Laremy Tunsil is not a victim.
Let’s go ahead and put that out there right now.
The former Ole Miss offensive lineman might be described as a lot of things after the events of Thursday night — naïve, a pawn, oportunistic and maybe even a little dumb — but victim is not one of them.
He’s also not a snitch as some have painted him to be.
So let's stop calling him that as well.
He’s a guy whose past caught up with him at the most inopportune time possible and was forced to fess up to his misdeeds.
Simple. Clean. Indisputable.
Prior to Thursday night’s first round of the NFL draft, an anonymous hacker posted a video of Tunsil smoking marijuana out of a bong fashioned from a gas mask. Tunsil's camp claimed the video was allegedly years old, but it didn’t stop teams from taking a pass on Tunsil as he tumbled out of the top 10.
Then, after the Miami Dolphins drafted Tunsil at No. 13, the hacker (the same one or a different one, we don’t really know) started posting text messages between Tunsil and John Miller, assistant athletic director for football operations, on Tunsil’s Instagram account. The messages showed Tunsil asking for money to pay rent and his mother’s $305 electric bill.
While debates raged on Twitter regarding the validity of the text messages, Tunsil removed all doubt in his post-draft press conference.
“I made a mistake,” Tunsil said. “That happened.”
When asked for clarity on whether he was talking about taking money from a coach Tunsil said, “I’d have to say yeah.”
Tunsil was then ushered off the podium by his agent’s assistant and into a room with the door shut behind him.
The entire ordeal, from the time the gas mask video appeared on Twitter to Tunsil hastily being escorted out of the media room, was almost surreal and evoked all sorts of emotions from fans and media.
There was sympathy.
I saw a kid sweating bullets, wanting to tell the truth and put all the Ole Miss stuff behind him. "The truth shall set you free."
— Mike Griffith (@MikeGriffith32) April 29, 2016
And there was outrage.
Todd McShay just called out Laremy Tunsil for being honest under some B.S. code to Ole Miss. McShay is paid by a media company. Remarkable.
— Richard Deitsch (@richarddeitsch) April 29, 2016
And neither of those portrayals was an accurate one for the soon-to-be millionaire.
Tunsil was in a no-win situation by the time he got to the press conference. Sure, agent Jimmy Sexton dropped the ball by allowing Tunsil to take any questions or at the very least allowing him to face the media alone. Regardless, what was Tunsil supposed to do? His and Ole Miss’ (alleged) NCAA violations were splashed very prominently across social media and ultimately across every major news broadcast in the country. If he said he didn’t take money, he’d be lying. If he said he did, he sinks his school into the depths of NCAA infractions hell, a place Ole Miss is already festering while it responds to its current notice of allegations that stems from other Tunsil improprieties.
Still, this doesn’t make Tunsil a victim. Some really sinister stuff happened to him Thursday night. No one will dispute that. However, he brought a lot of that darkness to his own doorstep. Say what you want about college athletes getting paid, but rules are rules and they were willfully broken. Not only that, Tunsil kept a digital paper trail of his violations. Now whether those were still on his phone, stored in his cloud, whatever, doesn’t matter. Point is Tunsil, and ultimately Ole Miss, left the door open to get caught and they did.
— Dan Kilbridge (@LSJDanK) April 29, 2016
As an aside, cheating was so much easier before the digital age. Money was placed in socks in lockers or slipped under the table at restaurants. There were no text messages, no paper trails (unless they were used for blackmail later). Communication was at a minimum and most of it was done via pay phone.
These days, programs have to be smarter. Don’t kid yourself, many are. Ole Miss just doesn’t happen to be one of them and now the school says it will "aggressively investigate" what was shared with the world Thursday night.
“The university is aware of the reports from the NFL Draft regarding Laremy Tunsil and potential NCAA violations during his time at Ole Miss,” the school said in a statement Friday morning. “Like we do whenever an allegation is brought to our attention or a potential violation is self-discovered, we will aggressively investigate and fully cooperate with the NCAA and the SEC.”
According to one NFL team, a financial advisor who was fired by Tunsil could also be responsible for the social media leaks.
— Greg A. Bedard (@GregABedard) April 29, 2016
So where does this story go from here?
Well, Tunsil will sign a contract with the Dolphins worth millions of dollars. He’ll go on to play on Sundays, and if he stays away from the drugs, he might make a Pro Bowl or two. His life will move on like it was supposed to sans the $10 million or so he lost by slipping out of the first 10 picks.
Ole Miss, however, could bear the brunt of this. Or not. Tunsil doesn’t have to cooperate with the NCAA and its investigation, and Ole Miss can deny the claims until its red and blue in the face. We’ve seen it before (ahem, D.J. Fluker) and we’ve seen claims fade into the ether.
It doesn't help that Thursday’s admission of taking money was not Tunsil’s first offense. He was suspended seven games last season for receiving “the use of three loaner vehicles during a six-month period without payment; a four-month, interest-free promissory note on a $3,000 down payment for buying a used vehicle; two nights at a local home; an airline ticket purchased by a friend of a teammate; and one-day use of a rental car.”
So we can’t exactly pretend that the rule-breaking between Tunsil and Ole Miss wasn't blatant and habitual. Sure, it’s unfortunate that it came out the way it did, but it’s not unfortunate that it came out. And in the end, what should have been a joyous celebration of a school-record three players being drafted in the first round was marred.
So there, if you're looking for a victim, maybe it's the loyal fans that would have liked to celebrate this day instead of forget it.
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