The NFL was able to suspend San Francisco 49ers linebacker Reuben Foster without ever acknowledging the very serious domestic violence allegation against him.
Foster pleaded no contest to a misdemeanor gun charge and was also arrested for marijuana possession this offseason. The NFL was able to do some gymnastics to turn that into a two-game suspension, while never addressing the domestic violence charge that ended up being dropped.
NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport said the two-game suspension was for “violating the NFL’s Conduct and Substances of Abuse policies. The violations stem from a weapons offense and a misdemeanor drug offense, both of which were resolved earlier this year.”
#49ers LB Reuben Foster is fined and suspended without pay for the first two games of 2018 for violating the NFL’s Conduct and Substances of Abuse policies. The violations stem from a weapons offense and a misdemeanor drug offense, both of which were resolved earlier this year.
— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) July 3, 2018
Note that Rapoport made sure to not mention the domestic violence case.
Finding a way to suspend Foster
The NFL was in a tough spot with Foster’s case. Foster was accused of dragging his girlfriend and punching her in the head, but then she recanted her statement and testified in court she lied.
The NFL has often ignored what happens in court, especially in recent domestic violence cases after the Ray Rice debacle, to suspend players. Greg Hardy’s ex-girlfriend didn’t testify against him and charges were therefore dropped on appeal, but the NFL suspended him anyway. Ezekiel Elliott was suspended six games after a domestic violence accusation although no charges were brought against him. Jameis Winston just got hit with a three-game suspension for allegedly groping an Uber driver, though she never bought the matter to legal authorities.
The NFL couldn’t let Foster off without a suspension, after those examples. Also, if they suspended Foster the six games they outlined in the new domestic violence policy, they would be doing so based on the recanted statement of a woman who testified in court she was lying.
So the NFL took the easy way out and suspended Foster for something else.
Foster says he’s sorry
The NFL, Foster and 49ers general manager John Lynch released statements on Tuesday:
Statement by an NFL spokesperson: “Reuben Foster of the San Francisco 49ers has been fined and suspended without pay for the first two games of the 2018 regular season for violating the NFL’s Conduct and Substances of Abuse policies. The violations stem from a weapons offense and a misdemeanor drug offense, both of which were resolved earlier this year.
“Foster will be eligible to return to the 49ers’ active roster on Monday, September 17, following the team’s September 16 game against the Detroit Lions.
“Foster is eligible to participate in all preseason practices and games.
Foster: “I accept the League’s decision and am sorry that my mistakes have hurt my team. I have a responsibility to the 49ers, our fans and our community, and I am committed to learning from this situation and making better choices in the future. The support I have received over the last five months has been humbling, and I do not take it for granted.”
Lynch: “Our organization understands and supports the League’s decision. Although we are disappointed that Reuben will not be with our team for the first two games of the season, we will continue to work with him on making better decisions and eliminating unnecessary distractions. We are encouraged to see Reuben take responsibility for his mistakes, and hopeful that he has learned from them as well.”
Where do the 49ers and Foster go from here?
The 49ers, who didn’t take action with Foster despite the serious allegations, will lose one of their best defensive players for two games. Foster was a first-round pick last year, and the 49ers clearly were hoping the situation would pass without them having to let Foster go.
While the entire sequence makes little sense, the NFL can say it gave Foster some punishment, and the 49ers and Foster can quietly serve two games and move on. And it’s probably a good bet the NFL’s next round of player punishment will be just as confusing as this one.
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