Redskins Make Mockery of NFL’s Domestic Violence Issue

On Sunday, former 49ers linebacker Reuben Foster was in a jail cell, accused of slapping his ex-girlfriend, his second domestic violence arrest in ten months.  48 hours later he was the newest member of the Washington Redskins.

Of course it was the Redskins who eschewed all sense of morality and claimed him. The team with the racial slur of a nickname. The team that welcomed another embattled linebacker, Junior Galette, just a week after the Saints released him for a litany of off-field trouble centered around a brutalizing domestic violence arrest.  The team owned by a man who sold 9-11 merchandise for a profit, failed to pay some employees their full wages, and turned a blind eye as his team’s cheerleaders were literally being “pimped out.” Washington is the NFL’s clear ethical bottom feeder.

The actual act of signing Foster at this juncture is almost as atrocious as Washington’s rationale. In a statement, Senior VP of Player Personnel Doug Williams started by explaining Foster’s long legal process and the hoops he’d need to jump through before actually taking the field.  (Foster was placed on the Commissioner’s exempt list Tuesday.)  Then, when explaining why Foster is now a Redskin, Williams offered this piece of verbal diarrhea:

“That being said, we decided to investigate the situation with Reuben further by claiming his rights after candid conversations with a number of his ex-Alabama teammates and current Redskins players who were overwhelmingly supportive of us taking this chance. Nothing is promised to Reuben, but we are hopeful being around so many of his former teammates and friends will eventually provide him with the best possible environment to succeed both personally and professionally.”

Has this team not followed the news?

Approaching Foster with one eye shut, believing those in the building could double as mental health professionals, and hoping for the best is exactly where the 49ers went so awry. But the key difference is Kyle Shanahan and John Lynch truly believed they could help him escape the shadows of a tragic childhood (his father shot his mother while she was holding a 19-month-old Reuben) and tumultuous college off-field experience. They offered Foster a clean slate. When he demonstrated an inability to follow clear guidelines that led to his latest arrest, the 49ers had to cut him, as Shanahan so thoughtfully explained.

But after two years in the NFL, Foster has sullied the clean slate the 49ers provided.  Now enter the Redskins with an obvious willful ignorance.  Even with such a recent resume packed with trouble, even with the decent probability that Foster slapped his ex-girlfriend, even with the horrible optics, the effect on female fans, the effect on all fans, Dan Snyder and co. just said, Screw it, the former Crimson Tide players will show him the way! What an absolute travesty, even by Snyder standards.

Perhaps the only positive out of this news is that no other teams put in a claim for Foster despite his youth and undeniable talent. But the fact that four years removed from Ray Rice and the NFL’s subsequent commitment to strongly policing DV, a player could be signed to a team hours after being arrested is unconscionable.

What happened to the No More ads? The supposedly thorough mandatory domestic violence awareness training sessions for all clubs? Why did the NFL never glom on to Domestic Violence Month in October?  Why did they institute a mandatory six-game suspension for domestic violence or sexual assault if the full six games would only apply in a sliver of cases?

NFL Network’s Judy Battista exposed the sad truth.

The fervor over domestic violence simmered.  And the simmering bred complacency.

The NFL, like most old school businesses, is highly reactive. In the aftermath of Rice, when they had the horrifying video optics, when female fans were threatening to check out in droves and the league was worried about ratings and apparel sales, they stopped the bleeding.  Domestic violence was without question their issue du jour.

But then no more videos surfaced, at least not among current players. There were bursts of anger here and there, like when disgraceful diarist and former Giants kicker Josh Brown got off easy or when Ezekiel Elliott’s case was fraught with inconsistencies. But mostly the domestic violence perpetrators were not household names so people stopped paying attention.

Had the league not just operated by the ebbs and flows of its latest PR crises, they could have used this period to refine their understanding of domestic violence. They would realize that DV is the leading cause of women being murdered.  They would understand the role hypermasculinity and inherent violence of its sport feeds into the issue. They would care because the reality of domestic violence is too stark to ignore.

Perhaps they would have developed a much tougher, zero tolerance stance on domestic violence, like they should have instituted all along.

Without a tougher policy from the league, there will always be rogue franchises like the Redskins (or the Cowboys, in the case of Greg Hardy) who will make callous ethical trade-offs to acquire troubled talent on the cheap.  With the public outcry seemingly diminishing it appears the league is resigned to a toothless status quo.  This is why is it incumbent on the fans, media, and sponsors to let the league that the status quo is not acceptable.  If only Reuben Foster and his troubled brethren had the audacity to take a knee during the national anthem, then our work would be done for us