LeBron James performed a massive public service over the weekend. Instead of dragging out his decision – – The Decision Redux? – – as to where he would be “taking his talents” beginning with the next NBA season. LeBron will play for the Lakers and has signed a 4-year deal worth $154M. Please ignore all of the self-serving commentary you will hear from LeBron and the Lakers in the next 72 hours; please ignore the bazillion NBA commentary/essays that will appear in the next 72 hours purporting to “clarify for you” what this signing means and signifies. Such statements and commentaries are pure blather.
Dwight Howard got traded again. Reports say that the Hornets shipped him off to the Nets for Timofey Mozgov and a second-round pick. Howard was a certified stud when he was playing for the Magic; he led the league in rebounding 4 times and in blocked shots 2 times in his 8 seasons there. That ended in 2012 when Howard “took his talents” to LA to play for the Lakers; since then he has become a vagabond. If/when he reports to the Nets – or any other NBA team in October 2018, it will be Dwight Howard’s 5th team since 2012 and four teams in the last four years. Yikes! Howard’s contract calls for him to earn $23.8M next year and then for him to be an unrestricted free agent.
Switching over to NFL news, Jameis Winston has been suspended for 3 games at the start of the 2018 season for a violation of the Personal Conduct Policy. A female Uber driver has accused him of grabbing her by the crotch while she was taking him from Point A to Point B. Winston has said that he had been drinking and cannot recall the details of that evening.
I am not interested in trying to litigate the allegations here so let me get a couple of things out of the way without any equivocation:
- No woman should ever be “grabbed by the crotch” unwillingly. Period. End of message. There are no “mitigating circumstances”.
- This is not the first time that a woman has made allegations against Jameis Winston that involve unwanted or forced actions of a “sexual nature”.
- The presumption of innocence – guaranteed in the US Constitution – demands that we all declare that Jameis Winston has never been proven to be a sexual predator in a court of law.
With all of that out of the way, the NFL’s action and posture in this matter is befuddling. After the blunder that followed the “Ray Rice Incident” – wherein Ray Rice got a 2-game suspension for knocking his future wife to her knees on an elevator captured on video – the NFL adopted a Personal Conduct Policy that set the bar at a 6-game suspension for actions involving domestic violence. Recall that in 2017, Ezekiel Elliott got a 6-game suspension for that same sort of violation.
So … the current question open for analysis is:
- Why/How did Jameis Winston get a suspension that is half as long as what the NFL’s policy demands and is half as long as what Ezekiel Elliott got just last year?
In order to try and understand all of this, I thought that the best way would be to look at what the NFL itself said about all of this in the announcement of the punishment and the closure of the matter. The NFL said in its statement that Jameis Winston touched an Uber driver:
“… in an inappropriate and sexual manner without her consent.”
The NFL statement also included this comment:
“In addition, a future violation of the Personal Conduct Policy will result in more substantial discipline, including a potential ban from the NFL.”
OK, so now that you know what the NFL has to say about handing down a suspension that is half of what the league policy calls for and half of what Ezekiel Elliott got last year, can you give me a logical explanation? If this is the best logical explanation, then the NFL and its so-called Personal Conduct Policy should be exposed for what it is:
- An arbitrary and capricious use of authority granted to the Commissioner by the NFLPA in the last round of labor negotiations in exchange for more revenue being devoted to the salary cap.
This is off the top of my head and so there may be other “precedents” involved here. It does seem to me that the 6-game suspension rule is not followed in more than a few cases. Nonetheless, consider:
- Josh Brown got a 1-game suspension for a domestic violence incident.
- Junior Galette got a 2-game suspension for a domestic violence incident. (This is the “Ray Rice punishment” after the fact and after the announcement of a new policy standard.)
- Joseph Randle got a 4-game suspension for an incident that involved domestic violence plus a firearm.
[Aside: Randle’s 4-game suspension was the same punishment handed down to Tom Brady for a charge not yet proven conclusively related to under-inflated footballs. I must be missing something here regarding the severity of the potential/alleged violations of NFL rules/policies here.]
If you get the idea here that I think the NFL is bending over backwards not to drop the hammer on a young Black QB who continues to show that his maturity level and his self-control mechanisms are inadequate, you would be most correct. Nonetheless, I feel in good company because this is what Scott Ostler of the SF Chronicle had to say about this matter:
“Suggestion for the lawyers and agents of Jameis Winston: When you release a statement on Winston’s Facebook account, listen to how he talks and try to make the statement sound like him. Not: ‘In the past two years my life has been filled with experiences, opportunities and events that have helped me grow, mature and learn.’ Is that his valedictory speech?
“Apparently one of those growth opportunities was the groping of a female Uber driver.”
Finally, since I invoked the name and the commentary of Scott Ostler just above, let me close today with another of his observations regarding the NFL and its rules and policies:
“If you want to see an NFL owner sweat, ask him what will happen if Marshawn Lynch continues to sit out the national anthem. The owners are hoping and praying that their new anthem rule will make that sticky situation go away, and Lynch could be the wild card. Good luck, owners, on getting a feel for what Lynch might be thinking. He sits out the anthem, on the Raiders’ bench, surrounded by team staffers trying to hide him. Lynch never explains why he’s sitting. And he doesn’t like being told what to do. And the Raiders don’t want to punish Lynch and risk alienating Oakland fans. Tick, tick …”
But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………