Gareon Conley says allegations an attempt to ruin 'once in a lifetime experience'

Shutdown Corner

A little more than 24 hours before the NFL draft, Ohio State cornerback Gareon Conley put out a statement through his agent calling the rape allegations against him “completely false.”

Conley was accused of sexual assault in a Cleveland hotel room on April 9. He and people he was with that night refute those allegations. He has not been charged and a warrant has not been issued. For Conley, projected as a first-round pick, the timing of the news clearly could affect his draft stock.

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All Conley can do before the draft begins is say he’s innocent, and his agent sent out a statement to ESPN’s Josina Anderson and NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport, among others. Here’s the text of the statement:

The allegations against me concerning the night of April 8/9 that have recently been reported in multiple media outlets are completely false. I did not commit a crime and have not been charged with a crime.

I pride myself on doing things the right way on and off the field. The things being said about me and what happened that night are not true and don’t fit my character at all. I realize that I put myself in the situation and I could have used better judgement. However, I have worked tirelessly to put myself in position to have the honor of being an NFL draft pick and these untrue allegations are putting a huge cloud over my name and the NFL draft.

These allegations appear to be an attempt to ruin this once in a lifetime experience for me and my family. There were several witnesses, including another female, who were present the entire time and have given statements that give an accurate account of what took place. We also have video evidence that further discredit and disprove other versions of these events. I am upset but realize that I am powerless when false accusations are made and people try to convict you in the court of public opinion. It’s sad that your name can get dragged through the mud based upon untrue and malicious allegations alone.

I am completely confident that as the facts actually come out my name will be cleared. I was excited about participating in Thursday’s draft but I have decided that it would be selfish for me to stay and be a distraction to the NFL, the other players, and their families who have worked just as hard as me to enjoy the experience so I will not be in attendance.

I hope and look forward to the honor of being an NFL player and working to be the best representative, player, person, and teammate that I can be for the team and the community I will be in.

The problem with NFL teams is there isn’t much time to figure out what happened or if Conley will face any legal issues in the future. A Cleveland police spokesman told 92.3 The Game in Cleveland on Tuesday it was “an open investigation.” In some ways it’s a situation similar to Dallas Cowboys offensive lineman La’el Collins, who went from a first-round pick to out of the 2015 draft because of uncertainty as he was questioned in a murder investigation. Collins was never charged but still lost millions in salary because of the timing of the news. He signed with Dallas as an undrafted free agent.

Conley said the allegations seemed like an attempt to ruin a “once in a lifetime experience.” Whether that was the intent, the allegations have turned him into one of the draft’s biggest stories and for the wrong reason. Already Conley said he won’t attend the draft because he doesn’t want to be a distraction. He was one of 22 prospects invited to attend the draft in Philadelphia.

It’s hard to predict how the allegations will affect where Conley goes in the draft. All he can do is tell teams he’s innocent, which he did again on Wednesday.

Gareon Conley said he will not attend the NFL draft this week. (AP)
Gareon Conley said he will not attend the NFL draft this week. (AP)

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Frank Schwab is the editor of Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at shutdown.corner@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

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