Okay, this is getting ridiculous now. Is it just me or is my blog turning into some sort of weekly NFL abuse blotter? This off-season, the first of the NFL’s NO MORE era, it seems like hardly a week can go by without some new assault or abuse related issue bursting forth like a squeezed pimple among its ranks. Consider that so far this off-season we’ve seen; an accused rapist drafted with the first pick of the 2015 draft, followed by the second round pick of a man accused of domestic violence, which was then followed by a veteran player getting dropped from one team for domestic violence and rape charges, then quickly signed by another team, only to be dropped again after he committed yet another act of domestic violence plus child endangerment.
So here we are, a week later and we’ve got yet another troubling incident on our hands. This time it’s courtesy of linebacker Prince Shembo, who has been accused of killing his now ex-girlfriend’s dog, a Yorkie, by kicking it to death. The details of the dog’s murder are pretty gruesome. According to police, Shembo kicked the dog hard enough to cause:
“…a fractured rib, fractured liver, abdominal hemorrhage, thoracic hemorrhage, extensive bruising and hemorrhage in the muscles in her front leg and shoulders, head trauma, hemorrhage and edema in lungs, hemorrhage between the esophagus and trachea, and hemorrhage in the left eye with internal injuries…”
Shembo has since been charged with aggravated cruelty to animals, dumped by his girlfriend and cut by the Atlanta Falcons (yes the same Falcons Michael Vick was playing for in 2007, when he was convicted for his role in a dogfighting ring). And if the details of the dog’s murder weren’t disturbing enough, there’s an even more frightening twist to the story. Shembo, as it turns out, is also the previously unnamed former Notre Dame player who was accused of sexually assaulting St. Mary’s student Lizzy Seeberg back in 2010.
For those who don’t remember, Seeberg’s case gained national attention because once she reported the assault, she was bullied, threatened and warned not to mess with Notre Dame football all while the university and local police refused to properly investigate her accusations. Then a few weeks later, Lizzy Seeberg committed suicide.
Knowing what we know now about Shembo’s cruelty toward a dog, it only makes it harder to believe claims that he didn’t assault Seeberg. Why? Because there’s a well established link between animal cruelty and acts of violence against humans. Besides, much like Jameis Winston, when Shembo was accused of assaulting Seeberg many large institutions sure worked hard to protect him. At minimum that raises questions, either way, Shembo was never held accountable for his actions.
Beyond Winston and Shembo, all the cases listed in my first paragraph share another common thread; the NFL teams that drafted or signed each of these players conduced what amounts to sham investigations into each player’s character, before deciding to sign them. All of these “investigations” were in reality little more than smoke screens allowing each team to say; “hey, we did our due diligence” when questioned why the fuck they picked an alleged rapist, abuser, or dog murderer.
So I guess the real lesson of the NFL’s NO MORE campaign isn’t; “The league no longer tolerates abuse and assault” but rather; “here teams, this is how to make yourselves look better without actually changing for the better.” Sadly NFL teams seem to have paid close attention and have learned well.
To be clear, I’m all for second chances. This country has a long history of allowing folks to fail, get up and try again. It’s one of the things that makes America great. But none of these men has really been forced to take accountability for his actions. Michael Vick at least went to jail, attended a program and from all accounts came out a changed man. Contrast this to Jameis Winston, Frank Clark and Ray McDonald, none of whom has been held accountable. These guys continue to get the message that they can get away with assaulting and abusing women with minimal impact on their careers. So it should come as no surprise when/if any of these guys end up perpetrating again.
Is jail time or even getting fired the answer? I have to say, as a black man in America I’m loathe to recommend sending more of us to jail. But something needs to be done to hold these guys accountable. If the NFL is really going to be about NO MORE abuse and assault, then it’s going to have to start with either the teams (not much better) or the players themselves. I certainly don’t want to give Roger Goodell and the league any more power over players to abuse.
It’s time then, for the National Football League Players Association (NFLPA) to step up to the plate and start holding its members accountable. Just like its high time for good cops to hold their shitty, abusive brothers in blue accountable, it’s time for NFL players to do the same among their ranks. The NFLPA’s own website lists as one of its purposes: “Enhance and defend the image of players and their profession on and off the field.” Well guys, it’s hard to see how the image of NFL players can get any more fucked than it is now. So how about it? Now’s your chance… Carpe diem and all that.
Need some ideas? How about sponsoring prevention and bystander intervention focused trainings for all players? Or working with experts in the violence prevention field to get players who’ve been violent into treatment? Or working with local victim service agencies to help those harmed by your players (while also getting the player into treatment)? These are just a few quick ideas off the top of my head. Given time and focus I’m sure plenty more and better ideas could be proposed.
Either way, I’m really hoping next week won’t find me writing yet another post about yet another NFL player committing some fucked up act of assault or abuse. But I won’t hold my breath. Sadly, until someone, be it the league, teams, or the NFLPA, steps up and says NO MORE and truly means it, I’ll probably be writing many more posts like this one.