Kobe has reached a new low if Shaq feels confident enough in his lyrical skills to insult him on an upcoming album. The charges have been dropped, but his reputation is not improving by being disrespected by a rapper who has rhymed with the line “My favorite cartoon is Bullwinkle the Moose.” The exact lyrics are, “Don’t need the drink crooked I juice to get loose / My favorite cartoon is Bullwinkle the Moose.”The transcripts of Kobe’s interviews with the Eagle County Sheriff’s Office have recently been released. Kobe once seemed to be the ideal player – talented, educated, polite, attractive and seemingly without any moral imperfections. Now the public is finding out that Kobe is not the “Great White Hope” of the National Basketball Association, as many labeled him on entering the League. I do not know if Kobe is guilty or if the sex was consensual, but after the initial disgust in hearing any allegations of this kind, I realized I was not taken aback. Admittedly, soon after hearing about the charges against Kobe, I thought, “So does this mean he can’t play if he goes to court? Thank God, the Lakers might not win.”Who is shocked anymore by allegations of rape, drug abuse, violence or, least of all, infidelity among professional athletes? In 2001, all-star point guard Jason Kidd was arrested and charged with domestic abuse for hitting his wife. After pleading guilty, he was ordered to attend anger management classes. The NBA allowed Kidd to continue playing and he was even a member of the Eastern Conference 2001 All-Star Team. The harshest punishment he seemed to have received came from notoriously vocal Boston fans chanting “Wife Beater” from the Fleet Center stands. Being a fan – or a journalist – doesn’t confer rights to judge Kidd’s or Bryant’s marriages. These are family or legal issues.Personal problems do create publicity, and provide an added area of interest for the fans. Publicity increases exposure, which is good for any kind of celebrity. Sponsors only want to market the most recognizable players. Allen Iverson has numerous incidences of some bad-by-any-standard publicity, yet he is still endorsed by Reebok. Players like David Robinson, who endorse programs like “Reading is Fundamental” that encourage kids to succeed in all areas of their life, are rare. Athletes more often appear in commercials to bombard viewers with images of money, success and a thirst quenching beverage. NBA teams want to win championships and make a profit, and that is only possible with the highest standard of athleticism and skill. The League’s record of punishment seems to be inversely related to a player’s ability. They are more lenient toward the more talented players. The NBA wants to protect the big-time players who bring in the most money.Fans with certain standards of morals may be disgusted with the personal details of an athlete’s life, but the only numbers most fans are concerned with are on the stat sheets, not the rap sheets. Fans may disapprove of a player’s reputation off the court, but they won’t stop going to games because they don’t approve of a player’s lifestyle. Is it even the job of professional athletes to be moral icons?The sport is the career of the professional athlete. It is a business. Pros put in long training hours and sacrifice their body for the sport in return for a paycheck. The NBA hires players with talent to perform for paying fans. If Kobe keeps putting up the numbers, he will satisfy the demand for exciting games and he and the League will profit from his efforts on the court. It would be nice to have athletes who could be role models on and off the court, but that is not the purpose of the NBA. I do not respect men like Kobe who cheat on their wives, but I do respect athletes like Kobe. He is an excellent basketball player and nothing in his personal life will change my opinions on his skill. In professional sports, being a good person could bring in a few extra endorsements and a “nice guy” reputation, but all that matters in the business is the talent – Kobe is simply talented. McLean can be reached at amclean@campustimes.org.

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