August 7th, 2013
02:58 PM ET

The seven deadly sins of sports

Opinion by Larry Alex Taunton, special to CNN

(CNN) - Being a sports fan these days almost requires a law degree. What with all the legal troubles of athletes, who can keep up?

Lawyers certainly have the edge in the fantasy leagues. The rest of us keep one on retainer.

Still, even they might have some difficulty predicting outcomes. Will the Yankees' Alex Rodriguez actually be suspended? Will Riley Cooper be cut from the Philadelphia Eagles? Will Johnny Manziel lose his NCAA eligibility?

With this in mind, my crack team of researchers has produced a list of Seven Deadly Sins in Sports and the punishments you can expect to be meted out to the athletes in question.

Before we get to the list, however, there are a couple of principles you must bear in mind to make sense of crime and the sporting landscape:

The First Principle is that there are no principles.

This will become obvious as we go along, but it is nonetheless critical that you understand this if you want to win that coveted league championship.

The Second Principle is that the athlete stands a better chance of weathering controversy if he is really good.

Albert Speer and Werner von Braun were both members of Germany's SS and both used slave labor. But Speer was an architect. America didn’t need another architect and Speer got 20 years in prison.

Von Braun, on the other hand, was a rocket scientist. Now here was a franchise player. Von Braun received fame, fortune and a lot of buildings named after him.

So it is in sports. Get it?

Now, to the list (from least to most deadly):

7. Murder, Conspiracy to Commit Murder, Accessory to Murder, and Manslaughter

Got a guy on your roster accused of being involved in a murder? Don’t panic. The truth is, this deadly sin isn’t all that deadly for the alleged perp.

How this plays out largely depends on the Second Principle: Is he really good?

No, on second thought, in these instances your draftee must be great.

Aaron Hernandez was good. He’s being held in jail on murder charges. Ray Lewis was great. So were his lawyers. They negotiated a plea agreement to obstruction of justice and authorities dropped a murder charge. Lewis served probation but did not miss a game, and is now an elder statesman of the NFL.

READ MORE: Search warrant: Aaron Hernandez stored guns in box

The lesson here is this: If you have someone like Hernandez on your fantasy team, try to trade him. But don’t expect much in return.

If, however, your player has been accused of manslaughter, you can breathe easy. The first part of that word is the key: manslaughter. If he killed a dog, he’s looking at hard time.

But I am getting ahead of myself.

Remember, your players can afford solid legal counsel and so long as the victim is anonymous and not, say, Justin Bieber, you can expect your player to receive something along the lines of probation or community service.

6. Steroids

This depends on the sport. Tour de France? Your guy is done for the season, if not for life.

But who ever heard of a Tour de France fantasy league? Let’s not be silly, this is America. And in America professional players’ unions are strong and the burden of proof is high.

As a consequence, suspected steroid users Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens may not make the Baseball Hall of Fame anytime soon, but their records and bank accounts are safe.

Got Alex Rodriguez on your team? You’re in luck; $100 million can buy a lot of lawyers and that translates to a playoff berth for you - if only he could stay off the disabled list!

READ MORE: Alex Rodriguez: 'I'm fighting for my life'

5. Accepting money* (Applies only to amateur athletes)

This one is a bit tricky because the punishments, if caught, can be stiff: loss of eligibility, forfeiture of games and awards, etc.

But, like steroids, the burden of proof is high. So unless someone wearing Google Glass saw your guy accept money, he should be fine.

READ MORE:  Johnny Manziel unlimited, unleashed - and under NCAA investigation

4. Putting out bounties on your opponents.

This is a no-no, as NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has made clear.

It’s not so much that the NFL is opposed to violence. If your player is involved in a domestic violence case, he may not even miss practice.

Bounty hunters, however, are another matter. Keep these athletes on your roster at your own risk. Even if they are later cleared to play, suspensions are inevitable.

Exception: Bounties are perfectly acceptable if the person upon whom the bounty is placed is guilty of either #1 or #2 on our list. Such was the case of Riley Cooper who, over the weekend, had a bounty placed on his head by Marcus Vick, brother of Philadelphia Eagles QB Michael Vick.

3. Animal abuse

Speaking of Michael Vick, animal abuse ranks very high on our list of Deadly Sins. It’s forgivable, but just barely. As noted above, it’s better to hit a man with your car while driving intoxicated than to electrocute a dog.

There doesn’t seem to be an anti-manslaughter lobby, but animals are well represented. Expect this athlete to get 3-5 years in the state pen.

2. Racial slurs

The best advice we can give? Trade him before the video goes viral or before Al Sharpton holds a press conference.

(See: Riley Cooper. But my guess is, you already have.)

1. Gambling

As Pete Rose, Art Schlichter, and the 1919 Black Sox scandals have shown, this is the one sin a player cannot commit. Ever. If your draftee has a bookie, you have a problem.

There is, of course, a much larger point here and it is one that goes well beyond fantasy leagues.

Consequences for criminal conduct or cheating — they aren’t always the same thing — seems to have less to do with the actual deed done than with the degree of public outrage.

Indeed, in the professional ranks, commissioners dole out punishment like Roman emperors: thumbs up or thumbs down depending on the roar of the mob.

How can one justify a lifetime ban for Pete Rose, for instance, who neither bet on his own team nor gained any competitive advantage in the sport, while A-Rod, whose whole career may have been aided by the use of PEDs, gets a 211-game suspension (if he loses his appeal)?

How is it that wife-beaters and murderers seem to have better prospects than Riley Cooper, who, after his undeniably racist remark at a Kenny Chesney concert was caught on video, has been (justifiably) reprimanded, fined, required to undergo sensitivity training, dismissed from practice, and, now, according to ESPN, may be dismissed from the team altogether?

The answer is that the court of public opinion is a great deal more outraged by Cooper’s idiotic remarks than it is by Donte’ Stallworth’s criminal actions: a DUI manslaughter conviction in the 2009 death of Mario Reyes.

Incidentally, Mario Reyes, a construction worker, couldn’t afford a car. Stallworth, who was driving a Bentley, struck him when he crossed the road to catch the bus after working an all-nighter.

Stallworth plays for the Washington Redskins. He makes $840,000 a year.

We have lost all sense of proportion.

Larry Alex Taunton is the executive director of the Fixed Point Foundation and author of “The Grace Effect: How the Power of One Life Can Reverse the Corruption of Unbelief.” The views expressed in this column belong to Taunton.

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Celebrity • Crime • Opinion • Sports • United States

soundoff (168 Responses)
  1. guest

    I wondered, what has this to do with this forum?
    I can’t say I dislike sports, but after any sports event what has been proved that is of any moral, intellectual or community value. I mean, what has been contributed to society that makes life any better for others. I like what one person has said, “…after they [an athletic sports team] has hit, bounced or thrown a ball well, what else have they proven; can they successfully raise a child, build a house, put out a [dangerous] fire, or anything that really helps society, something that really counts? “ Oh yes, sports figures and many other celebrities can entertain people, but to what good? Sports shows are a waste of good time that could have been better spent, even if it is just taking a walk. Yes, I agree, a good friendly, robust game can be good exercise, but not a career. Sure, a good athlete earns a lot of money, but that’s only because too many people are willing to idolize them. Hummmmmmmm, I wonder, is this some kind of religion?

    August 8, 2013 at 9:24 am |
    • Apple Bush

      guest, that is why the dust bowl was so devastating.

      August 8, 2013 at 9:33 am |
  2. Apple Bush

    7 Non-Deadly Sins:

    1. Slapping a Christian
    2. Spitting in public
    3. Asking one of those guys with his pants hanging past his knees if he's retarted
    4. peeing in a bush
    5.hating most people
    6. not hating some people
    7. staying married for the kids sake

    August 8, 2013 at 9:17 am |
    • guest

      Are you supposed to be the ‘bad’ apple? I think you have a crummy sense of values, but more likely just wanting some attention. So you’ve got it, now, go away!

      August 8, 2013 at 9:31 am |
      • Apple Bush

        7 more un-deadly sins:

        1. checking out chicks
        2. beating little kids at air hockey
        3. breaking one off
        4. free ballin'
        5. cussing
        6. eating animals
        7. watching porn

        August 8, 2013 at 9:38 am |
  3. Pulpit

    The seven deadly sins



    Gluttony ,





    August 8, 2013 at 8:31 am |
    • Fresh Can of Poo

      Sin doesn't actually exist. It's just a made up list of naughties written by a bunch of old guys that never bathed and had inappropriate relationships with their livestock.

      August 8, 2013 at 8:47 am |
    • Alias

      And exactly how many of those are in the bible?

      August 8, 2013 at 11:45 am |
  4. Bloated

    I've had the most rancid smelling gas all day. It stinks like rotting broccoli. It's just terrible. I had to check my shorts many times because it was humid and the crack was sweaty. So, the hot, wet gas felt like liquid. I'm so glad I didn't blast espresso butt juice into my pants. It would have made my day terrible. What's really strange though is that I took an enormous dump, and ten minutes later I had the hot, moist walking farts again. They smelled even worse! The dump was a brutal mess straight from the bowels of el diablo. Ever smear a freshly microwaved pack of Reese's peanut butter cups into a shag carpet and then try to clean it up with sandpaper? That's what the cleanup was like after my huge dump today. Absolutely breathtaking. What I mean is that the stink was so thick that I could still smell and taste the aroma in the air while holding my breath to avoid it. It sunk into my pores. Sometimes a beefy dump is great, especially when it isn't all sloppy and messy. I like a good, hefty and dry log. Solid with no smear, and with just enough girth to leave a man feeling satisfied.

    August 7, 2013 at 11:41 pm |
  5. Alias

    i wonder if the author thinks leaving movie stars and other entertainers out of the article makes it more accurate.

    August 7, 2013 at 9:46 pm |
  6. Talkingeth in ye Oldeth toungueth, forsooth.

    *As if* Jebus gives a sh1t about what happens to millionaire US athletes, when he can ignore the millions of babies he lets lie every year of dehydration, and starvation.

    August 7, 2013 at 9:22 pm |
    • Alias

      But the athlete prays right there on the field, while all the children do is suffer and die.

      August 7, 2013 at 9:30 pm |
  7. I dislike sports and the offspring of intimate sibling relationships that watch them

    I must depart. Thank you sports fans, for living up to my prestated stereotypical behavior consisting of sheer ineptitude, mongrel idiocy and obvious obesity. I trust some of you will feel an inevitable desire to reply with one of your usual dimwitted retorts. But, it will be a pointless and fruitless endeavor, as you have absolutely no ambition and lack the ability of success in any of life's arenas. Otherwise, you wouldn't be a fan, you would actually be playing. Sit on that for a while and gain a few hundred more pounds.

    August 7, 2013 at 8:11 pm |
    • I'm sorry Dave, I'm afraid I can't do that

      Dong, where is my automobile?

      August 7, 2013 at 8:18 pm |
    • I dislike sports and the offspring of intimate sibling relationships that watch them

      Of course, I was rejected from t-ball at age 5, so now I just watch mud wrestling with my sister/wife while brushing my tooth with lard.

      August 7, 2013 at 8:34 pm |
    • Houston

      ....the ego has landed.

      August 7, 2013 at 8:47 pm |
    • Alias

      If you were as smart as you are trying to sound, you would know something about the correlation between people who watch sports and those who used to play them.

      August 7, 2013 at 9:33 pm |
  8. Vanadis

    Reyes was illegally crossing MacAurthur Causeway at dawn so he wouldn't miss that bus. Stallworth's intoxication and/or marijuana consumption may have prevented evasive action. We'll never know. The actions of both parties contributed to that accident and Stallworth correctly serves time in jail (only 30 days), a suspension and settled with the Reyes family for wrongful death. And he's not a star. Not a particulalry good example if one wants to moralize about double standards.

    August 7, 2013 at 8:11 pm |
    • Blame the victim......

      .......Much? Reyes was penalized with DEATH, there, McGillicuddy.

      August 7, 2013 at 8:38 pm |
  9. Age of Reason

    ...if Thomas' Jefferson & Paine, James Madison, Napoleon, Nietzche, Voltaire,Russell, Sir Eddy Gibbon, Pope Leo X, Charles Bradlaugh, Moncure Conway all stated that "JESUS" never existed, therefore, HE NEVER existed and do not believe in HIM!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    August 7, 2013 at 7:15 pm |
    • I'm sorry Dave, I'm afraid I can't do that

      Divine Jesus, not historical Jesus.

      August 7, 2013 at 7:19 pm |
    • Bill Deacon

      Or, if you are given to out of context and incomplete quotations, we can deduce that your reasoning abilities do not exist.

      August 8, 2013 at 9:45 am |
  10. thom d

    Pete Rose ONLY bet on his team. Don't write about subjects you don't know about.

    August 7, 2013 at 6:41 pm |
    • iRex

      You missed the entire point of this article.

      August 7, 2013 at 7:19 pm |
  11. ginterparkguy

    the issue is that we think athletes, celebrities, politicians and religious "leaders" are someone we should "emulate", "think highly of"....they are all overpaid regular people...no closer to a "god" than anyone else...

    August 7, 2013 at 6:07 pm |
  12. Tim

    You forgot re-gifting. As in Ohio State players exchanging memorabilia and awards for tattoos. Their only crime was getting caught. All of those other tattoos we see are fully paid for? The OSU tats are the only ones obtained against the NCAA rules? Yeah right.

    August 7, 2013 at 5:50 pm |
  13. Phelix Unger

    If this is all you have then its not enough, obviously. What have you done to change the judicial system so everyone who commits a crime isn't judged by their name, or station in life. Just thought we'd like to know, we already do.

    August 7, 2013 at 5:31 pm |
  14. CommonSensed

    CNN – you missed placement of this article by thiis much.

    Belongs in Entertainment, not Belief.

    Although fanatical fans are like religious nuts.

    So, maybe you're right.

    August 7, 2013 at 4:03 pm |
    • I'm sorry Dave, I'm afraid I can't do that

      Except sports exist.

      August 7, 2013 at 4:07 pm |
      • Segoy

        They gathering groups, cheer on their heroes and do an activity they think makes their lives better when it's all about money.
        Seems like sports and religion are very similar and exist equally.

        August 7, 2013 at 4:13 pm |
      • CommonSensed

        Reading comprehension fail.

        Religious nuts and fanatical fans both exist.

        I'm assuming you're talking about the deities that religious nuts believe in, but that has nothing to do with my post or this article.

        Move along.

        August 7, 2013 at 4:15 pm |
        • I'm sorry Dave, I'm afraid I can't do that

          It was a joke.

          August 7, 2013 at 4:17 pm |
  15. Reality

    Money corrupts explains most of the misconduct/sins. And since there is no hell, we should make the "roiders" pay in an earthly hell of returning our ticket and sports channel contract costs !!!!!!

    August 7, 2013 at 3:58 pm |
  16. I dislike sports and the offspring of intimate sibling relationships that watch them

    Sports fans have near permanent orange-stained hands from shoving Cheetos into their fat, disgusting mouth holes. The majority of them are morbidly obese and have far below average intelligence.

    August 7, 2013 at 3:35 pm |
    • I'm sorry Dave, I'm afraid I can't do that

      You are a turd sandwich.

      August 7, 2013 at 3:44 pm |
      • Johnny

        I must admit that I do love Cheetos.

        August 7, 2013 at 3:54 pm |
        • I'm sorry Dave, I'm afraid I can't do that


          August 7, 2013 at 3:59 pm |
      • I dislike sports and the offspring of intimate sibling relationships that watch them

        You are a self absorbed child with the mental capacity of a lead pipe.

        August 7, 2013 at 6:08 pm |
        • I'm sorry Dave, I'm afraid I can't do that

          Please elaborate.

          August 7, 2013 at 6:10 pm |
        • I dislike sports and the offspring of intimate sibling relationships that watch them

          I already did. Just sit there for a few years and let it sink in.

          August 7, 2013 at 7:24 pm |
        • I'm sorry Dave, I'm afraid I can't do that

          Pleasance is goldie.

          August 7, 2013 at 7:31 pm |
  17. I dislike sports and the offspring of intimate sibling relationships that watch them

    People that watch sports should be sent to special camps. Like the camps they had in the 40's. in Europe. You see where this is going.

    Sports are for the most mentally crippled bottom-feeders of society. You can tell which people watch sports in a crowd easily. Just look for the mouth breathers with puddles of drool forming under their feet after it cascades over their obese guts.

    Sports fans are the most worthless piles of human garbage in existence. Worse than the most annoying Christians imaginable.

    August 7, 2013 at 3:29 pm |
    • sam

      So how was band camp?

      August 7, 2013 at 3:44 pm |
      • A Conversation

        So this one time at band camp....

        August 7, 2013 at 4:04 pm |
      • I dislike sports and the offspring of intimate sibling relationships that watch them

        Irrelevant insult attempt. I never went to band camp. You are dismissed.

        August 7, 2013 at 6:10 pm |
        • sam

          Went straight over your head, didn't it. Pity. But not surprising.

          August 7, 2013 at 7:12 pm |
        • I dislike sports and the offspring of intimate sibling relationships that watch them

          No. I get the terribly staged attempt at jest. But as I stated in my reply, it is completely irrelevant. In order for jest to work, it requires a certain level of relevance. In this case, that level is zero. Therefore, the attempt falls flat on its face, thus leaving you with your limp wang in your own hand with no one remotely interested in playing with you, or it.


          But nowhere near the mild arousal of vague interest. You'd better stock up on Cheetos.

          August 7, 2013 at 7:33 pm |
    • Athy

      How about a christian sports fan? Where do they rate on your scale?

      August 7, 2013 at 5:13 pm |
      • I dislike sports and the offspring of intimate sibling relationships that watch them

        Take a cow's brain and use a brick to smash it on pavement covered in broken bottles. Urinate on brain matter. Scoop brain matter, pee and broken glass into brown paper sack. Place brown paper sack back into cow skull. Pray for a miraculous cow resurrection.

        The aftermath of the above is the only scale capable of ranking the atrocity which you have mentioned.

        August 7, 2013 at 6:05 pm |
        • jj

          Any guesses on how much this person was beaten up by athletes in HS? Dude, I suggest counseling.

          August 7, 2013 at 7:09 pm |
        • sam

          Oooh, someone's got issues. Not just with sports but...very specific fantasies about mutilating cows!

          What does your school guidance counselor say about these tendencies?

          August 7, 2013 at 7:14 pm |
        • I dislike sports and the offspring of intimate sibling relationships that watch them

          jj and sam, neither of your replies are relevant in that they both make false assumptions. You are both horrible at this little game.

          Ah yes, do your best to blindly insult with nary the clue as to the subject. Blissful ignorance is not your ally as it merely enhances the level of difficulty in which you attempt to gain an empty, pointless upper hand. And for what? And to impress whom? I trust you'll be taking screen shots of this hearty little exchange to show off to all two of your friends in order to gain approval of how e-tough each of you are in your own shallow little minds.

          You will however be left painfully unaware of just how much shame your acquaintances will feel for you.

          By all means, continue your glorious and triumphant charade of Internet prick waving. You're accomplishing SO much with it.

          August 7, 2013 at 7:45 pm |
        • I'm sorry Dave, I'm afraid I can't do that

          Keep trollin' trollin' trollin' trollin'.

          August 7, 2013 at 7:55 pm |
        • I dislike sports...

          ...with his stunning intellect and his rapier wit is clearly the winner of the game he is playing; of course he is only playing with himself.
          What a flipping dweeb.

          August 7, 2013 at 8:44 pm |
    • ginterparkguy

      obviously a woman !

      August 7, 2013 at 6:09 pm |
      • JR

        Obviously sucks at sports.

        August 7, 2013 at 6:37 pm |
        • I dislike sports and the offspring of intimate sibling relationships that watch them

          This empty response is the only response worth wasting the time to generate based on the complete lack of factual information stated in both of your pointless comments. You have not won the Internet today, nancies.

          August 7, 2013 at 7:48 pm |
  18. Trent

    How about the sin of 'pride'?

    August 7, 2013 at 3:18 pm |
    • Values

      Christian athletes need to exhibit 'integrity' and 'excellence', both on and off the field.

      August 7, 2013 at 3:23 pm |
      • Trent

        The sin that leads to the downfall of most atletes is the sin of 'pride', as Proverbs 16 states–'Pride goes before destruction, and haughtiness before a fall.'

        August 7, 2013 at 3:28 pm |
  19. I'm sorry Dave, I'm afraid I can't do that

    I don't understand why this is on the belief blog.

    August 7, 2013 at 3:13 pm |
    • sam

      It does seem to be a stretch.

      August 7, 2013 at 3:53 pm |
      • A Conversation

        I agree. I can fix that..."Tebow would never do any of these things!"


        August 7, 2013 at 4:06 pm |
        • sam

          Oh, that would have totally been a better article. They missed the boat on this one.

          August 7, 2013 at 4:38 pm |
        • Rebel Belle

          Well, now, if you worship Tewbow, you're an IDOLATOR, suger.

          August 7, 2013 at 5:09 pm |
        • ginterparkguy

          tebow? how can you trust anyone that puts bible verses on their face? lol...right...tebow....he will be looking for a job in the church soon...knowing his big ego...Tebow will probably try and create his own church..lol...like we need another church ...like we need more members in congress...! NOT

          August 7, 2013 at 6:14 pm |
    • I'm not a GOPer, nor do I play one on TV

      Perhaps because it doesn't belong on the sports page either?

      August 7, 2013 at 7:10 pm |
    • guest

      Could it be that celebrities are worshiped more than God?

      August 8, 2013 at 8:26 am |
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About this blog

The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.