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Written by Mark Grey   

Plaxico Burress 

by MARK GREY 

Over the last two weeks, I've sat back and watched the fall-out of the Plaxico Burress shooting. The media has labeled him a thug, thrown his name in with the Pacman Joneses and Chris Henrys of the sporting world, and his own team has said it wants nothing to do with him. The mayor of New York even spoke out and expressed his interest in seeing Burress behind bars, or should I say, “prosecuted to the fullest.” While I have never been the biggest Plaxico fan in the world and have often wondered what he was thinking when he did that, when I heard Plaxico was carrying a gun in New York city, I knew exactly what he was thinking and I have no problem with it.

 

Let me start by saying that I fully understand that the law is the law and no one is above it no matter who he is. Yet, that doesn't mean that every law is a good one or that it can't actually hurt the people it was meant to protect. I often hear stories of females being harrassed by ex-boyfriends or stalkers only to be told by police that there is nothing police can do until the females are actually harmed. Now I know that's the law, but you can't honestly tell me that's what is safest for the potential victim. The law in New York city is that no hand guns are allowed but I still don't fault Burress for having one with him that night.

 

In a dream world, the law meaning no hand guns allowed would mean everyone is safe and neither the good guys nor the bad guys would have guns. However, we all know the world we live in is far from a dream world. When Plaxico left his house that night and made a decision to carry a hand gun with him he was thinking solely about his safety, and a law that puts a man behind bars for trying to protect himself just seems flawed to me. There is a difference between carrying a gun to be a tough guy and carrying a gun to protect yourself. The problem with so many of today's sports media figures is that the culture gap is so large between them and the athletes they cover, they can't even tell the difference between the good guys and the bad ones. Those who suggest Plaxico carries a gun because he is a trouble maker clearly aren't living in the real world. Do a quick Google search with the words “superstar-athlete-shoots-innocent-man” and see what you find. Let me save you the time: the answer is nothing. But do a search of “superstar-athlete-shot-robbed-at-gunpoint” and you will find more articles than you could read in a year. The fact is, today, superstar athletes have a target on their backs and as the economy gets worse, that target only grows.

 

Last week, one day after watching two hours of columnists bashing Burress, I tuned into ESPN's “Outside the Lines.” There was a story about Richard Collier, the Jacksonville Jaguars player who was shot 14 -- count them -- 14 times while waiting in his car after a night of partying. Collier was lucky to survive the shooting, but he lost his leg and his career. One look at the Collier story and I don't blame Burress for feeling the need to protect himself. Do you think Collier wonders why Burress had a gun in the club that night? No surprise Joey Porter said he knows why Plaxico had a gun, Porter has already been shot outside of a nightclub. What's that you say, Mr. Out of Touch? Maybe these athletes should watch were they go? Tell that to NBA player Chris Wilcox who was robbed at gun point while walking into a local diner less than one mile away from his college campus. Why don't these players just hire people to protect them, you say? Ask Plaxico's teammate Steve Smith who was robbed at gun point just nights before Burress' shotting, allegedly by his own driver. Maybe if they just stayed home they wouldn't have to worry about being robbed, right? I would say ask Shawn Taylor if that is true but we all know that's not possible. You can, however, ask any one of the many athletes who have been robbed at gun point in their own homes in the last year alone. There is no way around it. These athletes are targets and the sooner they realize that it can happen to them and they protect themselves, the better.

 

Plaxico BurressThe most disturbing thing to me in all of this is the lack of concern for these players' lives. When Joey Porter spoke out saying he owned a gun to protect himself and understood why Burress did too, people began to bash him as well. On ESPN's “Around the Horn,” all four columnists said that Porter was wrong and needed to just be quiet. Bill Plaschke of the Los Angles Times dismissed Porter's comments altogether saying, “he just wants to be a tough guy.” Are you serious, Bill? How inhumane can you be? This a man who has already been shot, where someone in that same shooting died, and you tell him when he tries to protect himself to “stop trying to be a tough guy?” Would you tell a female rape victim who refused to walk alone at night to stop overreacting? Would you tell someone who lost a home to fire that it's stupid for him not to allow candles in their home? How about the parents of a child who was mauled to death? Would you tell them you don't see why they don't like dogs? The point is, you can't tell someone who has had a life threating experience how he should feel about his own personal safety, especially when you don't share his life experiences. I remember running into Wizards forward Andray Blatche a year after he was shot two times in his car leaving a night club, and he still looked like he was shaken up. He told me he no longer felt safe anywhere in the city and didn't trust anyone. I recently asked one NBA player if he owned a gun and he told me “of course.” When I asked why, he told me he was robbed at gun point outside a mall in California in broad day light by what he thought was a fan seeking an autograph. One NFL player who had his off- season home broken into while the season was going on told me he didn't even want to keep the house anymore. He told me that he is not at the home during the season but had been home just the week before on his by-week and later wondered what might have happened if he had been home during the break-in. Most of today's athletes' safety concerns stem from either their own prior life experiences or those of a teammate.

 

Most professional athletes don't carry guns because they think they are “tough guys,” they do it because they are tough guys and everyone else knows it. If people could get rich off of knocking down old ladies and taking their bingo money they would, but criminals know that if you want the big money you have to go after the big targets. As big of a target as these athletes are, many of them are even bigger and stronger physically. If the average human being is looking to settle a score with a 6'7 345 pound man like Collier, you better believe he is not looking for a fair fist fight and has some kind of weapon with him. Likewise, you don't break into the house of the hardest hitting man in the NFL with a back-up plan to wrestle with him in case he is home. Most of these athletes are blessed with abnormal size and strength and anyone looking to take something from them is going to be doing it with a weapon. In a world with no guns, guys like Collier and Porter would have no need to fear anyone, but in todays' world a skinny 16 year old kid can kill an NFL strong saftey with one lucky shot to the leg. 

 

I am not saying that because Burress is a star football player he has the right to break the law or that the law doesn't apply to him. What I am saying is that just because it's the law that you can't have a gun in New York city doesn't mean the criminals don't. The fact that Burress had a gun in the club that night shows that it is possible to get a gun into a night club in the city. In a day where so many athletes are still walking around thinking it can't happen to them, its good to see many are starting to realize it can happen to anyone. Today's athletes know whether they are at home with their family, at the mall during the day, or at a club at night, they are targets. So for all those living in a dream world who hope that Burress' arrest will serve as a lesson to other players, let me assure you that Sean Taylor and Darrent Williams' deaths last year have already taught them a much bigger lesson.

 

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