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Convicted Felons in Professional Sports

By Amy Brown
13 Jan 2015

Receiving employment after prison can be difficult for many who are released; in fact, unemployment can lead to multiple offenses in the long run. While rehabilitation is generally good for society, are there certain jobs that convicted felons should not be allowed to have? There are certainly restrictions on jobs, such as sex offenders cannot work with children;  but should they be allowed to return to professional sports?

Ched Evans, a former English football/soccer player, was convicted of raping a 19-year-old girl and went to jail. Now that he has served his sentence, Evans is looking to return to playing professionally. Many leagues have refused to sign him, political figures have condemned his attempted return, and 27,000 people have signed a petition to deny Evans a contract. Evans maintains his innocence, however, despite the conviction; many people cite his lack of remorse or acknowledgement as further reason to keep him out of the limelight. If he returns, a poor example will be set for young fans that rape and crime convictions in general do not matter if you are a good athlete. Since many other convicted criminals have to restart their lives to find employment after prison, it seems unfair to allow an athlete to walk right back into his job, especially if he has learned nothing.

Evans could join other athletes that have been convicted but allowed to return to their high-profile careers. Another soccer player, Lee Hughes, was convicted of causing death through dangerous driving after he killed a father of four in a car wreck and fled the scene. Mike Tyson was convicted of raping and 18-year-old girl, served three years, and returned to boxing. Many athletes have been accused of violent crimes and not been convicted and still allowed to play. Twelve NFL players still play after domestic violence arrests, even if the high-profile Ray Rice case resulting in him not being allowed to play anymore.

Is it really ethical to allow convicted offenders into high-profile, glorified careers? Does this normalize rape and crime? Should high-profile people be allowed to return to their high-profile, famous careers after convictions on violent crimes? Are certain crimes less concerning when allowing athletes to return to playing sports?

Amy graduated from DePauw University in 2017, and was a Hillman Intern and the Digital Media Assistant Managing Editor at the Prindle Institute for Ethics. At DePauw, she was an Honor Scholar and Political Science major with a Russian studies minor. She has spent time abroad in the Czech Republic and now works in Washington, D.C.
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