J.J. Watt wants fans to know, not every NFL player is Adrian Peterson, Ray Rice or Greg Hardy.
Some are good guys with good stories.
“I think that there are a lot of players in the league and a lot of athletes who do a great job, on and off the field,” Watt said on Wednesday.
“I think there guys who don’t get a lot of publicity and recognition for the things that they do, but that’s part of the business. Negativity kind of sells the headlines.”
This week in particular.
Hours earlier, Peterson, the Minnesota Vikings running back, was placed on the Exempt/Commissioner’s list amid felony child abuse charges.
Later, Hardy, who was convicted in July by a North Carolina magistrate court of domestic abuse and deactivated for Sunday’s game against the Detroit Lions, left Carolina Panthers practice with his agent, an indication that further discipline could be impending.
Last night, Rice continued to make headlines, for appealing his indefinite suspension from the NFL for knocking his wife out cold in February.
Watt wishes that wasn’t all football fans heard about, though he understands why sometimes it can be.
“As a player, you’d like the good stories to be publicized too, and there are,” Watt said.
“There’s some cases of good stories being publicized, which is great. But I think there’s a whole lot of them out there, and only a very small fraction of them gets out there.”
It’s true. Stories of players abusing women and children get more attention, in part because of the visceral reaction — and outrage — they incite in people, which keeps them in our consciousness for longer.
Especially when the people responsible for handling such incidents, be it NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, Vikings owners Mark and Zygi Wilf, Panthers owner Jerry Richardson or everyone in the Baltimore Ravens organization, botch them so badly.
Rightly so. Without prolonged attention and outrage, maybe Anheuser Busch, one of the NFL’s biggest sponsors, doesn’t issue a statement perceived by the league as a warning shot. Maybe the Radisson, the Minnesota-based hotel chain, doesn’t suspend its sponsorship of the Vikings after the team’s press conference.
With no pressure, maybe there’s no action, and maybe Peterson, Rice and Hardy are all playing on Sunday.
But Watt also has a point. While Peterson, Hardy and Rice — and 49ers defensive end Ray McDonald, who was arrested on but not yet formally charged with domestic abuse of his pregnant girlfriend — are responsible for heinous acts, they represent only a small fraction of the league’s players. Many of whom do the right things everyday, even if doing so only results in non-arrests — and non-stories.
For sports fans nationwide seemingly parched for a feel-good story now and again, it’s worth remembering: there are plenty out there. Many of them on the Texans, whose 11 player arrests since 2000 are least in the NFL and 33 fewer than the league-leading Vikings. One of them being Watt, who was rewarded with a $100 million contract in the eleventh hour before the regular season despite never holding out, threatening to do so or even disparaging the organization to the media, and has since getting his new deal played even better.
Watt said he considers himself a role model, and tries to be the best one he can be everyday.
“Personally? Obviously, yes, I do,” Watt said. “That’s just who I am.
“I’ve always felt as though there’s people who look up to us, or look up to me, so I try to provide the best example possible. I don’t judge anybody else. I can only speak for myself.”
And Watt says plenty. Mostly with his actions.
Hear Matt weekends on Sports Radio 610
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