Sociologist: Retirement may have had McNair ‘kind of lost’

Friday, July 10, 2009 at 12:30am

The factors that led Steve McNair to be in “a dating relationship” with a 20-year-old woman while he was married could have been enhanced — or possibly brought on — by retirement.

That’s the assessment of Steven Ortiz, an associate professor of sociology at Oregon State University.

Although he has not looked specifically at the circumstances that led to McNair’s murder on July 4 at the hands of Sahel ‘Jenny’ Kazemi, who subsequently took her own life, Ortiz spent four years studying the marriages of professional athletes from the perspective of the wives and even longer interpreting and disseminating his findings.

Click here to read "Why infidelity is part of the pro sports lifestyle"

“Based on my research, I think many male professional athletes have a very difficult time transitioning out of their careers into other careers,” Ortiz said. “I had wives who told me their husbands behaved in ways that were completely contradictory to the way he used to behave during his career.

“… I think you’re looking at a transitional process as they disengage from a world that has identified them and defined them. They’re kind of lost. They’re disoriented. They’re not quite sure what to do,” he said. “They have to actually redefine themselves into a different identity into a role apart from that of the professional athlete.”

McNair retired from the NFL in 2007 after 11 seasons with two different franchises. He was a starting quarterback for all but the first two years of his career, earned multiple Pro Bowl selections and was the league’s co-MVP in 2003.

Last month, he opened a restaurant, Gridiron9, in Nashville. He also had coaching aspirations, according to Tennessee Titans’ coach Jeff Fisher who said he invited McNair to spend time with his staff during the upcoming training camp.

“When they do transition out of a career in professional sports they have to re-skill themselves somehow because they are no longer in demand as professional athletes,” Ortiz said. “Those skill sets aren’t mandatory anymore so they have to readjust and redefine themselves, develop a new identity. Some …will never make that transition.”

He added that, for some, being separated from the team dynamic could contribute to the challenge, or possibly generate greater struggles.

Teammates held McNair almost universally in high esteem for his selfness and the camaraderie he created.

“Many of these men were very close,” Ortiz said. “They were very close to their teammates. Their wives would tell me their teams were like a home away from home, a second family. Retirement issues can become a crisis in the lives of some professional athletes.”

The circumstances surrounding McNair’s death have raised a lot of questions about the state and the nature of his marriage. During their investigation of the murder, Metro Police learned that McNair may have been involved with one other woman in addition to his wife and Kazemi at the time of his death.

His widow, Mechelle McNair, has not spoken publicly and, through a spokesperson, she has requested privacy.

Ortiz, however, said that marriages involving professional athletes often function differently than those in which no one is in the public eye.

Through his research, he determined that what exists is a ‘fast food sex mentality’ — the prevalence of groupies and/or women who make themselves ‘sexually available’ to athletes. He ultimately concluded that a ‘culture of adultery’ exists within the professional sports world, which typically forces the wives to find ways to cope.

“After a period of months what occurred to me was the degree to which they normalize a lot of these issues and pressures and demands that you find in sport marriages and maybe do not find as much in other kinds of marriages,” Ortiz said. “In (some) ways it’s a very unique kind of marriage because you have a set of stresses and issues and concerns that other women in other marriages don’t have to deal with.

“I think there is an element of denial and some kinds coping strategies and (the idea that) ignorance is bliss.”

8 Comments on this post:

By: Kosh III on 7/10/09 at 6:14

Funny, I have changed careers more than once and done so without much problem.
Didn't he go to college? What's was his degree in? Can't retired athletes go into the field of their degree? They did study hard and get good grades---right?? That's what college is for---right?

"Teammates held McNair almost universally in high esteem for his selfness and the camaraderie he created"
"Selfness?" I think you mean selflessness?

By: frankbrown on 7/10/09 at 6:38

I disagree quite strongly with the sociologist. He is no different than any other competitive male with money,youth and appeal. His bad decision was not understanding the Arabic culture of this woman. They are prideful to the point of self-destruction.

By: nashbeck on 7/10/09 at 6:51


I am in now way saying what McNair did was right, but he was idolized in Nashville (and the nation), and women flocked to him. Being the mvp of the NFL and a pro bowler for so many years to being basically unemployed is much, much different from an accountant becomnig a broker, etc.

RIP McNair, Kazemi. Forgive them

By: McCormickFan on 7/10/09 at 6:55

Come on frankbrown - you really think the bad decision was the ethnicity of the woman he cheated with???? What about fidelity?

By: sidneyames on 7/10/09 at 7:07

McCormick, I can see what frankbrown means. Our American culture does not emphasize the same things that other cultures do. For instance, if Jenny (or whomever she is) were in her native country and committed adultry, some of the regions would have buried her up to her waist in sand and the entire neighborhood would have been able to stone her to death, unless she could pay $$ her way out of it with certain officials or the man. I have no doubt that this young woman had some "noble" ideation about killing this man and then dying in his lap. She aparently did not have reasoning skills because her life was so out of control. I blame only her and her parents for her life skills. Steve McNair had his own set of problems and "mid-life" crisis is real. Maybe not for everyone, but for some.

By: fdanshep on 7/10/09 at 7:25

The whole issue of the circumstances leading up to his death aside, earlierthis week my sentiments expressed to co-workers regarding why a young woman of 20 would murder and end her life were much the same as frankbrown. I don't think you can dismiss it.

By: real_frank_brown on 7/10/09 at 10:03

I do not agree with the comments of "frankbrown" the person who is using my name and admits that this name is not his own.

By: Kosh III on 7/10/09 at 10:14

Didn't he have a restaurant that just opened? Shouldn't that have kept him busy? Most restaurant managers work 10-14 hours per day, esp. at the start.