sports is just their occupation.”

Arlington Heights native Dominic Dominguez, 19, echoed these sentiments. “I believe everybody deserves a second chance as long as they show that they’re actively trying to better themselves… that they’re trying to change their ways.”

While many students sympathized with the “human element” of the athletes regardless of their actions, some were more inclined to say no to the second chance in more severe cases.

“If you were abusing drugs or something like that, that’s affecting yourself,” said Michelle Jones, 19, from Michigan. “But since [Vick was] killing animals and using them for money, that’s just not okay… Stupid guy…”

Others still, like 19-year-old Gloria Santana, weren’t even willing to factor in severity, “I believe that these athletes are human [and] deserve a second chance, but they don’t deserve to be on the field playing sports again because it is a privilege.”

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The Hub Bub is a collection of articles, videos, audio, photo slideshows, interactive maps and other media produced by students enrolled in journalism courses at Loyola University Chicago's School of Communication. For more about the School of Communication, our award winning faculty, and our state of the art facilities located in the heart of Chicago, visit our website.