In a drastic turnaround in public opinion from only a year ago, Detroit Lions defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh was named the fourth most disliked athlete in America in in a recent poll published by Forbes and conducted by Nielsen and partner E-Poll Market Research. This puts Suh in rarified air, among many of the most embattled athletes in recent memory and begs the question: is this portrayal of Suh deserved?
Of the three athletes who placed ahead of Suh, Michael Vick, Plaxico Burress and Tiger Woods, one brutally murdered hundreds of innocent animals, one shot himself in the leg with an unregistered handgun and the other watched his entire empire and image crumble in full public view in the wake of revelations of extramarital transgressions. Suh on the other hand has never had any issue with the law or his image off the field but has been widely criticized for what many consider to be dirty play. Only four months prior, Forbes had released a poll of the most likable NFL players with Suh topping the list. So how is it possible for an athlete to fall from being one of the league’s most popular players to becoming a pariah?
Much of it stems from his infamous Thanksgiving Day stomp on the arm of Packers lineman Evan Dietrich-Smith and his refusal to accept responsibility immediately following the game. Over his first two seasons in the league Suh has drawn more personal foul penalties than any other player regardless of position and received a two game suspension from Commissioner Roger Goodell for his actions against Green Bay. Many of Suh’s critics point out that at quick look at his statistics is more than enough evidence that his reputation as the league’s dirtiest player is well deserved. Quite to the contrary, it is merely a byproduct of what makes him great. The intensity with which Ndamukong Suh plays in unmatched by any player in recent memory, and his motor occasionally continues to run even after the whistle has been blown.
He has played his entire career with a high level of contained fury, and has made it clear that as soon as the ball is snapped, his only concern is punishing whoever is carrying it. This is exactly the kind of tenacious attitude required to play defensive tackle at the highest level, and without this style of play it would be impossible for Suh to be anywhere near as effective as he has been.
He also wishes to make it clear that even though he makes it one of his goals to dish out punishment, he never sets out with malicious intent or intentionally makes an attempt to hurt his opponents.
“I would never hurt somebody, because why would I want somebody to hurt me?” Suh said in a recent interview with ESPN’s Hannah Storm. “You’re taking someone’s livelihood away and their opportunity to fend for their family and grow, and, I mean, for someone to say that, it’s kind of outrageous.”
Suh has also scoffed at suggestions that he could be in need of anger management treatment.
“It’s funny to me,” Suh said. “Like I said, I don’t have issues of beating up people in bars. I know it’s not right. And that’s just … doesn’t make sense to me. But I think people try and make their own opinion and I think it’s a story line. It’s a great story line.
Clearly Suh is making no apologies for the way he plays the game, and quite frankly, why should he? Football is a sport of violent collisions, and descriptions of actions that take place in the bottoms of pile ups make his actions look tame in comparison. As an elite player, Suh’s indiscretions have simply drawn more attention.
While Forbes’s poll naming Suh as one of the nation’s most disliked athletes has garnered large amounts of attention, his appearance on another list has gone relatively unnoticed. In a similar poll conducted only weeks earlier, Suh was named America’s most charitable athlete and the sixth most charitable celebrity of any kind. Suh’s on field actions are fair game to be criticized as much as anyone likes, but his generous actions off the field cannot be ignored. Based on all of the good he has done, there is no conceivable way that he deserves to be so disliked.
By Tyler VanderMolen
- My name is Tyler VanderMolen and I am the editor-in-chief on the Gull Lake High School newspaer, The Reflection. My writing consists primarily of sports columns sports features. Outside of academics, I am the captain of the varsity football and golf teams and am an avid sports fan. I have recived the Sports Column of the Year Award from the Michigan Interscholastic Press Association the past two years. After graduating I hope to attend journalism school and someday work for ESPN or another top sports media outlet.