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Opinion

Celebrity punishment fails to promote integrity

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September 21, 2007

American media headlines have been plagued with the outrageous recklessness of celebrities and professional
athletes, from the Atlanta Falcons quarterback, Michael Vick and his pit bull slaughterhouse to Disney Channel’s 18-year-old “High School Musical” star Vanessa Hudgens and her sleazy nude photos leaking to the Internet. This isn’t anything new; summer headlines were frequently concerned with such shenanigans as Paris Hilton’s jail fiasco, Lindsay Lohan’s OWI and apparent cocaine problem, and more recently, O.J. Simpson’s arrest on Sunday for an alleged armed robbery of sports memorabilia.

It seems that American celebrities and professional athletes feel that they are above the law or even an
exception to it. It’s not a new concept to American judicial officials — they have dealt with such proceedings since the establishment of Hollywood itself. Recently the idea of professional athlete conduct clogged news headlines across the nation. If it’s not Vick and his dog fighting antics, it’s the Bears’ linebacker Lance Briggs fleeing the scene of his $350,000 totaled Lamborghini. According to CBS2chicago.com, “He was charged with leaving the scene of an accident, a misdemeanor, and failure to give immediate notice and improper lane usage.”

You don’t have to be an employee of the Chicago Police Department or have a degree in criminal justice to know the obvious. Lance Briggs was likely drunk, or under the effects of some sort of illicit substance. The long and short of it, Briggs was released on $100 bond and has court on Oct. 4. In another case, Vick was federally charged with illegal dog fighting.

Much speculation has taken place surrounding the mystery of the events Vick actually took part in. Animal rights activists around the nation have protested that Vick should get no less than 18 months in federal prison and suspension without pay from the NFL. Coincidentally, the NFL Commissioner suspended Vick indefinitely without pay until 2010, while his trial beings sometime in November.

The whole situation with Vick really makes me think. I believe animals, like humans, have rights. However, pit bulls that are naturally bred to fight should be allowed to do so under certain restrictions. What gets me is the aftermath of the matches Vick and company apparently gambled on. Dogs that were severely injured and could not further compete were either drowned or hanged as means of execution. I don’t think I would have such a problem with the fighting if they were to use such means as euthanasia or even the old-fashioned technique used in “Old Yeller,” for example—pointblank execution. At the very least I would not get rid of one of the most charismatic quarterbacks to ever see the field because his colleagues made poor decisions.

As for celebrities Hilton, Britney Spears and Lohan, they straight up deserve the punishments they’ve received, and then some. But Lohan’s OWI, Hilton’s 45-day jail sentence for violation of her probation in lieu of an alcohol-related reckless driving case, and Spears’ stumbling performance and questionable motherly tactics all receive far more attention in national media than necessary. I feel their antics are treated with too few consequences.

These celebrities and professional athletes make more money than you and I do in a lifetime. Why do they receive preferential treatment in the American judicial system? We may receive the same punishments for similar actions, but we aren’t making $100 million in our professional careers.

Celebrities and professional athletes receive a treatment from the American judicial system that flatters their popularity. They have been made examples of, yet most continue living their outrageously overcompensated lifestyles.

Erik Wood is a student at UW-River Falls.