NFL hypocrisy reaching new (unsurprising) lows

Los Angeles Rams vs. San Francisco 49ers

Did you know there is an entire database of NFL players who have been arrested since 2000? It’s right here, as compiled by USA Today at In all, a total of 865 records appear in the database over the last 17 years. Even those who only watch the Super Bowl for commercials may recognize a plethora of names on this list. Plaxico Burress, LeGarrette Blount, Le’Veon Bell, Adrian Peterson and a whole slew of others appear throughout the database.

Each of those four athletes I mentioned made millions of dollars to play football after their arrests.

Burress shot himself in the thigh with a pistol he did not have the license to be carrying. He made over $4 million after the incident.

Blount and Bell were pulled over together amid being suspected of possessing 20 ounces of marijuana. The two have earned a combined $4 million since the incident. Bell is slated to earn $12.1 million next year under the Pittsburgh Steelers’ franchise tag or sign a much more lucrative long-term deal.

Peterson has two records in the database. One from charges of resisting arrest in 2012 that were later dropped. The other a widely covered felony charge of child abuse of 2014. Since, Peterson’s earnings have topped $25 million with a freshly signed $7 million deal yet to come.

On Tuesday, news broke that the Baltimore Ravens were the closest team yet to sign free agent QB Colin Kaepernick, and both head coach John Harbaugh and GM Ozzie Newsome were in favor of doing so, yet team own Steve Bisciotti was rumored to oppose the signing. Despite the Ravens potentially losing Flacco for extended time to a back injury and no obvious replacement on the depth chart, the franchise is split on whether to sign Kaepernick. With Flacco’s health in question, Baltimore’s quarterback choices are currently split between Ryan Mallet and his career 55 percent passer rating (with 10 interceptions to only seven touchdowns), and a backup QB with only three attempted passes since high school.

The organization has even gone to the length of polling fans on their views of signing Kaepernick.

Bisciotti has been a part-owner of the Ravens since 2000, and the team’s majority owner since 2004. In those 17 years of owning the team, Bisciotti has seen 27 Ravens appear on that very same database mentioned earlier. Among those were Jamal Lewis, who pleaded guilty of drug dealing and cocaine possession in Atlanta in 2004. He played with the Ravens for a further two years. Former cornerback Chris McAlister was on the list three separate times, the latest coming in August of 2003. McAlister would stay a member of the Ravens through 2008.

And let’s not forget Ray Lewis, who was famously charged with the murder of two men outside a nightclub in Atlanta. Lewis pleaded guilty to obstruction of justice and was given one year of probation and a $250,000 fine from the NFL. He went on to play another 12 seasons with Baltimore and accrue over $80 million in total cash earnings.

People may invoke the case of Ray Rice here. That is ludicrous. Not only does it equate a peaceful anthem protest with a full-fledged assault of a woman, it completely ignores the fact that Baltimore was ready and willing to keep Rice on their roster up until surveillance footage of the incident became public — a video that was almost certainly known to the organization prior to its public unveiling, and was entirely unnecessary to determine the severity of the incident in the first place.

This article is not a debate about Kaepernick’s anthem protests. Much like how Deflate-gate evolved into a fight over the commissioner’s power and abuse thereof, this story has evolved into two questions: what is the NFL willing to ignore as long as you can play football to a reasonable standard? What is it not willing to ignore?

Kaepernick is a quality backup quarterback, at the very least, who under ‘normal’ circumstances would have been signed long before the start of training camp, as Mike Glennon, Josh McCown and Austin Davis have proven this offseason. The problem here resides in what the NFL considers ‘normal’ circumstances. The league has long made it a normal occurrence to sign players guilty of drug possession, domestic violence, sexual assault, DUI, and a massive list of other felonies, misdemeanors, criminal acts, and various character flaws. None of those caused all 32 teams to stand back and say, “We cannot allow this man to play football after what he has done”.

So far, they have said exactly that to Kaepernick. Regardless of what your feelings are about Kaepernick’s anthem protests or subsequent remarks, they were not and are not a crime. They do not warrant a franchise reaching out to fans about the prospects of his signing with the team, at least not when no fans or sponsors were allotted a voice when Chris McAllister or Ray Lewis were signed by the very same franchise. The hypocrisy is galling.

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  1. Nick

    The NFL is a business. The only thing Kaepernick brings to a team is losing and less fans. Both are the opposite of money.

  2. Jason

    I think you’re missing a major point, and that is the on-going impact that Kaepernick has on a team.

    When a player commits a crime, it’s typically a one-time action. No matter how deplorable the action, it is over; it’s in the past. It will be a major distraction for a finite period of time, but then it’s over.

    However, even though Kaepernick didn’t commit a crime, many people feel that his actions are wrong. Kaepernick can’t (or won’t) apologize for his actions and allow the team move past it. He’s a continuing distraction.

    No one worried that Ray Lewis would pull out a gun and shoot someone right before the game; it simply wasn’t going to happen. However, everyone wonders what Kaepernick is going to do before the game. Will he kneel during the national anthem? Who else is going to join him? It never ends. Plus, for those who oppose his method of protest, this is a repeated slap in the face. Every game. For the entire season. There’s no moving past it. There’s no way to unite the team in this regard. Kaepernick isn’t going to change; his teammates who oppose “dishonoring the flag” aren’t going to change. At best, it’s a distraction; at worst, it’s divisive. Either way, it isn’t good for a team.

    Thus, this negative has to be weighed against the positives he brings, and when you do that, the answer isn’t as obvious as you’re trying to make it.

  3. Sheilla Dingus

    What the Ravens and other teams seem to ignore is that Kaepernick was the only unemployed player in the top 50 of jersey sales. For every fan who dislikes him there’s someone else who supports him. I’m a Patriots fan, but I’ve come to be a fan of Kaepernick because he has the bravery to own his beliefs and speak out against injustice. I like to know a little about the players I watch outside their stats and Kap has impressed me as a brave and principled human being. He’s also a pretty good football player if you give him a few weapons to work with – far better than most of the new quarterback signings this offseason. In a country that was founded on dissension and whose FIRST Amendment is of freedom of speech, have we regressed so far as a nation that we have forfeited freedom of expression in favor of freedom from discomfort? If so – God help us!

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