Forgiving Ryan Braun: Brewers’ fans should accept him for both his successes and his failures Print
Written by Mary Uhler   
Thursday, Aug. 29, 2013 -- 12:00 AM

Many children and adults in Wisconsin (myself included) have admired Ryan Braun during his years playing with the Milwaukee Brewers.

Whenever I went to a Brewers’ game, I saw plenty of fans wearing T-shirts with Braun’s name and the number eight. The fans applauded when Braun came up to bat, knowing that he would do his best to get a hit (his career batting average through July was .312).

Braun also seemed to be a nice guy. He accepted his many baseball awards modestly, including the National League’s Most Valuable Player award for the 2011 season.

Taking performance enhancing drugs

It was therefore painful for me and other Brewers’ fans to accept the news that Braun might have taken performance-enhancing drugs (PEDs). At first we thought it must be a mistake. However, this summer Major League Baseball suspended Braun for the rest of the season and the postseason due to his involvement with the Biogenesis clinic in Florida.

Now we know that Braun lied to us. We wonder why he and other successful athletes took PEDs. Were they greedy for more money and fame? Were they worried about sustaining their athletic prowess? Did they think they would never get caught?

Braun said little publicly at the time of the suspension, saying that he realized he had “made some mistakes” and was “willing to accept the consequences of those actions.” Fans were disappointed in his terse response.

Braun asks for forgiveness

However, in a letter to Brewers’ fans on August 22, Braun went further saying, “I am so sorry for letting you down by being in denial for so long and not telling the whole truth about what happened. I am ashamed and extremely embarrassed by the decisions I made. There are no excuses for what I did and I take full responsibility for my actions. I apologize to all Brewers fans for disappointing you.”

Braun asked for forgiveness as the first step in what he described as a “lengthy process to prove myself to you again.” He concluded, “I am committed to doing everything I can to earn back your trust and support.”

It is going to be a rough road back for Ryan Braun.

Athletes as role models

Do athletes like Braun realize the damage they are doing, especially to young fans who look up to them as role models? As a lifelong soccer fan, Pope Francis recently met with the Argentine and Italian national soccer teams in Rome to play a “friendly match” in the pope’s honor.

Pope Francis reminded players, “Before being champions, you are men, human beings with your talents and your defects, heart and ideas, aspirations and problems. Even if you are stars, remain men both in your sport and in your life.”

He asked the players to take responsibility for the fact that for millions of people, young and old, they are heroes and role models. “Be aware of this and set an example of loyalty, respect, and altruism,” the Holy Father said.

Moving forward

We know, too, that Pope Francis has encouraged all of us to practice forgiveness. I’m sure he would urge Brewers’ fans to forgive Ryan Braun, if he is sincerely sorry for his actions.

I would like to see Braun talk more about what he has done. He has been very guarded so far, which doesn’t give us much insight into why and how he took PEDs. His openness about his experiences would go far to help heal his relationship with fans and provide a new role model for young people on how to deal with temptation and adversity.

As we begin a new school year, it is a good time for teachers, students, and parents to discuss moral issues involved in sports, including honesty, fair play, and sportsmanship.

Hopefully Ryan Braun has learned from his mistakes. I hope that Brewers’ fans can accept him for both his successes and his failures. We all need to move forward.