We have seen this act ad nauseam.
You know the one where a pro athlete repeatedly gets into some kind of trouble and yet, unlike average Joe Citizen, seldom suffers the consequences.
Such are the cases of Milwaukee Brewers outfielder Ryan Braun and Milwaukee Bucks center Larry Sanders, arguably the faces of their respective franchises.
Braun’s missteps have been well documented. He is an admitted performance-enhancing drug user and an admitted liar. Usually, that’s a lethal combination that ensures one of a one-way ticket out of town.
No so with Braun. Instead of quickly distancing themselves from him — as his former friend and business associate Aaron Rodgers of the Green Bay Packers wisely did — and sending a loud and clear message to their fan base that what Braun did was unacceptable and won’t be tolerated, Brewers owner Mark Attanasio and Brewers general manager Doug Melvin have embraced the embattled Brewers star. They have publicly stated Braun will be a part of the Brewers’ 2014 team. In fact, Melvin revealed several teams have inquired about Braun’s availability but he’s never entertained the possibility of jettisoning him.
Can you imagine if this was another Brewer, someone further down on the food chain, who had messed up to the extent Braun did? Attanasio and Melvin would have packed his bags and escorted him to the airport.
But Braun is an exceptionally talented player and, not coincidentally, a money-maker. He’s the one and perhaps only player on the Brewers’ roster who can put fannies in the Miller Park seats and pad Attanasio’s bank account.
As nauseating as the Brewers’ decision to stick with Braun is, the Bucks’ heads-buried-in-the-sand stance regarding Sanders is equally sickening.
Sanders’ issues, like Braun’s, have been well-chronicled. Bucks Nation witnessed Sanders’ volatile behavior last season with his numerous confrontations with officials.
What they didn’t observe was Sanders’ troubling behind-the-scene antics, ones that were downright disturbing. He had an heated altercation with then teammate Monta Ellis during the playoffs against the Miami Heat, and I was recently told Sanders had punched another teammate in the team’s locker room earlier in the season.
If that wasn’t enough, last winter, Sanders was issued a pair of citations for leaving his two German shepherd puppies outside in the cold for hours without proper shelter, food and water.
Yet, despite all these red flags concerning Sanders and his irrational behavior, Bucks owner Herb Kohl and general manager John Hammond didn’t have any inclination toward trading him. Instead, Kohl/Hammond extended Sanders’ contract, giving him a lucrative four-year, $44 million deal. That didn’t surprise some NBA officials I had spoken with, it shocked them.
So what did Sanders do to show his appreciation to Kohl and Hammond for making him and his family financially secure for the rest of their lives? He stupidly gets involved in a brawl at a downtown Milwaukee nightclub — just three games into the regular season.
A surveillance video released by the Milwaukee police department showed Sanders throwing champagne bottles. An individual claimed he was hit in the face by one of those champagne bottles and required eight stitches to close the gash. That incident could be grounds for a felony charge. Instead, the Milwaukee district attorney’s office didn’t file any charges against Sanders.
Sanders, who broke his right hand in the brawl (he and some Bucks officials earlier insisted he had hurt the hand in a game), was given citations for disorderly conduct and assault and battery.
That should have been the end of Sanders’ sad saga, right? Wrong.
In a recent game, Sanders was issued a technical foul … while he was sitting on the bench in street clothes. A few days later, he went on a racially charged rant on Instagram.
Sanders’ actions, along with Braun’s, have showed us once again that you can cheat, lie and be a miscreant … just as long as you’re a professional sports star.
Gery Woelfel is a sports reporter for The Journal Times. Gery can be reached by calling (262) 631-1713 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org