- Associated Press - Friday, September 12, 2014

During a week filled with a hideous hodgepodge of racism, domestic violence and homicide, sports offered little escape and even less accountability.

Danny Ferry was still hanging onto his job, despite disparaging comments about an African player.

Ray Rice was out of a job, but only after we all saw the video of him actually delivering a knockout blow to the woman who is now his wife.

Oscar Pistorius was back home and buoyed by the prospect of not spending a lick of time behind bars, even after shooting his girlfriend to death.

No one has any real desire to clean up our games.

And we - the gullible masses - are willing to look the other way if someone pays a small price here and there.

Turns out, they’re absolutely right.

“As long as we give athletes hero status and throw money their way to the point that they feel invincible, we will continue to shake our heads about their behavior when they get into trouble,” said Eric A. Zillmer, the athletic director at Drexel University.

So far, a little head-shaking is about as far as anyone is willing to go - unless they have a video or audio tape.

The corporate sponsors might be in the best position to demand change, considering all the billions they stuff into the pockets of the owners and their employees. But the only time they get riled up is when it affects their bottom line. Even then, it’s rarely very long before they’re pulling out their checkbooks again.

Congress pipes up from time to time, threatening to take on the herculean task of cleaning up our games but never doing much more than grandstanding.

Finally, we come to the fans, who’ll tell you over the water cooler that they’re fed up with all the corruption and the cover-ups. Then, they’ll paint their faces, put on their team jerseys, and plunk down hundreds of dollars to cheer on those guys they just griped about.

There was certainly plenty to complain about in the week that was:

- Ferry, the Atlanta Hawks’ general manager, with his racially disparaging assessment that potential free-agent signee Luol Deng has “a little African in him,” then going on the explain that meant the player was like a store owner whose business looks legit from the front window, but is selling counterfeit goods out back. Laughingly, Ferry claimed he was merely repeating what others had said about Deng, as if racism is OK as long as you didn’t say it first.

- Rice, the Baltimore Ravens’ star running back, hastily being released by the same team that had called him a good guy after he was shown on a video a few months ago dragging his unconscious then-fiancee out of an elevator. Most of us didn’t need to see evidence of Rice having knocked her out, but that turned up, too, uncovered by the sleuths at TMZ, not the mighty NFL. And Rob Maaddi of The Associated Press delivered a further bombshell with his report that a law enforcement source had actually sent the really incriminating video to the league, but never heard anything more.

- Pistorius, the celebrated “Blade Runner,” beating the most serious charges in the fatal shooting of girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp after an O.J.-like trial in South Africa. The Olympic sprinter said he mistook Steenkamp for an intruder hiding behind a bathroom door, a rather far-fetched scenario at best. He was found guilty of negligent homicide, which makes him eligible for a suspended sentence.

“People think he got away with murder,” said Veronica Nyathi, a Johannesburg resident reminding us that this sort of coddled behavior extends far beyond American shores. “Most people want to see him go to jail. If he was poor, he would definitely be in jail. But if you are rich, your life can go on as normal.”

If there was any justice, Ferry would be fired immediately, Rice would never touch another football in the NFL, and Pistorius would receive the maximum sentence.

But that’s not the reality.

Ferry took a leave of absence Friday, but made it clear he somehow hopes to hold on to his job. He’ll go to diversity training and try to sort out why those vile words rolled off his lips with such ease. His enablers - Hawks CEO Steve Koonin and NBA Commissioner Adam Silver - have said Ferry deserves to keep his job. That’s a particularly indefensible stance in Silver’s case, given he just ran Donald Sterling out of the league for racist blather.

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, who initially just out an embarrassing two-game suspension to Rice, left the door open for the player’s return from a now-indefinite suspension as long as, “We are fully confident that he is addressing this issue.” What the commish left unsaid, of course, was, “Hey, this guy is really good at running the football, so we’d be foolish to banish him forever. And everyone will forget what he did soon enough.”

Pistorius may never again compete at the Olympics, but he’ll at least be able to go on with some semblance of his life. That’s more than we can say for his girlfriend.

As if that wasn’t enough, we got word late Friday that Adrian Peterson, the Minnesota Vikings’ star running back, was indicted on a charge of child abuse for using a branch to spank his son. The team benched him for this weekend’s game, though we know he’ll be back on the field soon enough.

The games go on.

Nothing really changes.

___

Paul Newberry is a national writer for The Associated Press. Write to him at pnewberry@ap.org or www.twitter.com/pnewberry1963

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