Former NFL tight end Kellen Winslow Jr. was charged on Thursday with allegedly raping a 17-year-old in 2003 while she was unconscious.
It was the third rape charge for Winslow, who was already facing trial for for allegedly raping two San Diego-area women in their 50s, one of them homeless.
That news came on the heels of the latest from the LeSean McCoy saga. The Buffalo Bills running back stands accused by his estranged girlfriend of arranging a burglary in his own home that left her battered and bloody in an alleged dispute over jewelry.
NFL can’t quit negative headlines
It was an awful Thursday for NFL news, keeping up the trend of a miserable summer for the league at a time when it can least afford bad publicity.
It’s no secret that interest in the NFL is waning. NFL TV viewership declined by almost 10 percent in 2017 from the previous year, the second straight season the league saw a significant ratings drop.
There’s much debate around the cause of the decline, with fans on both sides of the anthem kneeling controversy pointing to the issue and the league’s handling of it for dwindling interest.
League invited bad publicity with anthem decision
The NFL appeared intent on keeping the issue in the news in May, shining light on the dormant story by announcing a controversial new anthem policy requiring players and personnel on the field to stand at attention during the playing of the Star-Spangled Banner.
The owners’ anthem decision came under intense pressure from President Donald Trump, who has gleefully fanned the flames of discord for a league that he has made his punching bag.
Trump continued his onslaught on the NFL in June when he disinvited the Philadelphia Eagles from the traditional White House visit afforded the Super Bowl champions. Trump cited the Eagles’ alleged disagreement “with their President because he insists that they proudly stand for the national anthem,” a victory dance of sorts for the President after forcing the league’s hand on the anthem issue.
Crime stories plaguing NFL
When it’s not at odds with Trump, the NFL has spent the summer wrestling with police blotter headlines.
Arizona Cardinals general manager Steve Keim has been in the news this week for a July 4 DUI arrest.
Former Seattle Seahawks cornerback Brandon Browner found himself facing a slew of serious charges, including attempted murder for allegedly breaking into a woman’s home and threatening to kill her. He also faces charges of battery, robbery, burglary, false imprisonment and two counts of child endangerment after being arrested following a police chase.
Meanwhile, the NFL suspended Jamies Winston for three games after he allegedly groped an Uber driver, the latest bad deed associated with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback who was accused of sexual assault while at Florida State.
Domestic violence charges against San Francisco 49ers linebacker were eventually dropped after his accuser recanted her story. The NFL still suspended Foster for two games for a marijuana arrest and a no-contest plea to a misdemeanor gun charge.
All of the criminal charges make Julian Edeleman’s bizarre 4-game PED suspension for a substance the NFL has not identified pale in comparison.
Meanwhile, the biggest controversy in the NBA’s offseason has involved LeBron James failing to show up for an L.A. pizza party.
Will bad news contribute to continuing ratings slide?
The NFL just can’t seem to get anything right. The league keeps pumping out negative headlines on slow summer news days and stepping on itself with misguided anthem announcements in the middle of May.
The approaching season will provide another reckoning of the league’s popularity. While it’s still the most-watched league in American sports, it seems intent on ceding ground to the competition.
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