On Friday, the folks at Deadspin hinted at a coming story of a relationship between Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez and a 17-year-old girl. The initial blurb, which didn’t and still doesn’t point out that a 24-year-old man who has consensual sex with a 17-year-old girl breaks no law, caused many to assume incorrectly that Sanchez could soon be in jail, especially since the headline proclaimed that “Mark Sanchez’s 17-year-old lady friend has found a lawyer.”
The truth is that Sanchez violated no laws or NFL policies, if the allegation is true. And the official story of Sanchez and a 17-year-old girl, which really doesn’t do anything other than provide enough detail to prove fairly convincingly that the relationship occurred, explains early in the narrative that Sanchez broke no laws.
So why, you ask, is it a story? Well, if the age of consent in New York were 18, it would have been a Lawrence Taylor/Mary Kay LeTourneau-type case, with Sanchez facing jail time due to a legal system that provides an artificial barrier to the ability of one human being to consent to sexual relations with a sufficiently older person. Even without the specter of criminal misconduct, it’s a story because it involves the highest-profile player on the highest-profile team in the NFL.
As we’ve said time and again, with the Jets’ unabashed desire for attention comes the reality of scrutiny, and a decision by Sanchez to date a 17-year-old necessarily will make headlines and raise eyebrows, regardless of whether it’s “right” or “wrong”.
The Jets said on Saturday that the team won’t be discussing Sanchez’s private life.
Jason Whitlock of FOXSports.com had a great take on the situation during Wednesday’s PFT Live. Newsworthiness is judged by the expected level of interest, and people will be interested in this story, even if their interest initially was heightened by the unspoken impression that Sanchez would be spending time wearing orange instead of green. The fact that reasonable people could be reasonably interested in the story was all the more reason for Sanchez to steer clear of any 17-year-old girls.
Indeed, the relationship began on New Year’s Eve, after an avalanche of negative press and other embarrassments for the franchise, including in the month of December alone the tripping incident involving former strength coach Sal Alosi and the bizarre photos and videos featuring the head coach’s wife. Sanchez, who seems like a level-headed guy, should have been able to recognize the problems that could arise from word getting out of a relationship with a 17-year-old girl. It hurts his image and marketability, and it could have created a postseason distraction for the team.
In the end, there’s really not much of a story. The full Deadspin article grasps for a narrative that would send a message deeper and more profound than “Mark Sanchez had sex with a 17-year-old girl.” In the end, that’s the only reason why folks will click the link — especially since plenty of people will instantly assume that the man who has witnessed more than a few receivers visit Revis Island could be destined for a trip to Rikers Island.