It’s been sobering to pick up the newspaper these past few days and notice how the sports news and crime news have converged.
That sad development comes courtesy of LSU’s football team, which now includes three accused felons. Offensive lineman Ed Ingram was suspended indefinitely after being accused of aggravated sexual assault of a minor. Linebacker Tyler Taylor was suspended after police arrested him in connection with the burglary of a Georgia pawn shop. Junior wide receiver Drake Davis was suspended after he was arrested and accused of punching and grabbing his former girlfriend.
None of the accused players has been convicted of a crime, but the serious allegations against multiple players are obviously troubling. LSU’s policy of automatically suspending players accused of a felony is a basic acknowledgment that athletes suspected of criminal wrongdoing have no business on the field.
The presence of three LSU Tigers in the toils of the law raises obvious questions about the team’s cultural values. Coach Ed Orgeron can underscore the gravity of the situation by speaking forcefully about what’s at stake. Some of Orgeron’s critics have found his initial public remarks about Davis too understated, and that concern is no doubt heightened by the newfound sensitivities of the #MeToo movement.
But regardless of the latest trends in political awareness, criminal activity of any kind should never be fashionable in a football team.
The money and celebrity attached to college football naturally inspire a good bit of cynicism about the game, and run-ins with the law among team members won’t help the brand. But football remains appealing to many because, like any athletic competition, the game at its best expresses a clarity of purpose fans find inspiring.
That clarity seems sadly lacking off the field in this sobering preseason, as young gladiators of the gridiron speak through their lawyers and fans sigh with resignation.
A winning formula, this is not.