Money or Moniker: The Ryan Braun Scandal

Image Credit: Steve Paluch on Flickr

The sports world was in an uproar last week over the Ryan Braun scandal and his 65-game suspension from Major League Baseball. For those less invested in the MLB than myself, Braun plays left field for the Milwaukee Brewers and was the 2011 National League Most Valuable Player. In October 2011, he appealed a positive drug test and won on a technicality. Then he declared that he had never used performance-enhancing drugs (PEDs) and gained the vocal support of his teammates and friends. Now Braun has accepted a 65-game suspension for violating the league’s drug policy—basically admitting his use of PEDs.

During the back-and-forth analysis of the suspension, one of my favorite sports talk radio personalities, Mike Greenberg of ESPN’s Mike and Mike, raised the question of whether Braun got off easy. Here’s why. Braun accepted a 65-game suspension without pay. He loses a little more than $3 million from his salary for the year. However, Braun signed a huge contract extension a couple years ago and the “big money” doesn’t kick in until next year. Since MLB player contracts are guaranteed, Braun will not lose any of the money owed to him after his suspension has been served.

As part of the analysis, Mike “Greeny” Greenberg sent out the above tweet giving his take on the issue. Essentially, Greeny said that Braun’s reputation is more important than the money. He can, and will, collect millions of dollars through 2020 on this contract. But his reputation is permanently tarnished.

When he fought the positive test back in 2011, Braun staked his reputation on the idea that someone had tampered with his test sample. When the MLB could not verify the security of his sample, Braun proclaimed his innocence and expressed vindication in the face of what appeared to be a false accusation. Now we find that it was Braun who lied all along.

When I saw the tweet from Greeny, the text of Proverbs 22:1 immediately came to mind. In this proverb we read, “A good name is to be more desired than great wealth, favor is better than silver and gold.” Even with all his millions, Braun has lost his good name. We idolize sports stars for their immense talent, and we often long to have their riches. We may even be willing to deal with the fallout of a bad reputation if we could earn over $150 million. However, Scripture clearly states that we should desire a good name more than wealth. What does this look like?

First, we should value our own integrity over riches. There are many opportunities in life to sacrifice our integrity and name for the sake of getting ahead in life. Most of us will never have the opportunity to sign a contract worth nearly $150 million, but we are faced with choices between our reputation and greater wealth or prestige. When faced with these choices, the biblical response is to choose integrity over riches.

Second, we should be content with our lives, especially if it means that we have kept our integrity. Proverbs 19:1 reads, “Better is a poor man who walks in his integrity than he who is perverse in speech and is a fool.” A fool with riches is not to be honored—he is to be pitied. The poor man with a good reputation and integrity is wise. This does not mean that poverty and integrity nor wealth and foolishness always go together. However, given the choice between poverty and integrity or wealth and folly, the former is always the preferable option. Thus, we can be content with little as long as we have our good names.

Greeny followed up his previous comment with the following:

For Christians, the answer must be “no.” Since we claim to be followers of Christ, it is more than just our name on the line. The name of Christ is to be honored as well, and that should be a motivating factor in choosing a good name over great riches.