Tampa Bay Buccaneers receiver Mike Williams was brought to the hospital after being stabbed in his home Sunday afternoon. Police claim that Williams, who is already facing criminal charges for trespassing and mischief, was stabbed in his left thigh with a kitchen knife by Eric Baylor, his brother. While Williams has been treated and released, a warrant has been put out for Baylor’s arrest. An incident such as this is not surprising news about the troubled Buccaneers pass catcher. However, there is a bigger issue at hand: Mike Williams’ stabbing reflects a growing trend in the NFL.
Prior to being drafted to the NFL, Williams starred at Syracuse University. He had a breakout year in 2007, his sophomore season, catching 10 touchdown passes to go along with 837 yards receiving. Things were lining up for a monster junior campaign, only Williams got caught cheating on a test and was suspended for the entire 2008 season. Skip a year, to 2009, and Williams was performing at an elite level again until he was dismissed from the team with only four games remaining due to a car crash he was involved in after a late-night casino excursion that violated team curfew. All of that after already being punished for a separate violation earlier that season. It later surfaced that the team was still willing to bring him back, only, according to Williams, he was dismissed due to a “misunderstanding” between he and the coach.
But despite questions about his character, the Buccaneers selected Mike Williams in the fourth round of the 2010 NFL draft. From there, he had a productive rookie campaign, setting the franchise record for receiving touchdowns with 11. He had emerged as a play maker in the Buccaneers’ offense until an injury ended his 2013 season prematurely, and his personal issues crept back into the picture. With the old regime out and new head coach Lovie Smith in charge, it is not for certain just how much patience the Buccaneers will have with the 26-year-old wideout.
These types of character issues are starting to run rampant in the NFL. The Jacksonville Jaguars have had a big headache with their ultra-talented receiver Justin Blackmon, who also came out of college with character issues as well, but that did not stop the Jags from selecting him fifth overall in 2012. Since then, he has had multiple suspensions for substance abuse, including an indefinite suspension that ended his 2013 season. It has not yet been determined when he will be reinstated.
Then, there is the widely publicized murder investigation involving former New England Patriots star tight end Aaron Hernandez. Plaxico Burress did time for unlawful carrying of a handgun after accidentally shooting himself in a nightclub. And the widely publicized Michael Vick incarceration due to an illegal dog fighting operation was all over the news. Adam “Pacman” Jones was involved in several run-ins with the law in the past. The list goes on, and will continue to grow for the sole purpose that aside from Hernandez, all of these players are still playing in the NFL.
It is because of this that there is a belief that permeates throughout North America that athletes are above the law. It is whispered about in high school hallways as select members of sports teams are given special privileges. It is echoed across university campuses as the star player gets caught breaking the rules, but suffers no consequences because there is a rivalry game on the weekend. It is read about in newspapers and seen on television as professional superstars get wrapped up in domestic disputes, drug scandals and murder investigations, only to walk away unscathed. If that is the precedent being set, and if that is what the youth of today and tomorrow are witnessing, then why should young athletes assume they are anything but untouchable?
It is a dangerous time for the NFL. Players must be careful about the message they are sending to the athletes of the future. Because if they are not, then events like the Mike Williams stabbing will not only reflect a growing trend in the NFL, they will be the only trend in the NFL.
Commentary by Kalen Skalesky