As Americans struggle with the walloping economic impact of a global health pandemic – created by China – entitled professional athletes and team owners are displaying just how out of touch they are with the fans whose money gilds the gates to their golden mansions. Arrest warrants have been issued for two prominent NFL players, including a 2019 first-round draft pick, wanted for an especially shocking armed robbery. A star Major League Baseball pitcher vows that he will not accept receiving a smaller portion of his $7 million 2020 salary due to the social upheaval caused by the Coronavirus crisis, saying, “I’m not playing unless I get mine.” The NBA has hired a new executive whose sole task is to make up with China, the league’s most important foreign market. The communist nation was angered by a tweet of support for Hong Kong protesters posted last fall by an NBA general manager. All of these things happened in the course of a few days.
‘I Gotta Get My Money’
For sheer tone-deafness, it’s tough to top Tampa Bay Rays pitcher Snell’s comments. As owners and players haggle over the financial spoils of their lucrative entertainment industry during negotiations to start up a truncated season, Snell’s crass remarks prove just where fans rank in the matter. Answer: Not at all. “Y’all gotta understand, man, for me to go, for me to take a pay cut is not happening, because the risk is through the roof,” Snell said. “It’s a shorter season, less pay. I gotta get my money. I’m not playing unless I get mine, OK? And that’s just the way it is for me.”
Revealing a telling lack of basic public relations consideration towards the customers who ultimately make his $330 million contract possible, Philadelphia Phillies superstar outfielder Bryce Harper quickly rallied to Snell’s defense. “Somebody’s gotta say it…. Good for him,” Harper myopically warbled. And with that, “I gotta get my money” replaced “We Miss You Baseball” in the hearts and minds of fans across America.
Nearly two-thirds of Americans (73%) blame China for the hardships imposed on the nation by the Coronavirus, according to a May 8 Morning Consult poll. China is facing the threat of becoming a pariah state in international circles due to the global fallout from the virus. So leave it to the NBA to take this very moment to once again assume a cringing posture to the Chinese despots as it chases what it believes is a pot of money at the end of their bloody tyrannical rainbow. The league announced on May 11 that it had tabbed Chinese-born Michael Ma as its new NBA China chief executive. Ma’s principal task will be “further enhancing the popularity of basketball and the NBA in China with the support of the NBA’s senior management team in China.”
The once-prosperous relationship between the league and the Red Chinese was severely strained in October 2019, when Houston Rockets General Manager had the temerity to send out a tweet expressing solidarity with the freedom protesters in Hong Kong. An incensed China swiftly moved to curtail NBA programming and exposure in its nation, and the league immediately began groveling for official state forgiveness. In a humiliating exercise in naked self-interest, the NBA trotted out Rockets superstar guard James Harden, one of the top five most recognizable players in the league, to fully supplicate himself before Chinese authorities. “We apologize,” Harden disgracefully said. “You know, we love China. We love playing there… they show us the most important love.”
Seven months later and in the face of a global health pandemic that has its origins in China, the league continues to shamelessly pursue its global financial ambitions, oblivious to what its fans may think of it all. That it is still receiving the cold shoulder in return only makes the NBA pine all the more. “Naming [a] native Chinese as NBA China boss is ‘not enough,'” Chinese state-run media outlet Global Times wrote May 12. “Prominent commentators and fans noted if it wants to win its way back to the Chinese mainland market, it should properly handle Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey.”
High Cost of Winning
And then there is the latest jaw-dropping addition to the already groaning police blotter of big-time football athletes. DeAndre Baker, a defensive back who was the first-round draft choice of the New York Giants in 2019, and DB Quinton Dunbar of the Seattle Seahawks are wanted for a brazen armed robbery allegedly committed at a cookout in Miramar, Florida on May 13. The details are incredibly disturbing. After an argument, Baker is said to have pulled out a gun. He and Dunbar are accused of then proceeding to rob cookout guests. At one point, a person stumbled into the party unaware, and Baker reportedly ordered a third gunman to shoot him. Fortunately, he did not.
To say this is just an example of two bad apples in a league filled with hundreds of players is to continue to ignore the culture of criminality that pervades the NFL today. Whereas individual cases involving key players get widely reported, the overall statistics are usually buried. In 2017 New England sportswriter Kevin Dillon broke down a USA Today database of “NFL Player Arrests” dating back to 2000. “These are arrests, charges and citations of NFL players for crimes more serious than common traffic violations,” a note accompanying the database explained. “NFL players have been arrested 855 times since 2000,” Dillon wrote. “That includes 215 DUI charges, 99 drug charges, 96 domestic violence cases, and 71 assaults. It even includes two murders.” Dillon wrote this three years ago. Since that time, the numbers have only grown.
At one point, Baker was deemed a potential top-ten talent in the 2019 NFL draft, but he plummeted to the 30th pick due to “character” concerns. The Giants traded up to the 30th spot, seeing “value” in Baker at that point. It is no coincidence that Baker (University of Georgia) and Dunbar (University of Florida) both hail from football factory colleges. The onus on winning and the substantial financial implications involved pressure these schools to accept players wholly unfit for campus life.
This tragic fact was brought to the fore with a vengeance at Michigan State University last season, as a morally bankrupt head coach finally reaped the whirlwind from his 2016 recruiting “Dream Team” class. Four players from that group went on to face sexual assault charges. The most egregious case by far was that of Auston Robertson, a defensive end. According to sworn courtroom testimony, Michigan State coaches were fully aware that Robertson had been repeatedly accused of sexual assault while in high school.
According to a deposition made by former Michigan State recruiting guru Curtis Blackwell, defensive line coach Ron Burton told head coach Mark Dantonio: “I have a daughter on that campus, and I wouldn’t feel comfortable with Auston Robertson being on campus with my daughter.”
Robertson, considered a “blue-chip” recruit, was accepted nonetheless. He was convicted of sexual assault for a 2017 incident that occurred in an off-campus apartment and is now serving a sentence of up to 10 years in state prison. Coach Dantonio earned just shy of $4.4 million in 2019. In February, he abruptly resigned.
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