When former All-Pro safety Darren Sharper was formally charged with two counts of rape that was induced by drugs and five other felony drug charges there were likely many people who simply shrugged their shoulders. After all, an NFL athlete being charged with heinous crimes such as rape seems to be a semi-yearly occurrence, and a large portion of fans have either been desensitized or simply accept that their favorite athletes will get in trouble off the field.
And while nobody can change that, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell can go a long way toward showing the league is serious about such charges by formally firing Sharper from NFL Network. Currently the 38-year-old is only on an indefinite suspension without pay, which is really another way of saying that he will be allowed back on the airwaves one day but not until everybody forgets what exactly happened.
Of course there is no doubting that Sharper should not be presumed guilty in a court room until proper facts are shown, but this same standard does not hold true in public opinion. While these two charges have surfaced in Los Angeles, prosecutors have reportedly uncovered similar claims from women in Arizona, Louisiana and Nevada, although charges in these states have yet to surface. Still, there was enough of a standard that the prosecutors have asked for Sharper’s bail to be raised from its current level of $200,000 to $10 million which is both an eye-popping number and a indicator of the fact that there is some substance to these rumors.
Going out and formally firing Sharper before he ever hits a court room — and possibly gets up to 30 years in prison — would both serve as a statement to him and the league’s employees as a whole. Fans around the U.S. are beginning to get fed up with the constant horde of players who find legal trouble during the offseason, and while few instances are as serious as this one, Goodell needs bring down the hammer of zero tolerance that he has tried to preach. Clearly the commissioner wants to rid the league of bad influences, but rhetoric can only take you so far.
In a league that seems to have less issue with Michael Vick killing dogs, Ray Lewis lying in an attempt to cover up a murder and Chad Johnson being arrested for domestic abuse than Michael Sam being a gay man, it is time for Goodell to show that the power brokers in the league’s front office do not feel this way. In order to do this he must begin by outright firing Sharper even if he could turn out to not be guilty. It is not very often that the commissioner has the chance to make a big statement on current and former player conduct, and he must use this chance to make a clear statement.