NFL players are no role models [Letter]

September 17, 2014

As a retired speech professor who has taught many elements of argument for a very long time, maybe I can help you. I read your recent piece associating the NFL with a responsibility for disciplining players for activities that I don't believe have anything directly to do with what they actually get paid for, which is playing football ("NFL now must tackle child abuse," Sept. 15).

Unless there is something that I obviously wouldn't know about in the player's contract requiring such intervention — not given in your editorial — we have a major link missing in your advocacy. I believe it actually invalidates your argument. Here's why.

First, you clearly provide your "point of argument" commonly referred to as a claim and do so very well. It is in your editorial's headline, "NFL now must tackle child abuse." Next, that claim is followed by your supports, collectively called "data," all focusing on the evidence and admission that Adrian Peterson beat his child with a stick and the issues surrounding it. Now here's where the argument falls apart.

For the argument to have validity, you have to connect the "data" to the "claim." That's the rule: I have nothing to do with it. That is, you need to include what is called a "warrant." Think of the warrant as the "since/because" factor or the bridge or connecting link from the data to the claim. It would go like this. "Because" Adrian Peterson beat his child with a stick, therefore the NFL is responsible to do something about it.

I can't find that bridge or connection — that "warrant" — in your piece. You need to clearly advance evidence that the NFL has that specific responsibility. One can argue all day that NFL players are high profile and some will argue they should be role models. We can argue that world opinion is against it and the President of the United States can come out this as he did over the Ray Rice incident. Again, it doesn't forward your argument. It's all ancillary.

Do players really get paid to be role models? Role model? Nice by-product but see how important your community service becomes when you start dropping that football in the end zone. And Michael Vick is still playing football! Letting him back in after the horrific crimes he did against animals, even went to prison for it and more? He's a role model? For what?

Therefore, unless you can argue that there is actually something in this man's contract stating that the NFL is required and will hand out additional penalties to players when they are accused and convicted of wrongdoings such as domestic violence, child abuse or animal abuse, I believe that your argument fails. From a academic perspective, this "unless" part of the argument is recognized as the escape valve, commonly called the "reservation."

Developed by an English logician, Stephen Toulmin, decades ago, this logic schema has been taught for decades and is widely accepted. I hope this helps and is taken in the collegial spirit it was intended.

Joe Lamp, Arnold

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