On Monday Ryan Braun was suspended by Major League Baseball for the remainder of the 2013 season for violating the league’s drug program. The former MVP’s vehement denial of using performance enhancing drugs has been discussed at length. That’s not what this article is about. Ryan Braun is the focal point of controversy for lying to fans and media, but I am more interested in his family and teammates. What did they know? How much did they know? How long did they have to tip-toe around conversations? Braun’s teammates were not the ones responsible for his cheating and deception and yet they were the ones left standing in the locker room answering questions regarding their suspended teammate. I wondered how I would have answered the questions: Were you aware that Ryan Braun violated the drug policy? How disappointed are you? How does this affect the team?
Teammates protect teammates. They look out for one another. They guard each other against media and fans who will stop at nothing to provoke a controversial story. But how do you defend a teammate when doing so compromises all your credibility? How do you defend a teammate when his choices and subsequent dishonesty show utter disregard for those around him? What do you do when the integrity of the game, or your profession or family is compromised by someone for whom you care deeply? That’s a tough time to be a teammate. I know the answer is not more lies or deception. I know the answer is not feigning ignorance.
I hope to never put those I care about in a position where they have to defend poor choices I make. If I do put them in such a position, I hope they have the courage to call me to task. I am grateful that I am not famous enough to have my mistakes laid out for the world to see, but we all have teams, whether they are religious groups, families, friends or coworkers. Teammates protect teammates as individuals, but they also protect the integrity of the team collectively. When an individual puts his choices before the welfare of the team, he must be confronted for the sake of the team. It is not easy and it is certainly not fun, but it is what teammates do. Without accountability and transparency, I’m not sure whether it can be called a team at all.