Whenever I watch a National Football League game - regardless of who is playing - it is a sure bet that I will see at least one NFL-United Way commercial. Without a doubt, sandwiched between a Miller Lite ad and a preview of this week's episode of "Family Guy," a caring football player will be helping some children plant trees, or something equally cute. Every professional sports league does a charity partnership, and I'm all for it. The NFL sends a good message with those commercials. But when a player decides to behave irresponsibly and set a bad example for fans young and old, it's time for league officials to show they mean business.
New York Giants wide receiver Plaxico Burress gave the NFL that exact opportunity on Friday night, when he accidentally shot himself in the leg in a Manhattan nightclub. He was out of today's game against the Redskins anyway, with a hamstring injury. Burress was released from a New York Hospital around 2 p.m. yesterday. He will not start for the Giants next week, though the shooting wound was not serious. He has been charged with carrying a concealed weapon without a permit.
Burress is, by many observers' opinions, the star receiver of one of the best teams in the league. It's difficult to imagine a Plaxico-less Giants team. But take a look at Burress's past behavior: fines for unsportsmanlike conduct, near-refusal to show up for the Giants' mini-camp in May 2008, whining about inferior pay and numerous other fines and suspensions. And now, an accidental shooting.
Every Blazer remembers the accidental shooting that left a fellow student seriously wounded just two weeks ago. Burress's actions presented a painful reminder of that incident - the panic many felt when hearing that a friend was in critical condition, the relief after learning that the student would recover, the disbelief at the fact that Blair had been affected by yet another violent incident.
When I learned Burress had shot himself, I was shocked, but more angry. Kids make mistakes. That doesn't make it any less disturbing when high school students playing with a gun injure each other, but one of the questions that comes up when news of a juvenile shooting hits readers is: "Where were the parents when this happened? Weren't the children taught not to play with guns?" As I read the articles about Burress, the question that crossed my mind was: "Wasn't he thinking about what a young Giants fan might think of him when he plays with guns at a nightclub and shoots himself?"
Burress is an adult. Chances are, he doesn't have a guardian angel telling him what to do. But he is a household name, and as such, he needs to be acting like a responsible adult. On Friday night, he crossed the line. The Giants and the NFL need to show some backbone by suspending Burress without pay for at least the rest of this season. If the NFL wants to be justified airing those United Way commercials during games, they can use Burress to send a message: when you play with guns, you risk your job, your safety and, most importantly, the respect others have for you.
Kiera Zitelman. Kiera Zitelman goes by many names and Photo Booth effects. She enjoys being able to drive and representing Kensington. She likes her dog, Sophie, and her human friend of the same name. Kiera owns one-third of a hot dog toaster and one-fourth of a movie … More »