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Commentary: True Personal Responsibility

By Stephen Whitley, KERA 90.1 commentator

Dallas, TX –

Kenny Rogers' apology Wednesday to the two cameramen he shoved last week and to his fans is a good first step toward him taking responsibility for his actions. The incident, caught on film by a cameraman Rogers threatened seconds later, showed what was probably the worst behavior by a major sports figure in recent memory. Rogers' actions, coming on the heels of another outburst earlier in the week when he punched a water cooler, were in Rogers own words "unacceptable." While fans and pundits will observe Rogers in the coming months to see if he keeps to his promise not to do this again, reactions of many fans to this incident are disturbing.

It seems when major sports figures lose their temper and lash out at fans or umpires, fans are quick to explain away their actions by saying, "He's a tough competitor," or "He was having a bad day and just lost his cool." One doesn't hear similar justifications when a regular Joe loses his cool. Why are sports figures held to a different standard? Perhaps it is because sports figures are so exalted, looked up to by so many, so many people have so much invested in these people being heroes, that it's simply too difficult to admit they sometimes make serious mistakes. Perhaps the desire to do right is overshadowed by the desire to win for these fans.

It was troubling to see the reaction of many fans who seemed to be willing to give Rogers a pass to keep the Rangers hopes of a winning season alive. The day after the latest incident, fans weighed in on the incident on the Dallas Morning News website. Many fans said, "Oh, give him a slap on the hand but let him pitch because we need him," or they blamed the media, who always seem to be an easy scapegoat, for getting in the way. It seems many fans are willing to forget the injured cameraman, forget the thousands of children who watched the incident in person and on TV, as long as the Rangers continue to win, whatever Rogers does is okay.

Well, it's not okay.

We preach personal responsibility to children; we tell them if they do something wrong to take their punishment and learn from it. We tell children not to fight and to treat everyone with respect, that there are ways to show anger without hurting people. When kids see Kenny Rogers knock a cameraman to the ground and, because of an appeal, he's pitching again by the weekend, they see that it's okay to lash out at people who are weaker than they are. When they see Kenny Rogers get suspended and fined then three days later, he is named an all-star player and it shows them there are no consequences for their actions.

It's obvious Kenny Rogers is troubled. Countless major league players go through tough contract negotiations and deal with the press without losing their tempers. While his statement Wednesday is an important beginning, it's not enough. Not only does he need to take anger management classes, he should immediately withdraw his appeal, take his suspension (without pay), pay his fine and withdraw from the All Star consideration. He should also be willing to face any legal consequences of his actions with an air of humility that seems so lacking in our society today. Should he do these things, perhaps he can begin to show children (and adults) an example of true personal responsibility.


Stephen Whitley is a writer from Dallas. If you have opinions or rebuttals about this commentary, call (214) 740-9338 or email us.