This weekend the NFL completed their 2017 draft. Many teams did well to help themselves both in terms of talent and credibility. Then there were some teams that might have helped their franchise in one aspect at the expense of the other. For some reason, it seems that NFL players; past, present and future have a connection to crimes against women. These crimes occur in the form of sexual assault, physical assault and their have been an instance of murder. The questions I pose today is whether or not athletes who commit these crimes should be allowed to participate in professional sports? Additionally, at what point does talent overtake morality?
There are two teams that I will focus on for my article. One team is the Cincinnati Bengals who have a history of troubled players and the Cleveland Browns who are struggling to change the success and the culture of the franchise. The Bengals and Browns are both from the state of Ohio, rivals in their division. These teams have been running in opposite directions for a good amount of years. The two players that come into question that were drafted are Joe Mixon (drafted by the Bengals) and Caleb Brantley (drafted by the Browns). The similarities between these two players are physical assaults on women by both men. One happened in July 2014 and the other April 2017.
Joe Mixon’s incident occurred during his freshman year at the college of Oklahoma in 2014. There is a video showing him striking a female who was involved in an altercation with him. He was suspended for his entire freshman year but allowed to continue playing the next season. Mixon went on to have a very successful college career on the field. He was considered a lock to be drafted in the first round but his status was affected by this incident. Mixon fell to the second where he was drafted by the Bengals with pick number 48.
The next player I will discuss in Caleb Brantley who played his college career at the University of Florida as a defensive tackle. A defensive force on the field, Brantley was tempered to be drafted in the late first round or early second until… According to numerous sports reports, Brantley allegedly was involved in an altercation with a woman in which he struck her. The woman was knocked unconscious and may have suffered a damage/loss of some teeth. This happened a couple of weeks before the NFL draft. Once highly regarded draft pick, Brantley fell to the sixth round before being drafted by Cleveland with pick number 185.
Within each organization the question that needs to be answered is; where do we draw the line on talent VS. moral character. Is the bottom line winning with players regardless of the type of backlash it could bring? For many teams, these players and others who committed crimes of violence against women were no longer on the draft boards. These teams wanted to either send a message to these players and the fan base saying; “we will not tolerate this behaviour, regardless of your talent.” Maybe both? For a team like the Bengals, drafting Mixon was no surprise based on player history. This goes on and off the field. For the Browns, there is a bit of a shock and let down. You would think that a team that has endured and still is haunted by the “Johnny Football” debacle would like to keep the arrow trending in the right direction. The pick of Brantley seems to give this new regime a bit of a black eye. No pun intended.
According to an online article by Bleacherreport.com, “Joe Mixon, Dede Westbrook, Jourdan Lewis and Dalvin Cook have all been charged with crimes related to striking women during or after their collegiate careers.” (http://bleacherreport.com/articles/2706730-caleb-brantley-drafted-by-browns-in-6th-round-after-battery-charge-before-draft) When teams draft these players, what message do they send? Are they saying that everyone deserves a second chance or we have a chance to improve the roster at any cost? Maybe it is time that rules be put in place to ban players that commit these types of crimes. In my opinion, it would not be unreasonable. Whether it is a college or professional player, if you are convicted of assault (sexual or otherwise) against a woman… That is the end of your career. Harsh? Maybe… But I read a quote from an owner stating playing in the NFL is a “privilege.” That owner is correct! As far as second chances? There are still many jobs outside of professional sports for them to make an honest living. The second chance they can ask for may be given, just not as part of the NFL. It is conceivable that until there is a serious change to NFL rules? The problem of violence against women will still be debate of morality VS. talent.
What’s your thoughts? Please let me know. Thanks for reading and take care!