Steelers fans to Martavis Bryant: Scorn or Sympathy?
By Kim Myers
Steelers fans have reacted passionately but on different sides on the latest news for the troubled wide receiver’s year-long suspension.
The initial reaction to the reports that Martavis Bryant was facing a season-long suspension from the NFL for another violation of the league’s substance abuse policy was a combination of anger and confusion.
Anger about how could a player so talented that had gone through the four-game suspension last season be so dumb to put himself in a worse position this offseason. The confusion was mainly the same reason, how could this happen?
One of Bryant’s agents, Brian Fettner, told USA Today that Bryant has a marijuana problem but it is “a coping issue and a depression issue.” Fettner described Bryant as a depressed man who withdrew from society and used marijuana to self-medicate is mental illness.
The Steelers released a statement through GM Kevin Colbert that was pretty stern and didn’t leave a lot of room for sympathy.
"“We are very disappointed that Martavis Bryant has put himself in this current situation of being suspended by the League. He is at a crossroads of his professional life, and he needs to understand the significant changes need to occur in his personal life if he wants to regain his career as a Pittsburgh Steeler. We are hopeful that Martavis will take the necessary steps to develop the discipline in his personal life to become a successful player and a good teammate.” – Kevin Colbert"
While the Steelers aren’t likely to cut ties with Bryant this statement hasn’t been seen as the most sympathetic position they could have taken with him either.
So which is right? Should the fans have sympathy or scorn for the third-year receiver?
It really all depends. There are no clear cut right answers here either way. The facts are that Bryant did let his team down, he let the organization down and he does need to prove to the organization that he can develop the discipline necessary to become a successful player and teammate. Because right now he’s neither.
This is a business and they’ve invested in him to produce on the football field. While they are right in letting have the time to get his life together they don’t owe him anything if this time next year he’s in the same place.
But what Bryant isn’t is some devious law breaker who has left a path of destruction in his wake. He didn’t go on the South Side to play his own version of Grant Theft Auto, he didn’t even drive to a team flight under the influence and got arrested. He’s not a violent offender of anything but the laws of gravity when it comes to scoring touchdowns.
Does that mean we should whole-heartedly believe his agent when he says that his marijuana use is a mental health issue more than an irresponsibility issue? That’s up to you. Our society has a tough time dealing with mental illness as a whole.
We feel entitled to see proof of an illness before any sympathy is given. Mental illness isn’t an illness that is visible or even obviously recognized. Many people who suffer from depression and anxiety are part of society. They may be fully functional in society and hiding their internal battle with everything they have.
When it comes to the Steelers, us fans can’t hide our emotions. We wear them on our sleeves, as decals on our cars and even as tattoos on our bodies. We’re passionate about the team and passionate about the players.
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As a fan when deciding whether to have sympathy or scorn for Martavis Bryant and his current situation just keep an open mind and know that it’s okay to feel a little bit of both. If he comes out the other side of this a better person hopefully we’ll have many more years to cheer for him.
Maybe, though, if he does come back, we give No. 10 a rest? It’s just not a good number.