Athletes above the law…not always the case?

December 14, 2011

Political Theory


Recent incidents of athletes being caught drinking and driving have captured my attention.  This summer, former fab 5 member, Jalen Rose was sentenced to 92 days in jail and a year of probation following a DUI arrest.  The judge did end up suspending 72 days of the sentence, but he was in jail for about three weeks none the less.  However, Pistons Center Ben Wallace was sentenced today to only a year of probation and 30 hours of community service following his charge of drunk driving.  In Wallace’s case, an unloaded gun was also found in his car.

The article found here explains Ben Wallace’s sentencing: http://www.washingtonpost.com/sports/wizards/pistons-center-ben-wallace-gets-probation-for-drunken-driving-gun-possession-charges/2011/12/13/gIQA4s23rO_story.html

What I find most interesting about theses cases is that both were charged in the same county, yet given different punishments. Wallace blew a 0.14% one stopped, which was well over the legal limit of 0.08% in Michigan.  However, Rose blew exactly a 0.08% at the time he was stopped, but a blood test revealed that he was indeed at 0.12% at the time he was driving. I found it interesting that although Rose’s BAC was lower, he received a much higher sentence than Wallace (who had a gun in the car!).

At first, I tried to justify the differences in sentencing based on the reputation of the two players.  However, this only baffled me more.  Jalen Rose as notably dedicated his post-pro career life to community service.  He is involved in numerous charitable organizations and has even opened his own charter school in Detroit.

This brings me to the topic of equality.  Do you think that these gentlemen were treated fairly in their sentencing? I guess my main problem is that I don’t understand why there is such a difference in the sentencing.  It appears to me that Ben Wallace was given the star treatment, possibly because he still is an NBA star, while Jalen Rose was treated, possibly, as an average Joe because he can be considered an NBA has been.

Do you think Wallace received a lesser sentence due to the fact that he is a current NBA player for the Pistons? What is your take on the sentencing of both Wallace and Rose? Do you think the differences between the two cases makes an argument against athletes being above the law?

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8 Comments on “Athletes above the law…not always the case?”

  1. chkeeler Says:

    Very interesting post. Being a big fan of both these two players, I was disappointed when they both were charged with a DUI. Being stars of their caliber, they always have the option of getting a taxi or limo to drive them anywhere after they have been drinking, so I think a DUI is simply inexcusable. Saying that, I realize that men make stupid decisions in their lives, and we all deserve a second chance. I too was initially baffled when I heard that Big Ben received less of a penalty than did Jalen for basically the same crime. However, there was one thing that I had forgotten. Shortly before Jalen’s arrest, ESPN featured a documentary on the Fab Five featuring Jalen and his teammates college life/ achievements. In it they discussed how the Wolverines were “bad boys” on the court, and how they changed the game of basketball into more of a hip-hop embracing culture. The documentary also showed Jalen’s mishaps with the law during college, so the public saw that he had a history of hanging out with the “wrong” people. I believe this played a huge role in the harsher sentencing of Jalen as compared to Ben Wallace.

  2. sgbraid Says:

    I agree with chkeeler. It is disappointing to see two athletes — or ex-athlete in the case of Rose — get caught for drunk driving. These two people are always in the public eye and should set a good example for youngsters who look up to them. Though, they may not want to be, they are both role-models for all young basketball players or any other type of athlete.
    That being said, i do think that the punishments were quite different and unfair according to the report. it is written above that, “Wallace blew a 0.14% one stopped, which was well over the legal limit of 0.08% in Michigan. However, Rose blew exactly a 0.08% at the time he was stopped, but a blood test revealed that he was indeed at 0.12% at the time he was driving. I found it interesting that although Rose’s BAC was lower, he received a much higher sentence than Wallace (who had a gun in the car!).”
    It appears that Wallace had a much high blood-alcohol level than Rose while also possessing a gun in his car. Rose ended up with a much harsher sentence than Wallace. I think that athletes should not be given star treatment because they play sports. Instead, they should be used as examples for youngsters. If we can show young athletes that they will be given a harsh sentence if they commit a crime, then maybe they will think twice before drinking and driving, or any other sort of unlawful acts that they might be tempted to commit.

  3. ethankurtzman Says:

    This post instantly attracted me as I often think about the heightened treatment of our celebrities. You make a good and well researched point in this post. When Ben Wallace’s sentencing was revealed, I was sincerely surprised to see that he didn’t receive any jail time like Jalen Rose had. The first thing that came to my mind was that Ben Wallace received a lesser sentence because the NBA stepped in to protect their money-making star. Not to say that Jalen Rose didn’t have a top notch lawyer, but the NBA is a massive corporation that holds a lot of power in the business and legal world. The lawyers for the NBA are the best of the best and certainly play a large role in their clients received sentencing. I truly believe that it was in the NBA’s best interest to keep Ben Wallace out of prison thus he was able to procure an alternative sentence.

  4. nnvirani Says:

    I agree with both posts above. The negative light Jalen Rose is portrayed as, being a bad boy, may lead to people having negative predetermined opinions about a person without knowing the truth about what they did or who they are. Jalen Rose was an all-star athlete at one point and Ben Wallace is still one of the better players in the league. There is undoubtably a double standard that exists in America. I know of multiple sons/daughters or relatives of police officers that have gotten out of a ticket just because a family member is in the police officer. This is similar to giving a pro athlete more leniency because they are on television. If young athletes grow up seeing famous athletes avoiding legal trouble because of who they are, what would stop them from using the same advantage. This advantage will always practically exist in society because many of us get star struck and want to do things out of the ordinary because we appreciate who they are. This is not fair and should not be the case but it is evident that that’s the world we live in. Wallace was more intoxicated and had a weapon in the car. How does one justify a lesser sentencing for higher intoxication? It does not make sense. However, you must put yourself in someone else’s shoes. If were a police officer and pulled over two people speeding 20 miles per hour over the speed limit and one of the victims was a random man and the other was Michael Jordan, do you think there is any chance you would let Michael Jordan go just because of who he is? Personally, I probably would but ideally I know this is wrong.

  5. verlong Says:

    Stars and celebrities (not just in sports) get treated differently than “normal” people. Is it fair? Absolutely not. Does it makes sense? Kind of. These cases come under a lot of criticism because people like us look and analyze the reasons why someone would be sentenced to what they are. When someone like us gets arrested for drunk driving, it isn’t going to be receiving constant media coverage, but when a celebrity does, it will be all over the place. I guess that the image of each celebrity contributes to the sentencing (as you say in your post, and also from what I have observed in general). I think that everyone should be treated equally. Drunk driving is no game. You should be punished for doing it, even if you are the President of the United States. Sentencing should be “fair” and “just,” hot based off of the influences that society has. I need to look deeper into both of these cases in the future for my own curiosity. Very interesting post. Thanks for sharing!

  6. mcdonmeg Says:

    I found this article interesting, because it is so true that celebrities and professional athletes get special treatment with the law. In my first blog, I talked about Lindsey Lohan and how many times she has gotten in trouble with the law with DUI’s, MIP’s, and breaking her probation. However, in all the times that she has gotten in trouble, never has she been punished severely. Instead, they punish he with time in jail, and then soon after lessen the punishment. In all the responses I received everyone agreed that of course giving special treatment to professionals is not fair. But like other people say, I think that everyone would judge the situation differently if you had to deal with celebrities. People classify celebrities in another group, and almost act like they are super human super hero’s and therefore treat them differently all the time. They give them free stuff and let them get away with a ton of things that the average person wouldn’t be allowed to get away with. It’s not fair but it’s just how our society works.

  7. asgersh Says:

    Both these players were charged in the same district that I grew up in. Sentencing has a lot to do with prior record and in 48th district the sentencing for certain crimes drastically differ depending on the judge that is assigned to the case. The judge that Rose had is known for putting first time offenders in jail for the maximum amount of time, which for DUI is 93 days. I think that Rose is a victim of the judge he received once again trying to make an example of a figure that is in the spotlight of a community. I believe it is inexcusable to ever get a DUI. Not only do you endanger yourself, but everyone around you. I believe being famous either gets you a get out of jail free card or can land you with the maximum penalties. Stars are often never treated fairly in the justice system, often they are on both extremes, either receive no time or the maximum penalty. I believe famous people should be treated the same as anyone else in justice system. Even though judges are supposed to be neutral and just stick to what the law says, often especially in 48th district they seem to pick and choose favorites.

  8. acicurel Says:

    Like any NBA fan I was saddened by these incidents. I feel that Ben Wallace may have been given a lesser punishment because he is an active player in the NBA. The fact that this incident is impacting an active player draws a lot more attention to drunk driving and its consequences. The court failed to make an example of Big Ben and use his case to prevent other DUIs. While DUIs are not nearly as heinous a crime as dog fighting, it can be just as deadly. The court made an example of Michael Vick and the community service he has done as a result of the incident is making a difference. The court failed to take a lesson from this.

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