Lawrence Taylor Jr’s arrest resurrects his father’s sad legacy of sexual misconduct
OPINION - Before Sunday, Lawrence Taylor, Jr. was best known for giving a heartfelt opening speech at his father’s Hall of Fame ceremony. Now, he's known for inheriting some of the same reprehensible behavior that helped tarnish his father’s legacy...
The name Lawrence Taylor used to be said with reverence in NFL circles. Taylor was always thought of as one of the best football players ever.
Say the name Lawrence Taylor now, and different thoughts come to mind. Drugs. Disappointment. And after yesterday, dysfunction, that apparently runs throughout the entire family.
Before Sunday, Lawrence Taylor, Jr. was best known for giving a heartfelt opening speech at his father’s Hall of Fame ceremony. After last weekend, he’s now known for inheriting some of the same reprehensible behavior that helped tarnish his father’s legacy.
The 32-year-old was arrested Sunday on felony charges of statutory rape, sodomy and child molestation.
Like father, like son
The story is unfortunately a familiar one. The elder Taylor was arrested in 2010 for having sex with a minor, who he said he thought was 19. He pled guilty to avoid jail time and is now on probation, and listed as a sex offender.
The fall from grace for Taylor has been a steep one. There was obviously the drug abuse, which occurred during his playing days, and was well documented in books and biographies. His career highlights include transforming the linebacker position, terrorizing opposing quarterbacks, and earning Super Bowl victories. The lowlights include drug suspensions and meetings with prostitutes.
But Taylor was still looked at as an icon as his career wound down. He admitted his transgressions in his first autobiography and sports fans largely forgave him for it. He was still a recognizable, knowledgeable former player with a charming personality. He was perfect for TV. The name Taylor still meant one of the best to ever play the game.
The drug incidents resurfaced in the mid to late ’90s. So did the financial problems. His reputation took a major hit, a hit that looked to be beyond repair.
But then Taylor was chosen for the NFL Hall of Fame. Taylor, Jr. poignantly stated: “If I could pick anybody to be my father, I would pick Lawrence Taylor every time.” At the time, no one believed he’d follow so closely in his father’s footsteps.
A Hall of Fame plummet
The speech helped revitalize Taylor’s career. That speech, along with movie stints, a second published biography, and a brutally honest interview on 60 Minutes built his reputation back up. By the late 2000s, Taylor’s name – while maybe not holding the same reverence with football fans – at the very least was still one of the most respected. By 2009, he was even mainstream enough to appear on Dancing with the Stars.
Then the 2010 arrest happened and Taylor has been in exile ever since. That lasting arrest threatened to be the final way we thought of Taylor…as a badly damaged man whose qualities on the football field may have been the same ones responsible for his downfall off of it.
Had that been our lasting perception, it’d probably be a kinder one then we have now. Though the elder Taylor shouldn’t be completely held at fault for his son’s (alleged) crimes, many will still point out that it appears Taylor passed on some of his worst qualities to him.
Taylor has yet to comment on this incident. Years ago, we’d be anxious to hear what the football legend had to say.
Now it’s hard to believe many will care. And that’s because the Lawrence Taylor name now is just as synonymous with sex offender and drug abuser as it is with football player.
Follow Stefen Lovelace on Twitter @StefenLovelace