Bengals’ Henry Needs To Be Removed From NFL Fraternity If He Doesn’t Clean Up

By Gregory Moore
Updated: June 17, 2006

SAN ANTONIO – It’s probably the one dream that every boy has at one time or another. Every day, somewhere in this country, a little boy, no matter what his ethnicity or social make up, is dreaming of being a professional football player. Somewhere, another little boy, who is not so little any more, is practicing the fundamentals that his dad has taught him as far as catching a football and dreaming about the day when he can hoist up a trophy in honor of the man who helped him learn the game. Somewhere, during this Father’s Day weekend, a young man who has just graduated from high school is sitting down with his father and they are now planning the next step of this young man’s dream of becoming a professional football player. And then there is the young man who has been drafted but is now just learning the rigors of being that professional athlete. He is about to live his dream. This young man is in an elite fraternity called the National Football League and he is a member of the NFL Players’ Association.

It’s every young boy’s dream that plays football to reach that last goal of the dream. For thousands of young men, the dream is nothing but that; a dream. Yet for guys like Chris Henry, the dram becomes reality and it makes you wonder why a guy like Henry would allow himself to live a life that has become so tattered, so discombobulated with being a hoodlum or ghetto embodied with doing all the wrong things in life. Here is a young man who has been given the opportunity to play in the league, make some good money and hopefully move on to having a nice retirement after his playing days. Here’s a young man who has been given the chance to live out the dream for thousands of men who never made it to that level and yet Henry is throwing that chance down the toilet. What has Henry done that is so disheartening to the thousands of us who would have loved being in his shoes on draft day? He has gotten himself mixed up with illicit activity that is criminal and morally reprehensible.

When I say that Henry needs to be removed from the player’s union and fired from the Cincinnati Bengals, I say those things because Henry figures that he’s got every opportunity to ‘make things right’. Well here’s the problem I have with Chris Henry and any supporters that want to try and sway me otherwise: his indiscretions are too many to have gotten in a short period of time. As talented as Henry is on the field last season (31 receptions for 422 yards and six touchdowns), Henry has now been arrested for a fourth time in his short NFL career; the latest being this past week in Kentucky on three counts of providing alcohol to three women who are minors. That goes along with him being arrested in December in Ohio on marijuana charges, in Florida in January on weapons charges, and was charged in March with DUI and speeding in Ohio. And then there is also the trouble he had at West Virginia; the making of an obscene gesture to a fan and one for violating team rules.

As an article in the New Orleans Times-Picayune so adequately put this into perspective, “What most of us can be thankful for is our errors weren’t held against us the rest of our lives, we were shepherded through those difficult times and, hopefully, used the experiences to mature”. Being shepherded is an appropriate way of looking at things because while I look at how so many young men are formed these days, I have to wonder what is going through Henry’s mind right now. John DeShazier, the writer of the story about Henry that appeared in the New Orleans daily paper, interviewed Henry’s high school football coach and even then I can see glimpses of someone wanting to help him but not with a firm hand that may have been needed.

“I know the potential, I know what he can be,” Belle Chasse coach Bob Becnel, who tutored the 6-foot-4, 200-pound receiver in high school, Told DeShazier in the piece. “I hope he just knows that potential (to be great) has got to go to all areas.

“He has got to stay away from the kind of situations that might even look inappropriate”.

Well coach I can understand where you are coming from but Henry isn’t a kid anymore and that is where DeShazier and I have a difference of opinion. DeShazier says in his piece that in many instances, Henry is still a kid trying to mature. To me, at 23 years old and making a minimum of high six figures, you’re not a kid. You’re an adult who has to grasp the changes of your life as they blow in the wind because the average 23-year-old isn’t making that kind of money; not legally anyway. This is where I look at the four arrests that Henry has mounted up quickly in seven or eight months and I look to a union that needs to bring one of its members and literally lambaste him for being a degenerate to the profession. This is where it is time for people who know Chris Henry to not coddle him on this latest bit of trouble but to lay into him for blowing an opportunity.

The harsh lesson that needs to come down on Henry is the fact that this isn’t high school or college pranks. This isn’t something where a slap on the wrist is needed. Henry is a professional and he is an employee of the Cincinnati Bengals. As talented as he may be, he is also fast becoming a distraction to a team and organization that is trying to do things the right way. Background checks on his past indiscretions should have revealed the propensity of Henry getting into trouble and it should have been something in his contract that if Henry violated any part of a his moral turpitude clause, it was grounds for dismissal. Being accused of providing alcohol to three young women who are under the age of 21, including a 15-year-old, is grounds of moral turpitude. If Henry were the average private citizen, he’d be under somebody’s jail cell right now. Heck let’s not even sugar coat this aspect of the problem. Henry is a Black man working in a city that is still known for some racial tensions and he needs to carry himself in a light that is so bright that everybody around him is wearing shades. He doesn’t need to getting arrested in Covington, Kentucky, Ohio or Florida. The Queen City is a lovely city to live in and experience life but there are elements in the Tri-State area that simply do not like young black men who are successful and that can be a problem if Henry is caught in the wrong situation again.

That’s the reality of what Henry and his people are not looking at. How do I know about such matters? Because when I was going to high school and college in Cincinnati, it was something that my father told me about. He warned me about doing certain activities that would attract the wrong type of attention and it included dating. He warned me about underage drinking or even supplying my younger friends with alcoholic products. Henry may think that a beer isn’t harmful but contributing to the delinquency of a minor isn’t a laughing matter. While you may get slapped with that charge, the minor would get slapped with a Minor in Possession charge and don’t think the parents are not going to find some way to pin that mess on you. That’s what Henry needs to start looking at. He needs to realize the unimaginable of racial discord is very much alive and well in this country; whether he wants to believe it or not.

It is past time for Chris Henry to grow up and be a 23-year-old man who is a good representation of the Bengals. At 23, Henry should be going over to school in the Woodlawn area or in North College Hills/Mt. Healthy sections of town and speaking to young men who are looking to do something in their lives. At 23, Henry should be slowly planning his post football future and possibly looking to come back ‘home’ and be a mentor to others that Coach Becnel is currently coaching. What needs to happen is that Henry needs to realize that he is about mess up his one chance at financial independence and is about to wreck the lives of his kids and grandkids in one mighty swing of a judge’s gavel. That’s the reality of what’s going down and Henry needs to grasp that fact.

But what is equally important is that the NFLP needs to have programs in place that will help prevent such actions. Gene Upshaw and Troy Vincent should be implementing some type of programs that will mentor young players like Henry into what happens if you go down the wrong path. That rookie seminar program that they are running isn’t working if there are guys like Henry getting into trouble at an alarming rate. There should be some type of cross platform allegiance between the current union and the retired NFL players’ organization in which the old can teach the young. Of course that is another topic for another op/ed but that’s the reality of this situation as well.

While that may be what should be in the works in the future, the present scenario is the following. Chris Henry’s life is a runaway train and he does not have control of it. He needs to divorce himself of every bad influence that he is associating with and literally lock himself up in his condo if he has to. If that means he needs to find a baby-sitter to keep himself out of trouble, then he needs to do that. The simple truth on the current state of affairs right now is that if Henry doesn’t change his life around, he will be unemployed and almost untouchable in the league. He will has squandered away millions of dollars because of a few foolish acts. That’s not a good way to live a dream that thousands of young boys and young men dream about every day. Henry needs to recapture his dream before the NFL and the player’s union destroys that dream by turning the backs on him. That’s not a dream then but a painful reality that is played out on many former NFL players; especially talented guys like Henry.