So I’m playing the challenge your assumptions game this morning at the gym when I see this caption scroll across the bottom of the TV screen during the news:
Should athletes be held to higher standards?
Seriously? THAT’s the question were going to ask about the Ray Rice debacle?
Forget for a minute the media frenzy around the spate of high-profile athletes with serious domestic violence issues—as if athletes are the only perpetrators of violent crimes rife in society. What inquisitive idiot at Fox penned that gem for all of us to waste our time considering?
Let’s examine the obvious assumption the question is based on: one group of people gets to hold another group of people to certain, particular standards that are different from everyone else’s. Are you kidding me?
Wrong question! And this is why you have to pay attention in school, kids, so you can grow up to ask much better questions. What does history tell us happens when one group of people tries to legislate the behavior of another group of people? The same lesson over and over again. You don’t have to be a Tocquevillian scholar familiar with the subtle tension between the U.S.’s founding principles of freedom and quality as presented in Democracy in America to know that in this country we’ve been fighting for the equal rights of all people regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation, religious beliefs, etc., etc., etc., since Thomas Jefferson set down the words “all (wo)men are created equal” in our very Declaration of Independence.
The idea is not only self evident, it’s corroborated by scientific analysis of DNA and a basic understanding of math: we are all the same; approximately 99.9% the same at the level of DNA. For all practical purposes, superficial differences in our species are statistically insignificant. But we didn’t really need science to “prove” that; we knew it all along, through human intuition and the lessons of history, and not just those from U.S. history. In Europe, English and French Catholics and Protestants had to learn the lesson over hundreds of years of strife. The histories of Russia, China, Cambodia, the Middle East, and I daresay the whole world over have taught again and again that one group of people has no right to legislate the thoughts, beliefs, cultural practices, or general behavior of others.
So, to answer the question, since Fox asked, NO! We should not hold athletes to higher standards than the rest of us. We should hold them to the very same laws and punishments that the legislature and judiciary dole out to everyone else. And we shouldn’t hold drug addicts and alcoholics to different standards either. Nor should we hold gay people to different standards. Or fill-in-your-favorite-minority to different standards. And that includes privileged white people. We are all basically the same; we are all equal, and we should be seen, treated, and respected as equals in the eyes of the laws and anyone who’s ever studied history and a little math.
All. The. Same.
No wait. One more thing….
If you don’t think Tim Cook and Jony Ive are the coolest nerds in America, you’re not paying attention.