Jason Witten tries to square criticizing Reuben Foster after embracing Greg Hardy

Jack BaerWriter
Yahoo Sports

Former Cowboys tight end Jason Witten faced one of the defining moments of his young broadcasting career on Monday when he addressed the Washington Redskins’ widely criticized acquisition of linebacker Reuben Foster, who was released from the San Francisco 49ers after multiple arrests for domestic violence.

Witten did not hold back.

Jason Witten blasts Redskins’ Reuben Foster signing

The Monday Night Football commentator lambasted Washington’s decision to claim Foster and that young players like Foster had to learn there is zero tolerance for violence against women in the league.

Via The Washington Post:

“One hundred percent no,” Witten said. “I believe the Washington Redskins used horrendous judgment in claiming this guy. And I understand that it’s an ongoing investigation. But my family’s been affected by domestic violence. I understand the anguish that it causes. And you know, young players just have to understand that there is no tolerance for putting your hands on a woman. Period.”

Witten would later emphasize the importance of players understanding they have the resources to break the cycle of domestic violence and to “use that as a platform to be different.”

Jason Witten’s comments receive some blowback

While these comments were warmly received by many, Robert Littal of Black Sports Online wasn’t so approving. In a column posted on Tuesday, Littal blasted Witten for condemning Foster after welcoming Greg Hardy, one of the NFL’s most infamous domestic violence offenders, onto the Cowboys only three years ago.

Witten was a long-time captain of the Cowboys at the time of Dallas’ Hardy signing, a time in which he commended Hardy and avoided passing judgement on the defensive end’s off-field activities.

“He said the Redskins used horrendous judgment in signing Foster, so what does that make the Cowboys?” Littal wrote. “What Witten didn’t do is address why he was so accepting of Hardy. He didn’t have to go out of his way to praise Hardy … If Witten didn’t feel this way, that would mean he is a liar, but beyond that, he was willing to put his morals aside to appease Jerry Jones and frankly that might be worse than the hypocrisy of his comments.”

Now with ESPN, Jason Witten says his criticism of domestic abusers is what he truly believes. (AP Photo)
Now with ESPN, Jason Witten says his criticism of domestic abusers is what he truly believes. (AP Photo)

Witten isn’t the only Cowboys figure to condemn domestic violence today while leaving out past comments about Hardy, who is now being welcomed with open arms by the UFC. Cowboys Jerry Jones also had a convenient case of memory loss in a radio interview Tuesday.

Jason Witten addresses contrast between Greg Hardy and Reuben Foster comments

Near the end of the column, Littal said Witten needed to explain himself for his “hypocrisy.” Witten did so Wednesday morning on Twitter:

So Witten put forward a small admission that he might have went too far in his public welcome of Hardy, while also stating that he privately disagreed with the Cowboys’ decision-makers. Apparently, what Witten said on Monday were his true thoughts.

In case you need a refresher on what Witten says he didn’t mean about Hardy, here’s a collection from the Dallas Morning News:

“I think everybody knows [my view on] domestic violence. That’s unwavering, ” Witten said Sunday during one of his annual football ProCamps at Liberty Christian School. “That’s something that I lived, my family lived. But that guy is a teammate of mine, so I think you have to look at it from that standpoint of as Coach Garrett says, it’s our job to invite those guys in and then create a standard of how we do things. I think he’s done a great job since he’s been here.”

“It’s not my job to decide who comes and who doesn’t,” Witten said. “I’m a tight end. But I’ve been really pleased with how he’s approached it and how he goes to work and what kind of teammate he’s been. The day he got suspended, the next day he was in there working out, so I think that’s kind of the mentality he has, what kind of work ethic and what he’s trying to prove here in Dallas.”

“The guy works his tail off,” Witten said. “I think our job is to welcome him and show him the way we do things and embrace him as a teammate, and he’s done everything that you want. He’s a hard worker. Obviously he’s a talented player. I think he’s learned a lot from what he’s gone through in the last year.”

Those are obviously some pretty awful comments in retrospect, right down to saying that Hardy had “gone through” something in place of what he actually did. Witten obviously conceded Wednesday that he probably “went too far” in welcoming Hardy, but that might have been an understatement.

Should Witten be given a pass for his Greg Hardy comments?

The prevailing theme of Witten’s old comments are simple enough: it wasn’t his decision to make, he understands the evil of domestic violence, he’s only seen good things from Hardy himself, it’s his job to keep the team undivided. Of course, that was the problem, wasn’t it? People treating a football team’s interests as more important than human decency?

This is all so familiar, right down to what some members of the Redskins organization have said about Foster.

Chris Thompson said something quite similar to Witten; that the decision was made by head coach Jay Gruden and president Bruce Allen, that Foster had made mistakes and that he would focus on embracing the linebacker as his teammate.

Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, who played with Foster at Alabama, said the decision was “above” him and that he was “glad” to have Foster as a teammate. You can only wonder if they might be in Witten’s spot in a few years, saying that they were only trying to help the team and are now ready to truly condemn domestic violence.

Witten might be saying the right things now, but it sure would have been nice if he had just no-commented on Hardy in the first place, like Littal suggested, and avoided helping accept an alleged domestic abuser back into the NFL with publicly open arms.

In his Monday night comments, Witten talked about how domestic violence was a cycle that needs to be broken. He might have already missed his own chance to break a cycle of domestic violence discourse in the locker rooms of the NFL.

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