At every level of every team sport, a double standard applies.
Excuses are made for star players who get in trouble. Examples are made of marginal players who do.
The latest example of a guy for whom a team will look the other way comes from San Francisco, where there’s no way the 49ers will take action against linebacker Aldon Smith, even if he was allegedly drunk behind the wheel of a car and in possession of marijuana at 7:00 a.m. on a work day.
“That’s pretty exclusive to the league, well it is,” coach Jim Harbaugh said regarding whether the team would discipline Smith. “They have exclusive rights to the consequences and there will be consequences. There always is. Good or bad, we all have consequences.”
As I said on NBCSN’s Pro Football Talk on Friday evening, that’s baloney. Or perhaps another word starting with B.
Teams can do whatever they want in response to player misconduct. Last year, for example, the Steelers suspended defensive tackle Alameda Ta’amu two games after a DUI arrest. He could have fought the team’s attempt to circumvent the NFL’s “exclusive rights,” but he didn’t.
Eventually, and inevitably, a 49ers player without the skills possessed by Aldon Smith will get in trouble. And the 49ers will suspend him or deactivate him or cut him.
That’s OK. That’s the way it works. It would be nice if NFL teams were honest about a distinction that, right or wrong, always has been and always will be part of team sports.