|All Points West: Dealing with Lochte monster|
|August 26, 2016 Frank Marquez|
Prima donnas in sports, who would have thunk? Privilege goes to the heads of some athletes as sort of a natural course. It comes as no surprise with how Americans in general prize athletic accomplishments. We place the stars of professional and world competition sometimes high on unreachable pedestals.
Swimmer Ryan Lochte is just the latest example.
On August 14, he and three other U.S. swimmers, Gunnar Bentz, Jack Conger and Jimmy Feigen, were detained at a gas station by two security guards. They were admittedly drunk, and Lochte had knocked down a poster in the incident, and all had urinated behind bushes, according to various news reports. This, compared with his initial account the group had been robbed at gunpoint, does little to connect the dots, and seemed mired in a case of “they said, we said,” though more details have been emerging in recent days in an ongoing investigation involving long looks at tapes from video surveillance cameras.
A broken bathroom door and soap dispenser. Really? Then a possible exchange of money because Lochte supposedly wanted to pay for the poster. Or, there’s the possibility that in a land where there’s some level of police corruption already (to be fair, it exists worldwide), the two security officers’ actions might have been perceived as asking for or demanding bribes, especially if the pointing weapons part holds any water. Let’s not forget the language barrier. Throw in to the mess, the $10,800 fine in lieu of charges, according to Feigen. Sort of sounds like a bribe to me.
Now, the foursome faces a disciplinary hearing before the International Olympic Committee, which could affect their participation in future Games. Heck, and I thought the trouble was going to come with the Zika virus or a terrorist bombing in the main stadium.
In further fallout, Lochte, a 32-year-old 12-time Olympic medalist lost sponsors Speedo USA and Ralph Lauren Corp, while issuing an apology for the lies he initially told. He phrased it somewhat differently, as telling an “exaggerated” story to Brazilian officials, all while the 2016 Olympic Games were coming to a close on Sunday, August 21.
My initial thought was the four swimmers ignored the briefings addressing how Olympic team members would need to be on their best behavior, act as ambassadors for the United States, and show immense respect for host Brazil while competing, not just because it’s the nice thing to do, but because behaving would protect them from possible broken laws and subsequent penalties. If this incident had occurred on U.S. soil, would things have played out differently? Maybe. If Lochte had gotten drunk with his three buddies, and knocked down a sign or poster at a gas station in his hometown of Rochester, New York, I’m guessing the likelihood of law enforcement showing up was pretty close to nil. I may be off base here, but a gas station attendant might have just shrugged and asked Lochte for his autograph. In poverty stricken Brazil, according to a New York times article in 2014: In Sao Paulo, law enforcement officers earn an annual salary of $15,248, including benefits and danger pay allowances. They work in 12-hour shifts, day and night, for an average of 42 hours a week. Two years couldn’t have changed much in Brazil. This sounds like enough incentive to target a few spoiled athletes, one of them with quite a bit of money to his name, about $6 million, according to Forbes. The controversy in Brazil cost him, financial experts determined, in upwards of $5 million. Given my income, he won’t be getting too much sympathy from me. Part of me wishes they would have done this in Malaysia where the punishment might have been caning. It would all be over by now.
Regardless of the motivation on both sides, wrong is wrong.
The real questions come when parents of young swimmers, nay children aspiring to be great athletes, ask why Ryan Lochte did what he did. Effectively, it sounded a lot like he was trying to save his own bacon, and in this age of social media, changing your story too much begins to breed mistrust, and misinterpretation. As far as I’m concerned, these people – these athletes – who we admire, and sometimes give red carpet treatment, not to exclude a get-out-of-jail-free card, need to be held to the highest standard, and not become the latest chapter in the thick novel on over-privileged Ugly Americans showing their backsides overseas.
After all the stories of high school and college athletes receiving special consideration for their performances, and the financial payoff to the overall sports industry, let’s think about it. There’s getting over on school assignments, and awards for non-existent classes in some cases. The message we’re sending to our young athletes is they won’t be held accountable, and a double-standard permeates the system to the tune of a former NFL great not knowing how to read or write, thus preempting any worthwhile second career. The good news in Nebraska is that we do our best to change that message. The Huskers student-athletes from all teams and all sports have combined to far outdistance any other school in the country, according to NU academics. Nebraska has a nation-leading total of 325 CoSIDA Academic All-Americans as of June 27, 2016, thus effectively placing the student before the athlete.
Don’t get me wrong. There’s plenty to learn outside the classroom, but building character, teaching kids not to lie, and placing a higher value on morality, that requires better role models in sports.