The conduct of US sports stars is once again under the microscope.
This week, a former NFL player has assaulted another inmate whilst in jail on bail and the biggest news story was that of NBA star Raymond Felton being charged with firearms offences.
The rumours of this story grow even worse as there are hints of domestic abuse involved as well.
But the biggest problem/question is how the New York Knicks, Felton’s NBA team, has welcomed him back with open arms less than a day later and that he’s available to play on Friday.
I’ll try and point out both sides of the coin here. To start with, there is the biggest mantra in law: innocent until proven guilty.
Felton has only been charged and whilst the stories sound pretty clear cut to his committing a felony, he has been released on bail.
You can hardly argue that he is expendable as the Knicks are currently suffering a terrible run, which doesn’t look like improving anytime soon.
There is no legal reason that Felton can’t play and the team spirit showed in supporting him at a tough time from the Knicks is admirable.
However there is the problem that comes with the publicity and press coverage this has got. Questions will be asked and all the attention, despite the fact they are playing the Miami Heat and their superstars, will be on Felton.
Whilst not any part of a team’s disciplinary policy, we have seen people charged with criminal acts very quickly dropped or suspended lately. You only have to look at how quick the Patriots dropped Aaron Hernandez or how soon after allegations arose over Richie Incognito to see what this could mean for teams.
Having the attention on Felton and his mere presence, although from what we can see it is welcome by the team, has the potential to interrupt the harmony in a squad.
Questions and doubts will form over the character of Felton in other players minds and it only take one millisecond thought for a situation to become very uncomfortable in the locker room.
On the flip side, this could be perfect for the Knicks as a team.
There is the old saying that all PR is good PR and as long as the team respond to it, this could be the turnaround their season needs.
One thing that a team under pressure in any sport does not do well is react positively under pressure to improve. This even could not only bind the squad together a lot more as a whole but the eyes of the world won’t be on them, they’ll be on Felton.
Meaning that there is none of the eyes or the pressure on them to turn around an abysmal run, which conversely means they’ll be more relaxed and in a better playing zone.
I’m a firm believer of the innocent until proven guilty mantra, as long as it doesn’t conflict with my morals. In this case, there’s no reason for me to think of Felton of anything less than an idiot waving a gun around who, thankfully did no physical harm before having it handed in to the authorities.
My opinion may change as evidence is heard but I don’t believe it should stop him playing for the Knicks in the mean time and it might even help them a lot more than they can appreciate right now.