The NFL is almost back, about a month away from the start of training camp, and getting back on the field can’t come quickly enough for the people running the league. They have another disaster brewing with one of their star players, and have a player doing a great thing that they can’t even recognize.
Since the Super Bowl ended, the NFL has faced increased scrutiny about players kneeling during the National Anthem. Owners unilaterally instituted new Anthem rules that not all the owners, let alone players agree with. The league has changed its interpretation of what a catch is. They’ve faced numerous lawsuits from cheerleaders from various teams, who charge that they’ve been underpaid and sexually harassed. And now the league faces the suspension of one of its most well-known players…the first pick in the 2015 draft…Tampa Bay quarterback Jameis Winston.
Winston is alleged to have groped an Uber driver in Arizona during the off-season of 2016. While she filed a complaint with Uber the day after the alleged incident, she never called police or filed a civil suit. Last fall, she was compelled to come forward as part of the #metoo movement.
This allegation came on the heels of Winston being accused of raping a woman at his off-campus apartment near Florida State University in 2012. According to that woman, she was pressured by law enforecement to not press charges against the Florida State quarterback, and eventually quit cooperating in the investigation. Winston also admitted to taking crab legs from a Tallahassee grocery store, saying that he was given free food by the store regularly, and was accused of accepting money for autographs, which is against NCAA rules.
Winston has denied the latest allegations, but the league initiated an eight-month investigation into the March, 2016 incident, and that has resulted in a reported three game suspension to start the 2018 season. He’s let down the entire Buccaneers organization. Speculation has been rampant since late last season that Tampa’s General Manager, Jason Licht, and coach Dirk Koetter were facing a make or break 2018. Now an athlete that was consistently in trouble in college has made their seat even hotter.
At the 2015 combine, when Jameis Winston was asked by the media what he was telling teams about his immaturity and the above allegations, he said “I have to earn your trust. I have to do everything by my actions. It’s not time to explain about what I’m going through, but when I do get to a city and a team, I plan on getting involved in the community and create an image, a positive image, and put everything else behind me.”
A year later, he was in an Uber in Arizona and allegedly didn’t create a very positive image for himself, the Buccaneers and the NFL.
Like suspensions handed to Patriots quarterback Tom Brady and Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott, the NFL is operating without a lot of transparency and with an apparent desire to exert its control of players without concrete evidence. In the Brady case, the league didn’t have a tremendous amount of evidence in the deflate-gate situation, but determined that “it was more likely than not” that Brady encouraged Patriots personnel to deflate footballs.
Like Winston, Elliott was never charged by authorities. The league relied on its own investigation in determining his guilt, and ultimately suspended him for six games.
That’s three marquee NFL players; Brady, Elliott and Winston that will have been suspended in three straight seasons. It’s not a good look for the league.
Meanwhile, Kansas City Chiefs offensive tackle Laurent Duvernay-Tardif earned a medical degree from McGill University in Montreal. Last month, he graduated. So, Dr. Duvernay-Tardif made a simple request of the NFL. He asked if the letters M.D. could be added to the name on his jersey. Duvernay-Tardif was told no by the league office. The league has no problem putting Jr., Sr. or III on their jerseys. Heck, even former Ram (for a day) Titus Young, who had multiple scrapes with the law, as allowed to wear “YOUNG SR.” on the nameplate of his jersey.
The NFL has numerous problems. Dwindling television ratings, a bad relationship with its players and their union, controversy with the President of the United States, serious questions about the health of playing the sport due to concussions and CTE, mistreatment of females — specifically cheerleaders, and confusion over its own game’s rules.
This is a league that doesn’t just have black eyes from its public perception…especially here in St. Louis…but has bruises all over. As it suspends someone with a checkered past like Winston, why would it be such a bad thing to celebrate a player with an accomplishment like Laurent Duvernay-Tardif?
Because it’s what the league is, and what it has become. It’s full of miscreants from the league office in New York to former Browns first round pick Kellen Winslow Jr. With all the issues facing the once great NFL, it can’t even recognize its good points any more.