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Thursday, Aug. 25, 2016

Name of the game isn't always winning

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

When Lawrence Phillips was a star running back for the University of Nebraska, he was clearly trouble looking for a place to happen. Fast-forward a decade or so and little has changed for Phillips. He's still a troubled man with a checkered past. The problem is that Phillips should be in prison and he should remain there for a very long time. His latest episode may make prison a reality.

If pro athletes are considered role models, Phillips is just the opposite. My problem is that just because Phillips has skills on the football field, far too many people have ignored his off-field antics. And because of that, three teenagers nearly lost their lives this week following the latest episode of the Phillips' chronicles.

When Phillips first joined the St. Louis Rams in 1996, he already was on a first-name basis with law enforcement. The Rams signed him despite his earlier guilty plea to beating his girlfriend. It took just 25 games before the Rams released Phillips for insubordination.

But remember, he was a great football player.

So Miami signed him to a contract. But he was soon released after hitting yet another woman in a nightclub.

But remember, he was a great football player.

So San Francisco signed him but then dropped him for missing practice. So he went to Canada to play but was dropped from two teams for behavioral problems. This time he struck yet another girlfriend. He has since been denied entry into Canada because of his criminal history.

But remember, he was a great football player.

The past finally caught up with Phillips this week when he had a dispute with a group of teenagers in a Los Angeles park. Phillips took his vehicle - stolen earlier in the week - and struck three of the teens. All three were injured but are expected to survive.

Phillips was booked on suspicion of attempted murder after a police chase. Oh by the way, he was also wanted on two other warrants for assaulting yet more girlfriends. On one of those charges, Phillips choked a girlfriend into unconsciousness.

But remember, he was a great football player.

And therein lies the problem. Just because Lawrence Phillips had skills on the football field, too many owners and coaches were willing to ignore his off-

field crimes. The name of the game was touchdowns, not character. They were willing to risk other assaults and other crimes in pursuit of winning.

When winning at any price is the goal, people like Lawrence Phillips are tolerated. Instead, someone in professional football should have declared Phillips ineligible for the professional ranks. They should have realized that character is as important as touchdowns. By wearing a professional uniform, Phillips automatically was in the spotlight. But as a role model, Phillips was and remains a bomb.

Fans should demand that professional sports eliminate the animals from their ranks. And those who ignored this time bomb should somehow be held at least partially accountable.

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Michael Jensen
Michael Jensen