The NFL is currently in turmoil: But what does that have to do with BYU?

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The 2014 NFL season is turning out to be less about touchdowns and more about questions of players’ conduct and how the league handles their punishment. The Ray Rice issue brought everything to light when a video showed Rice punching his then-fiancée in a hotel elevator so hard she blacked out. While the incident surfaced months ago, it wasn’t until recently that the NFL truly came down on Rice for the act of domestic violence and suspended him indefinitely from the league without pay rather than just sticking him with a two-game suspension. Many people are asking themselves: are athletes punished too harshly or too lightly because they are athletes?

BYU athletics has had its share of PR nightmares, most notably the Brandon Davies incident and the Halloween brawl that involved BYU football players at a Provo fast food chain in 2012.

Davies ended up benched for the rest of the basketball season, and football players involved in the fight were suspended outright by head coach Bronco Mendenhall. Their mistakes were televised everywhere and talked about by almost everyone in Provo. But were they punished too harshly? In BYU’s case, maybe.

BYU is known for being a school of requiring students (including student athletes) to uphold high standards. Students are required (not forced) to sign the Honor Code if they want to attend the school. So when it comes out that an athlete has broken the Honor Code, it’s a big deal. Their personal mistakes suddenly become popular news to be discussed by anyone who thinks they know a thing or two about what happened.

After a number of incidents BYU changed its policy, saying the athletics department will no longer explicitly say what the athlete did but rather let the media know he or she “broke team rules.” The policy was changed in hopes of making future incidents less public, mainly for the athletes and the teams.

While BYU athletes need to be held accountable for their actions, it is easy for spectators to say the athletes are getting off easy when punished for breaking the rules. But compared to other schools, BYU athletes may not get off easy at all.

What the difference is, is that here at BYU if you make a mistake it is against the moral code of the school and the overall student body. You stand alone in your mistake, and you are in risk of being judged. This is not to say that students at BYU are judgmental but rather to highlight that at BYU, nobody wants their mistakes known. If you are a student athlete, you used to not have much of a choice.

So while the NFL stays in turmoil over domestic violence and what the punishment for that should be, BYU will stick with the “team rules” policy, making sure its athletes are given proper consequences but not thrown straight to the curb.

 

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