The Washington Redskins showed what they will and will not tolerate from their players in the past two weeks and what it revealed was damning, both for them and for the National Football League. Take a knee, take a hike. Hands in handcuffs, hand ‘em a contract.
The Redskins’ decision to sign Mark Sanchez, a proven bust at quarterback, while ignoring Colin Kaepernick, who led a team to a Super Bowl only a few years ago, was bad enough but most of us have grown numb to the blackballing of a kid whose mortal sin was choosing to silently protest what he sees as social injustice by kneeling down while a song is played. But when you add to that the fact the Redskins had no qualms about claiming off waivers linebacker Reuben Foster despite his having been arrested three times in the past 11 months, including twice on domestic abuse charges, it speaks volumes about what they and the NFL value and what they do not.
In a nutshell it is this: have a conscience we don’t want you. Act unconscionably and we do – if you can run fast and are willing to throw your body into people at high rates of speed.
Kaepernick’s silent protest led to a movement among players that still resonates. While the kneeling itself has all but stopped, many of the players have continued to push back in various ways with state and local officials seeking change in things like juvenile detention policies, bail hearings and, to be frank, the shootings of unarmed black men by armed police officers in various cities. Although Kaepernick has clearly been blackballed – if not how do slappies like Sanchez or Nathan Peterman ever take one snap under center while he sits at home? – Foster has been embraced by the Redskins.
Now I suppose if in the year 2018 you still think it’s cool to call your team “Redskins’’ Washington’s decision to put a claim in on a guy less than three days after he was arrested in his team’s hotel for allegedly slapping his girlfriend in the face should come as no surprise. To be honest, it didn’t. If it wasn’t the Redskins giving the former No. 1 draft choice a second second chance, someone else eventually would have.
But what does it say about the NFL’s supposed position of no tolerance for domestic violence when this guy has been arrested twice this year for abusing women. To be fair, charges were dropped the first time when the young woman recanted but Foster did plead “no contest’’ to a misdemeanor weapons charge when officers who were called to their shared home found a loaded Sig Sauer 516 rifle (aka an assault weapon) on the bathroom floor.
This is the same Reuben Foster who was rated as a top 10 draft pick in 2017 until he was sent home early from the combine for A) failing a drug test and B) getting into a heated argument with a hospital worker over how long Foster had to wait in line with other players to complete an examination. When told he’d have to wait like anyone else, Foster allegedly threatened to “put hands on’’ the worker. One assumes he didn’t mean dapping.
Yet the 49ers drafted him with the 31st pick, trading up to make him a late first-round selection. They then reaped what they’d sown. Foster was arrested three times on their watch, suspended for two games to start this season and to this point has no sacks, forced fumbles, fumble recoveries or interceptions in the six games he’s played this year. Judging by his numbers, it would seem Reuben Foster is a lot more violence prone in hotel rooms and doctor’s offices than on NFL fields.
Yet the Redskins couldn’t even wait for him to clear waivers to grab him while also issuing a phony mea culpa of sorts under the name of Doug Williams, the team’s senior vice-president of player personnel. Whoever wrote the team statement in Williams’ name claimed Foster, “will have to go through numerous steps’’ before playing in Washington. This allegedly will include “meeting with counselors associated with the team before he will ever have the opportunity to wear the Burgundy and Gold as a player.’’
Isn’t that comforting?
Imagine any other industry outside of the morally bankrupt world of professional sports where such a guy would be hired? He shows up for a job interview, which is what the combine is, and both fails a drug test and threatens bodily harm to a hospital employee yet he gets the job.
Then he’s arrested three times in less than a year, including twice for domestic violence and once for marijuana possession in Alabama (which should qualify as failing an intelligence test), and he gets another job. Meanwhile, a guy who kneels before they play the National Anthem is too dangerous for a league that would hire Reuben Foster twice?
Former Washington Redskins’ return specialist and NBC Sports-DC television commentator Brian Mitchell looked at all that and came to a conclusion the Redskins should have as well if they had an ounce of common sense or common decency.
“If you’re a guy who makes bad decisions, you’re probably going to continue to make them,’’ Mitchell said.
The only thing B-Mitch left open to interpretations is this: was he talking about Reuben Foster or the Redskins?
If you think both, you won’t be wrong.