A little over one year ago, when NFL team owners were rocked by social protests sweeping through their locker rooms, a cabal of shot-callers in the fraternity moved to clamp down on a hemorrhaging public relations issue. President Donald Trump was rattling his political saber over kneeling players, segments of the fan base were roiled and sponsors were complaining. Someone needed to apply pressure on commissioner Roger Goodell and fellow owners to protect the league’s bottom line.
So the Washington Redskins’ Dan Snyder stepped up in support, repeatedly backing Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones and attacking a protest issue that appeared to be threatening the NFL’s reputation. Going from the guy who stood arm-in-arm with players against Trump’s political capitalism, then spearheading a now-dead directive to sanction players demonstrating for social justice and racial equality on gameday.
This is the Dan Snyder brand of selfish hypocrisy. Do whatever suits you, whenever it suits you.
Keep in mind, this is the same owner whose franchise staged an astoundingly inappropriate team cheerleader event in Costa Rica – in which a half-nude calendar shoot became a creepy dating opportunity for VIP ticket-holders and sponsors. The same Dan Snyder whose lucrative team name and logo are considered to be among the most deeply offensive relics in modern sports. The guy who applauded Goodell’s significantly flawed handling of the Ray Rice domestic violence investigation, then later cheaply signed linebacker Junior Galette in the wake of serious abuse allegations. Whose Redskins merchandise store has sold such shockingly crass for-profit items as 9-11 remembrance team hats and plush dolls of murdered safety Sean Taylor.
Whatever suits you, whenever it suits you.
And now this week’s edition: adding linebacker Reuben Foster two days after an arrest stemming from his second domestic violence allegation in 10 months. An allegation that led to Foster’s third arrest in 2018 and astonishingly took place in the 49ers’ team hotel on Saturday night, prior to Sunday’s game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. An incident embarrassing enough that it will leave a distinct bruise on the reputation of San Francisco general manager John Lynch, who repeatedly lauded Foster’s growth as a person and player before reaching a breaking point.
By Tuesday night, 31 NFL teams – including the linebacker-needy, damaged-goods assembly line known as the Cincinnati Bengals – had decided Foster should be made to wait for future employment. That is a hell of a statement, considering his status as a wildly talented first-round pick from the 2017 draft. It’s the kind of currency that usually has NFL personnel men lining up around the block, yet nearly 97 percent of the league’s teams backed away from this one. All except for the Redskins.
Because … hey, low-risk opportunity, right? Perfect pickings for that whatever-suits-you, whenever-it-suits-you business model.
Here’s what that low-risk opportunity looks like: There is a police report alleging Foster pushed his on-again, off-again girlfriend, slapped her across the face and knocked a phone out of her hand. This is the same girlfriend who previously alleged – then recanted – a story of Foster punching her repeatedly in the head and breaking her phone. There is also a reality of (in no particular order): Foster failing a drug test at the NFL scouting combine; getting booted from the event for a heated altercation with a hospital employee; getting suspended two games for substance and personal conduct-related violations; being the focus of an investigation by NFL domestic violence czar Lisa Friel; and having been removed from multiple draft boards in 2017 because of a string of serious red flags that surfaced in the pre-draft process (chief among them a nightclub shooting in college that Foster witnessed, ending in the death of one of his close friends).
That’s what this waiver claim encompasses. More red flags than a military parade in China. A situation that has reached a level so serious that the NFL immediately placed Foster on the commissioner’s exempt list, which bars him from playing or practicing in the league until the league sorts out the latest allegations against him. A move that was previously applied to defensive end Greg Hardy following a ghastly domestic violence investigation involving his former girlfriend, and to running back Adrian Peterson, the current Redskins running back who was indicted in 2014 for beating his son with a switch while playing for the Minnesota Vikings.
In both of those cases, the exempt list was used to take NFL teams out of the equation – placing the league’s need for resolution (and retribution) ahead of the teams that might employ a player at any cost. And you can bet that’s precisely why Goodell is using it now, knowing that Foster could very well have suited up or practiced in Washington this week.
The Redskins might dispute that, of course. Particularly considering the franchise put out a mind-boggling statement that tried to mitigate inevitable backlash against claiming Foster. A statement that absurdly straddled both sides of the fence while trying to look responsible, asininely adjoining phrases like “fully understand the severity of the recent allegations” and “if true”. Not to mention lauding the team’s investigative process by stating the Redskins had spoken to Foster’s ex-Alabama teammates, while expressing hope that “being around so many of his former teammates and friends” will somehow fix Foster’s life issues.
First, don’t use the phrase “if true” when you’re claiming a player under a cloud of domestic violence. It suggests that your pathetic two whole days of vetting was far from adequate. Second, you probably don’t “fully understand” a set of allegations if you also have uncertainty whether they’re legitimate or not. Third, if a franchise doesn’t know the legitimacy of domestic violence allegations, it’s probably not smart to start diagnosing life-resolutions for a player that include “being around … his former teammates and friends”.
Let’s call this whole thing what it really is. The Redskins saw talent and jumped in line for it without knowing that nobody else in the NFL would follow suit. And when they figured out they had hung themselves far out on a thin moral branch, they released a statement that could be boiled down to: “We asked some people who said Foster is a good guy and we’re hoping he will be a good guy, but if he isn’t let’s just forget about this whole thing.”
As statements go, this one will be a lowlight worthy of being filed alongside the signing Junior Galette. Or treating VIPs to slimy cheerleader junkets. Or selling plush dolls of murdered safety Sean Taylor in the online store. Or any other less-than-savory installments in this ownership’s history.
Make no mistake, this is a peak Dan Snyder moment. Doing whatever suits him, whenever it suits him. As selfish and hypocritical as ever.
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