Shocking. Appalling. Disgusting. I am referring to what is apparently one of the least talked about family secrets in the National Football League (NFL) that being the number of NFL players who have fathered illegitimate children by multiple women. It's shocking to think that this has been happening right under the NFL's nose, and nothing is being done to address it. It's appalling that such blatant immoral conduct has gone unpunished by the League. It's disgusting that these vaunted heroes on the field are behaving like moral degenerates off the field.
It was during Superbowl week that I became curious when Baltimore Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis referred to his kids but has never mentioned a wife? As it turns out, Lewis belongs to a special brotherhood of NFL players who have opted to have multiple children by multiple baby mamas without the benefit of marriage. In Lewis' case, he is said to have fathered six children with several women. And he's not alone.
The list of current and former players reads like an NFL score card: Antonio Cromartie - ten children by eight women, Terrell Owens - four children by four women, Marshall Faulk - six children by four women, Travis Henry - eleven children by ten women, Charles Rogers - five children by four women, Shannon Sharpe - three children by three women, and the late Derrick Thomas - seven children by five women.
The rate of NFL players fathering children out of wedlock has been described as "epidemic" by writer Laura Lovell: "The amount of illegitimate and out of wedlock children fathered by NFL players is quite ridiculous. What a big mess these fathers have gotten themselves into, not to mention the all too eager sometimes, women who are willing to trade in a baby as a meal ticket, or those who get caught up in it without intention."
The money to pay court ordered child support, and related expenses has drained more than one athlete's million dollar payday. Cromartie and Owens are just two NFL players who have had their child support woes aired in public. Owens filed for bankruptcy and claims to be broke after having to pay nearly a million a year in child support. Likewise, Cromartie, now married with two children by his wife, reportedly still pays $240,000 a year in child support for his other children. None of these NFL players deserves any sympathy. In fact, if you ask me they should be declared a public menace not only for singularly increasing the number of illegitimate children being born to single mothers (now around 73 percent) but also for perpetuating the public health risk of sexually transmitted disease from city to city.
Many see the behavior of these athletes as irresponsible and morally reprehensible. In her book, "The 24 Types of Suckers to Avoid," dating expert Deborrah Cooper talks about the indiscriminate baby breeder who "has children all over the place that he rarely, if ever, sees." Cooper says,"These are the guys that have casual, unprotected sex with a slew of miscellaneous women. It is because he has no respect for his seed and family lineage." For these men, breeding almost becomes a matter of bragging rights, that is, until the bills have to be paid. The inconvenient truth is that child support will still need to be paid---for at least 18 years per child--- long after the pro athlete's career and big paydays are over. Then, whose responsibility do these children become? You guessed it...yours and mine through the taxes we pay for their health, education and welfare.
But what's the NFL's role in all of this? Should it have something to say about the off field sexual behavior of its players when it reaches the level of a public nuisance? So far, the NFL seems to be turning a deaf ear and blind eye to the issue. The NFL does have leverage if it cares to use it to force it's players to act more responsibly off the field. Placing morals clauses in contracts to cover more than drugs and criminal behavior, and forcing players to support the illegitimate children they father. Why isn't it a crime to knowingly father more children than you can afford? Why doesn't the NFL sanction players who repeatedly do this? Should the mothers be able to sue the NFL directly for support payments to be paid to them? If our Armed Forces have rules dictating moral behavior, why not the NFL? This is not just an NFL problem. The NBA and MLB also have their share of multiple breeders.
For the NFL player, when it's all said and done at the end of his playing days, it won't matter how many Pro-Bowls he was elected to, or how many Super Bowl rings he earned. or whether he made it into the Hall of Fame. What does matter is how his life off the football field positively impacted those around him. Ultimately, that will be his enduring legacy.