Former New York Giant Lawrence Taylor has had a life that has been shameful, exciting, devastating and amazing. He has seen the highest of highs and the lowest of lows, whether you are referring to his physical prowess or his battle with drug addiction. I can’t, for one second, pretend that I know how difficult it is to walk away from crack cocaine, but I believe that Lawrence Taylor had the strength to do it.
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I was proud to see Taylor rebuild his life after spending quite a few years making one mistake after another. Just like on the football field, I wanted to see him succeed. And he was succeeding, at least for a while. Then came the rape allegations.
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Taylor, who has been accused of paying to have sex with a 16-year old girl, has suddenly been reduced to the Lawrence Taylor most of us expected to see underneath the image remake: The crazed, irresponsible man with far too many demons to count. We thought he was LeBron James, and he turned out to be Mike Tyson. Like Tyson, Taylor played with our emotions time and time again, making us believe that this time, he’d truly learned his lesson.
But then again, maybe we are being a little too quick to judge Taylor, and perhaps it doesn’t make sense to replicate the behavior of Nutri-systems, the company that dropped its relationship with Taylor after simply finding out that he was being accused of a crime. While not one piece of evidence has been laid out in the court of law, the images of Lawrence Taylor slapped on the TV screen remind you of both Willie Horton and OJ Simpson. I am not sure this is called for, at least not yet.
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Let’s be clear: The man has not been proven to be guilty of this crime. He has not had a fair trial and I like to believe that in this country, most of us still believe that a man can be innocent until proven guilty. Neither you, nor I know if he was in that room having sex with that woman or anyone else, and it is not out of the question that someone set him up.
I am not prepared to publicly vouch for Lawrence Taylor, since he is….well….Lawrence Taylor. I certainly don’t plan to act like his wife, who has gotten on television defending this man as if she doesn’t quite realize who she’s married to. Her insistence that Taylor could not possibly have committed this crime wreaks of a woman who is either delusional or incredibly deceptive. Either way, Mrs. Taylor might also want to wait for the evidence to ensure that her husband has not once again fallen victim to the very vices that have plagued him for most of his entire life. It’s not a stretch to believe that a man who once smoked crack on a regular basis might also enjoy having sex with young women.
But putting all this to the side, there is too much riding on the guilt or innocence of Lawrence Taylor for us to pre-judge this man without having sufficient evidence. He has worked very hard for many years to rebuild his image, and it would be incredibly destructive for us to ruin all of this hard work with a few really bad sound bites and TV images. Additionally, we know that America is a nation that loves to criminalize black male athletes, slapping mugshots of them on the screen far faster than they would of Ben Roethlisberger of the Pittsburgh Steelers, the man who has been accused of rape enough times to make you want to keep him away from your daughter.
Lawrence Taylor may not deserve our forgiveness, but he certainly deserves our patience. If he had sex with this young woman, then he needs to go to prison. But I would hope that we can at least wait until the clock strikes zero before we ruin whatever life the brother has left. We must be more decent than the media.
Dr. Boyce Watkins is the founder of the Your Black World Coalition and the author of the book, “Black American Money.” To have Dr. Boyce commentary delivered to your email, please click here.
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