Pro Athletes Must Play by Rules To Avoid Personal Scandal

August 22, 2015

The sports scandals these days are public and sad. Patrick Kane, right winger for the Chicago Blackhawks, is being investigated by the Hamburg, New York police on charges of sexual impropriety. Ray McDonald, formerly of the San Francisco 49ers, was fired by the Chicago Bears after his arrest on charges of domestic violence and child endangerment. Aldon Smith, the former San Francisco 49er, was released by the team after he was arrested for hit-and-run, driving under the influence, and vandalism charges. Phoenix Suns player Michael Beasley is being sued for sexual assault.

Damage is being done to marriages, reputations and careers, especially in the players’ ability to earn income from endorsement deals. Perhaps it’s time for players and team owners to reconsider the “training” they undergo. A portion of training camps and off-season programs should be devoted to education about the high cost of sexual encounters and the priceless value of anger management. There are literally millions of dollars at stake for the players and their teams every single time they allow themselves to be put into a compromising position. And of course, it’s virtually impossible to put a dollar amount on the high cost to their families and other relationships.

Our firm has delivered workshops to athletes and has written and blogged extensively on the use and misuse of social media for professionals and others with “something to lose.” These are among the tips we offer.

1) Never make a public appearance without a wingman. If you are a player being paid millions, or even hundreds of thousands, always have a “handler” in tow. You want someone to remind you that the many “admirers” who pursue you may in fact be attracted to you for the wrong reasons. Your personal wingman can be a professional such as a lawyer or publicist, or even a trusted friend, but choose someone who isn’t shy about speaking up.

2) Avoid throwing your weight around anywhere but on the field. Acting like a big shot will only lead to trouble – sometimes serious trouble. To get control of your anger and other defeating impulses and habits, get counseling, stay sober, study meditation or take up yoga. Above all, learn the difference between your professional life, where you are paid to be aggressive, and your personal life where millions are watching you to see if you can handle the success and stress of millions of dollars of sports contracts and endorsement deals.

3) Text, tweet, Facebook post, and Snapchat as if the whole world is watching. Your privacy ship sailed the minute you became even semi-famous, and the last thing you want to be is infamous for your bad behavior, communications and decisions. Watch what personal information and photos you share, and think twice or three times before hitting the “share” button off the field. Use social media, but use it carefully and thoughtfully.

As for the rest of us, we can all learn from the mistakes and missteps of pro athletes. Even if you’re just a star in your circle of friends, family and colleagues, your life will be forever changed if you’re caught in a serious wrongdoing. Behave as if most moments of your life are streaming online as a reality TV show, because for better or worse, they are.

Allen, Glassman & Schatz, LLC