The Burress Affair: A Contrarian Point Of View

By Tom Donelson
Updated: December 5, 2008

IOWA CITY — The recent headline “Giant Idiot” summed up Mr. Plaxico Burress problems but there is one thing that bothers me and that is, should a man go to jail for doing something totally stupid?

Let me begin with this one premise, Burress may have done enough to earn an suspension from the NFL and the Giants have already sent Burress packing for the year and who knows what Roger Goddell has planned for Plaxico for the 2009 season.

The real question before us is whether Burress deserve to go to jail. Here are the facts as we know them now; Plaxico Burress had a Florida gun permit, which a fingerprint-based background check is required.

When he moved to New Jersey, new laws superseded the old laws and for some reason, he went out with his gun, loaded in his sweat pants. (New York state does not issue permits to non-state residents, thus Burress could not obtain a New York permit, if he wanted.)

Combining alcohol and guns is asking for trouble and it appeared that Burris accidently shot himself reaching for his gun that was slipping down his sweat pants.

Stupid it was but Burress is not going to go to jail for accidently discharging this weapon but for actually having it on his person.

What Burress did was to violate basic safety procedures for handling a gun, including drinking. And he is now paying the price for this, even without jail time.

David Kopel, a second amendment specialist, noted that under New York City laws, carry permits can be issued but often are issued based on political pull as oppose to necessity.

A non resident like Burress can’t even obtain a permit for a gun.

Of course the question that will be raised is why would Burris need a gun?

Considering a couple of days earlier, a fellow Giant, Steve Smith was robbed and many athletes are finding themselves targets. Just last year at this time, Redskins safety Sean Taylor was slained in his house; so for some athletes, protection is becoming a needed commodity.

Plaxico Burress could have hired body guards and after this incident; Burris may help himself to this option. Mr. Kopel noted, “But people who aren’t as wealthy as he also deserve to be safe and they don’t have the money for body guards.”

Burress’ action were not the action of a violent criminal but a bad accident with no malign intention on the part of Burress. There is no evidence to suggest that Mr. Burress is prone to violence off the field; the biggest complaints ever issued about Mr. Burress was his tendency of missing practices and being late to meetings or skipping them altogether.

Actions that has cost Burress’ fines and time off from the Giants, hardly the profile of a man deserving of jail. The biggest handicap that Mr. Burress have is his celebrity status.

With the Mayor and others asking for his head and demanding the fullest extent of the law, the question that needs to be raised is whether Burress actually deseve the sentences given to street thugs, robbers and burglars.

Burress is nothing more than a prop in a larger game as politicians want to claim the scalp of yet another indulgent celebrity. This is a case where the punishment doesn’t fit the crime.

And for those who say that I am asking Burress to get off easy, Burress will suffer sufficent punishment. The Giants have essentially removed him from their roster and his opportunity to be part of a possible repeat champion is now finished.

In addition, the commissioner will most likely suspend Burress and who knows, he may find himself force to watch all of 2009 from home (or jail if Mayor Bloomberg gets his way.)

It could be easily 2010 before Burress actually gets an opportunity to play football again. To be denied a shot at participating in one’s own craft is severe punishment.

I have no problems with Burress being suspended, but I do have a problem with Burress going to jail. Stupid acts are certainly target for pundits’ mockery but a jail sentence is draconian.

The law is to design to protect law abiding citizens, not make them criminals.

Doing something stupid is not deserving of jail.