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. children of Israel

    Esau is Edom the Devil himself, straight out of the womb (Psalm 58:3). This is why the most high God change Jacob name to Israel (Isaiah 46:3)

    August 15, 2013 at 2:12 pm |
  2. children of Israel

    Is the Devil red? Esau came out red (Genesis 25:25)

    August 15, 2013 at 2:04 pm |
  3. children of Israel

    The Egyptians are worshipping the Devil, even the Arabs are worshipping the Devil. Esau is the Devil (Matthew 4:10)

    August 15, 2013 at 1:41 pm |
  4. children of Israel

    The Bible is written for the Israelites only, and Christ himself is an Israelite. Is that a lie? (Matthew 15:11) Christians are finished *Revelation 10:7*

    August 15, 2013 at 1:36 pm |
  5. children of Israel

    The world loves Shakespeare & his old English, especially these colleges & universities along with the Hollywood A listers. The world hates the King James Bible and the old English written thereof, because it is the Word of God and the words of the Lord. *Exodus 13:15 therefore I sacrifice to the Lord all that openeth the matrix, being males; but all the firstborn of my children I redeem. *Matthew 1:25 And knew her not till she had brought forth her firstborn son: and he called his name JESUS. *Matthew 13:55 Is not this the carpenter's son? is not his mother called Mary? and his brethren, James, and Joses, and Simon, and Judas? *Matthew 10:4 Simon the Canaanite, and Judas Iscariot, who also betrayed him. *Judges 3:5*

    August 13, 2013 at 6:49 pm |
    • Observer

      children of Israel,

      Those who "hate the Bible" often do so because, besides some good morals, it also contains errors, contradictions, hypocrisy, and nonsense. No one believes every word of it.

      August 13, 2013 at 6:58 pm |
      • hharri

        No one has proven the bible is inaccurate. No one has demonstrated it contains any contradictions, ever, not one time.

        August 15, 2013 at 11:51 am |
        • Observer


          Get serious. Have you ever read a Bible?

          – II Chronicles 22:2 “Forty and two years old was Ahaziah when he began to reign, and he reigned one year in
          Jerusalem.” [KJV]
          – II Kings 8:26 “Two and twenty years old was Ahaziah when he began to reign; and he reigned one year in Jerusalem.”

          One of MANY "ooops" in the Bible.

          August 15, 2013 at 1:41 pm |
  6. children of Israel

    The first step towards salvation is, you must destroy that white Jesus image or you will die in your sins! God is light *Proverbs 6:23 For the commandment is a lamp; and the law is light; *Matthew 25:8 And the foolish said unto the wise, Give us of your oil; for our lamps are gone out. *2nd Kings 14:6 but every man shall be put to death for his own sin. *John 8:24 I said therefore unto you, that ye shall die in your sins: for if ye believe not that I am he, ye shall die in your sins. *John 9:9 Some said, This is he: others said, He is like him: but he said, I am he.

    August 13, 2013 at 5:09 pm |
  7. children of Israel

    The end of America is 911 (Revelation 9:11)

    August 13, 2013 at 4:27 pm |
  8. children of Israel

    If someone calls you a racist, called them a satanist! The world is defending Satan and his kingdom. Are you scared? (Matthew 19:17)

    August 13, 2013 at 4:20 pm |
  9. children of Israel

    Christians are devil sun worshippers, like O Lucifer, son of the morning! Sunrise Sunday *Ezekiel 8:16 and they worshipped the sun toward the east. (A racist is like a store front for the satanists to sell their worldly goods) *Revelation 9:20*

    August 13, 2013 at 4:05 pm |
  10. txpatriot

    Until I read this, I never thought of murder as a laughing matter. Come to think of it, I still don't.

    August 13, 2013 at 2:33 pm |
  11. Portland tony

    Mixing professional "sports" and amateur athletes is the old comparison of apples and oranges. Pro players have over the years essentially become entertainers and are paid vast sums of money to perform for a high paying public. My thought....I don't care what PEDS, brand of shoes or value of the jewlry they wear. as long as they provide exciting entertainment. The amateurs do what they do for their schools, free education, records, personal bests, the "Gipper", fame etc.....and in some cases the slight chance of becoming a highly paid "entertainer". These are athletes who's participation in sport is strictly for the love of sport. All athletes and entertainers represent a cross section of of the worlds population and their personal behavior is no different than that of the rest of us!

    August 11, 2013 at 2:18 pm |
  12. Ryan

    The six destructive sins of 'Sports'

    S- sin of Self worship

    P-sin of Pride

    O- sin of feeling Omnipotent

    R- sin of risky behavior

    T- sin of falling for Temptation

    S- sin of S.ex

    August 10, 2013 at 6:40 pm |
    • Observer

      Wow. God is guilty on 4 out of 6.

      August 11, 2013 at 5:40 pm |
    • Neimrk

      Getting laid must have been your greatest accomplishment in life.

      August 12, 2013 at 11:43 am |
      • Roy

        For some "it" is an accomplishment as in landing on the moon!!

        August 12, 2013 at 6:02 pm |
  13. Peds


    August 10, 2013 at 1:37 am |
  14. Nick

    Our goal was to win, to win a Super Bowl, but also to win in the right way, to be role models to our community, to represent Indianapolis, the state of Indiana and the National Football League-Tony D

    August 9, 2013 at 10:00 pm |
    • Principle

      As long as winning with integrity is the goal of athletes there is fair play.

      August 9, 2013 at 10:04 pm |
      • Idol family

        We are here 😉

        August 9, 2013 at 10:07 pm |
        • Val

          Stop deleting posts, makes you look smug!

          August 9, 2013 at 11:58 pm |
    • Peds

      albert pujols-
      “I've said time and time again that I would never take, or even consider taking, anything illegal. I've been tested hundreds of times throughout my career and never once have I tested positive. It is irresponsible and reckless for Jack Clark to have falsely accused me of using PEDs. My faith in Jesus Christ, and my respect for this game are too important to me. I would never be able to look my wife or kids in the eye if I had done what this man is accusing me of.

      “I know people are tired of athletes saying they are innocent, asking for the public to believe in them, only to have their sins exposed later down the road. But I am not one of those athletes, and I will not stand to have my name and my family's name, dragged through the mud.

      August 10, 2013 at 1:38 am |
  15. Saraswati

    Michael Vick and steroids were prety much the nails in the coffin for me on professional sports. Now I just think of most professional sports as a sad joke and those who follow them as either deluded or entirely lacking ethics.

    August 8, 2013 at 3:17 pm |
    • sly

      Wow – you are really quite ignorant aren't you?

      Question: Do you think pro atheletes come from Mars, Pluto or some other planet, or do you think, just maybe, they are human's like you?

      Our atheletes, just like our politicans, are IDENTICAL to us, they ARE us. They are the guy next door who you used to BBQ with and watch sports with, then that lawyer runs for Congress, and you hate him and blame him for all your problems?

      Bunch of fools in America – blame the other guy, that's what we're good for now. Instead of recognizing that 'they' are the same as us, except in the case of atheletes, they have better skills, and when it comes to politics they are more intelligent and have actually gone to college. Won't stop Americans from calling them names then. Must be jealously. What else could it be?

      August 8, 2013 at 3:46 pm |
      • Saraswati

        Where did I say I either hated pro athletes or blamed them for any of my supposed problems? You have some serious reading comprehension problems, and no, I don't hold pro athletes responsible.

        August 8, 2013 at 4:37 pm |
        • sly

          Ok, maybe I was kinda combining your criticism of sports fans and players with the author's rant, but maybe I didn't understand your comments.

          Somehow this author seems to think atheletes are different ('they cheat', 'they utter racial slurs', 'they gamble') when it seems to me not only atheletes do these things, which makes his article really dumb.

          Although steriods are 'unethical' I guess, atheletes have been cheating forever, so it is part of the game. Hank Aaron did speed, Mays tried it. Everyone since the Greeks has been trying to find the edge.

          August 8, 2013 at 4:48 pm |
        • Saraswati

          @sly, I agree everybody does some of these things, but not at the same rate for all these issues (steroids) and not with the same relevance (gambling). When I worked for a financial insti tution I was forbidden from gambling on threat of loss of my job. In this context it was a serious issue to gamble and the business took it seriously. The same goes for betting on a sport you play. It's a much different thing than your neighbor making the same bet. I agree athletes are human, and I don't care about the normal amounts of cheating on one's spouse or whatever. But the fact that an industry looks the other way on issues that do matter is a problem. And steroids and other enhancers do make the sports a joke at this point. Who cares which athlete has the resources to get away with more cheating? And people "forgiving" Vic for what he did? When you exhibit pure evil you are evil and anyone who looks the other way either doesn't get how humans work or doesn't really care about what he did.

          August 8, 2013 at 4:58 pm |
        • Saraswati

          Even for steroids, I don't blame the athletes. I doubt ou can compete at a high level in most sports without some form of enhancer. The issue with all these things isn't in what the athletes do, but what the governing boards let them get awa with, either because it's more profitable or because they can't stop it.

          August 8, 2013 at 5:12 pm |
  16. Apple Bush

    7 more deadly sins:

    1. liking lesbians
    2. getting as many free drinks as possible at the poker bar before getting kicked out
    3.smelling your pits
    4. enjoying your BM
    5. happy endings
    6. laughing at Christians
    7. not laughing at your mom

    August 8, 2013 at 10:15 am |
    • Apple Bush

      ok, they are not deadly. Try new sweeter tasting sweeties!

      August 8, 2013 at 10:17 am |
  17. Apple Bush

    I smiled to myself, turned around and headed for home, not realizing he was waiting. He had doubled back and parked in the alley. He was in the house. He was not wearing his belt. This is childhood.

    August 8, 2013 at 9:43 am |
    • Fate

      You are a lucky boy.

      August 8, 2013 at 10:09 am |
  18. Honey Badger Don't Care

    I think that the first one should be being a whiny little beotch.

    You're playing a GAME!!! Something kids do in a lot or a backyard. You're not that special!!!

    You get paid a million dollars or more to play a GAME. There are people fighting and dying overseas for minimum wage that actually matter in this world, NOT YOU.

    August 8, 2013 at 9:43 am |
    • Nettie

      No kidding. The sense of entitlement these guys seem to have is off the charts. That people idolize them and excuse their bad behaviors is ridiculous.

      August 8, 2013 at 1:39 pm |
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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.