When athletes behave badly
The recent suspensions of two star professional athletes from their teams -- receiver Terrell Owens from the Philadelphia Eagles and NASCAR Nextel Cup driver Kurt Busch from Rousch Racing -- points to a trend in which athletes will be increasingly be held to the same standards of behavior as most other Americans, says a sport psychologist with the University of North Texas Center for Sport Psychology and Performance Excellence.
Dr. Justin Anderson says Busch -- last year's Nextel Cup champion -- is the perfect example. Hours before he was to race at the Phoenix International Raceway this past Sunday, Busch was suspended for the race and this coming Sunday's race at Homestead, Fla., after he received a reckless driving citation two days before. Busch reportedly refused to perform standard field sobriety tests and was argumentative and uncooperative to law officials.
"Busch's record of being Nextel Cup champion and his race history suggest that he is one of the best drivers out on the track, but because of the bad image his behavior portrayed, sponsors and fans do not want to be a part of his team and, consequently, the owner suspended him," Anderson says.
Anderson, a former high school and college athlete and varsity high school football and baseball coach, believes most athletes' behavior is not getting worse in general. However, stories about behavior like Busch's and Owens' -- who was suspended two days after complaining that his team didn't recognize his 100th career touchdown catch and insulting quarterback Donovan McNabb -- are being reported by the media more than in the past.
"With the advent of the Internet, new ‘all sport all the time' cable networks and more sport-exclusive newspapers and magazines, these stories are reaching the public at a higher percentage," Anderson says. "The increase of reported stories has raised the level of accountability in sport at all levels. Organizations and coaches now feel a greater burden to keep their teams on best behavior for fear of embarrassment, because stories about bad behavior in athletes are the talk of the networks, Internet and newspapers and magazines."
Because bad behavior in athletes is being reported more often, "athletes cannot get away with it, which leaves the owner, athletic director or coach no choice but to discipline or suspend the athletes," he says.