There must be consequences

This post starts with a story. It’s the story of two professional football players who were good friends and teammates on the same professional football team. One night, Josh and Jerry were riding in a car. Josh was driving. The car slammed into a curb and flipped. Josh survived. Jerry died.

All indications from the investigation are that Josh was impaired while driving. Some reports put his blood alcohol level at 0.18 percent. The legal limit in Texas, where the accident occurred, is 0.08 percent. Josh was in jail for a bit, then released on $500,000 bond (later reduced to $100,000). He’s been charged with intoxication manslaughter, which carries a penalty of 2 to 20 years in jail and a $10,000 fine.

After being released on bond, Josh was allowed to be on the sidelines at the next game his team played. He was allowed on the sidelines because, according to reports, Jerry’s mother had forgiven Josh and asked the team officials to let Josh continue to be part of the team. Jerry’s mother said Josh needed that support.

I saw the game. He was out and about on the sideline, conversing with his teammates, seemingly having fun. I was troubled.

Apparently, I was not the only one that was troubled. After an outcry from many football fans around the country, team officials have banned Josh from the sidelines for the rest of the season. That banning has people discussing the lengths to which a team, or an employer, should go in supporting someone in Josh’s position. Should they shun and abandon him to his luck? Or should they embrace and support him after he was so directly involved in the death of a friend and colleague?

Even more troubling is the fact that Josh had a previous DUI three years ago. That, and he was driving on a suspended license the night of the accident. (I can’t find why the license was suspended.)

So that’s the story. Josh drove while intoxicated and on a suspended license. There was an accident. Jerry died. Josh went to jail and was released on bail. His employer allowed him to be on the sidelines of the next game. There was an outcry of disbelief that Josh would be allowed the privilege of being on the national spotlight after what happened. And now, he has been suspended from being on the sidelines.

The reason I am writing about this is because I believe in the power of forgiveness. I think it is incredibly brave and strong of Jerry’s mother to forgive Josh and plead his case for being involved in the team. Certainly, to work out his demons, Josh will need that forgiveness and support from his friends and his community.

On the other hand, there must be consequences to our actions. Just because we do something, and we are repentant/forgiven for it, that does not take away from the consequences that must come our way. Such consequences can be personal or legal, but they must be handed out and accepted. Without consequences, the rule of law and maybe even our society suffer. Anyone who commits a crime need only repent or be forgiven for nothing to happen to them, and then the next criminal commits their crime with the thinking that a simple apology will fix it all.

Neither Jerry nor any of the over 10,000 annual deaths from drunk driving will come back with an apology. But we can prevent many of the next 10,000 if there are serious and firm consequences to driving while under the influence of alcohol or any other drug by deterring the next drunk driver from either drinking or driving.

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