In the last week or so at least three prominent New Zealand sportsmen have hit the headlines with their out of control drunken antics. So why do our sports administrators continue to tolerate boorish behaviour, wife beating and ongoing alcohol abuse amongst their players?
Perhaps part of the answer to this question is that most of those administrators have emerged from the same ranks as the players and have themselves witnessed or been involved in the odd indiscretion in the past. Punishments handed out to players for drunken escapades seem to be light and sports managers frequently appear to be apologists on the basis that these incidents are just “young men letting off a bit of steam”. Judges are complicit in that they hand out meaningless sentences such as “diversion” whereas ordinary mortals would be dealt with more sternly.
The embedded booze culture and bad behaviour of our sportsmen (and their sports presenter cronies) is a blight on our society which continues to be swept under the carpet because of their hero status. But it is their status that makes it all the worse. Sports players are role models for others. Players who pull on a jersey with a silver fern and accept lucrative contracts carry their nation’s pride upon their shoulders and are public property 24/7, whether they like it or not. Publicly tolerating anti-social behaviour sends a strong message to society that the implications of drunkeness and violence are minimal for the perpetrators.
It seems bizarre that after a continual stream of embarrassing incidents over many years, only now is the Rugby Union considering behaviour clauses in player contracts. Clearly, sports administrators do not take this problem seriously. Perhaps they should accept some advice from the television media. Wayward TV personalities get dropped like hot potatoes after Court appearances because the industry understands that perception is everything and damaged reputations cost ratings points. Broadcasters also receive large sums of advertising money from politically correct government agencies determined to stamp out domestic violence by waging a guilt campaign on ordinary citizens. Perhaps those agencies are focussing in the wrong place.