When someone broke into Sean Taylor’s home in the middle of the night and killed him earlier this week, was it a case of some trouble from Sean’s past catching up with him, or a random crime? We don’t know, yet, but if I had to guess, I would guess that he was targeted, given the past, public incidences of violence in his life. And not everyday violence, but things like an assault charge for threatening people with a gun, and being on the receiving end of a hail of bullets in his SUV.
There’s lots of other incidents around the NFL, and sportsworld in general, of players who’ve been dragged down by connections to their sometimes turbulent past. Look at Michael Vick, Darrent Williams (Bronco’s player killed in a drive-by last New Years Day,) or the jail time Jamal Lewis served while playing for The Ravens, and, of course, Ray Lewis, who was charged, along with 2 of his friends, with a double murder. Lewis accepted a plea bargain, pleading guilty to a misdemeanor charge of obstruction of justice, and his friends were acquitted.
The thing is, this isn’t particular to proffesional athletes by any means. Michael Wilbon said it better than I could in his column earlier this week. Here’s an excerpt:
The issue of separating yourself from a harmful environment is a recurring theme in the life of black men. It has nothing to do with football, or Sean Taylor or even sports. To frame it as a sports issue is as insulting as it is naive. Most of us, perhaps even the great majority of us who grew up in big urban communities, have to make a decision at some point to hang out or get out.
The kid who becomes a pharmaceutical rep has the same call to make as the lawyer or delivery guy or accountant or sportswriter or football player: Cut off anybody who might do harm, even those who have been friends from the sandbox, or go along to get along.
Mainstream folks — and, yes, this is a code word for white folks — see high-profile athletes dealing with this dilemma and think it’s specific to them, while black folks know it’s everyday stuff for everybody, for kids with aspirations of all kinds — even for a middle-class kid with a police-chief father, such as Taylor — from South Central to Southeast to the South Side. Some do, some don’t. Some will, some won’t. Some can, some cannot. Often it’s gut-wrenching. Usually, it’s necessary. For some, it takes a little bit too long.
That’s a lot to think about.. join us at 1pm today, and leave your thoughts here, as well.
Also, check out the Sports Illustrated article that helped get us thinking about all of these things today. It’s called “The Road to Bad Newz” and written by one of today’s guests, Farrell Evans, and George Dohrmann.