NFL teams are wary of “character problems’ when drafting roughly 250 players each year. But a sliding scale is in place – adjusted for talent. Greater concern is shown early and more indifference appears toward the end.
By the time teams woo hundreds of undrafted free agents, morals and ethics are a virtual afterthought.
When you think about it, the shift doesn’t say much about the NFL’s character … unless being superficial, hypocritical, disingenuous and shallow are ideals.
Jameis Winston was the No. 1 overall pick in 2015 despite being accused of rape. The alleged victim’s lawyer said nobody from the NFL or Tampa Bay Buccaneers contacted the victim for her side of the story. Frank Clark, the Seattle Seahawks’ first pick last year, had an altercation with his girlfriend six months earlier that police said left her motionless on the floor with visible signs of injuries. Clark was the 63rd player selected, penalized by dropping out of the first round.
The Bucs and Seahawks didn’t care about the players’ domestic violence charges. But video of Laremy Tunsil smoking marijuana was enough to scare off some teams this year, as the top-rated offensive lineman slid to the 13th pick, losing about $8 million in the process.
The Baltimore Ravens (at No. 6) and Tennessee Titans (No. 8) both passed in favor of other offensive linemen. Teams that might’ve taken Tunsil as the “best player available” went in different directions. Some teams reportedly removed him from their boards entirely.
A gas mask bong has never cost anyone so much.
The video surfaced minutes before the draft, shaming Tunsil and causing teams to freak out. This is one of the few times we actually believe a celebrity who claims his Twitter account was hacked. No matter what you think about Tunsil smoking or allowing himself to be recorded, he was the victim of a malicious act. Someone with evil intentions transformed Tunsil’s glorious night into an embarrassing nightmare on national TV.
But the aftermath revealed more about the league’s lack of character, not deficiencies in the player.
“I think it’s all part of what makes the draft so exciting,” NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said on ESPN Radio in reference to Tunsil’s ordeal. “Clubs make decisions. Sometimes they take risks. Sometimes they do the right things. Sometimes they don’t, and we’ll see. Hopefully he is going to turn out to be a great young player.”
Now that he’s part of the family, everything is good, huh? The problem is tagging him with “off-field issues” based on the video. NFL teams wouldn’t have a problem if they saw the video weeks ago instead of minutes prior.
To be clear, Tunsil has a family matter that bears attention. His stepfather, Lindsey Miller, accused the Ole Miss product of assault and defamation in an incident last summer. Media outlets offered Miller as a possible source of the leaked video, but the Palm Beach Post pointed to a disgruntled financial advisor Tunsil fired recently. (Whoever is guilty, the culprit apparently tried to sell the video to Deadspin before releasing it for free).
The case with Miller might raise questions about Tunsil’s mom’s choice of men, but nothing necessarily casts dispersions on the player as a person. Being recorded while hitting a bong undoubtedly is a dumb move. However, Tunsil showed unusual and refreshing honesty later that evening after another hack revealed potentially damaging tweets. Faced with the latest shocking revelation on an unbelievable night, Tunsil seemed to admit he received money from Ole Miss coaches to pay rent and his mom’s bills.
In many quarters, that would be viewed as noble.
In the NFL’s warped world of draftniks, the admission amounted to treason.
“One thing Tunsil did today that was his fault, and he never should have done, is answering those questions, then go sell out the coaching staff at Ole Miss,” analyst Todd McShay said on ESPN’s broadcast. “He’s going to have to mature very quickly or else this league is going to eat him up.”
Agreed, if we’re talking about him being the subject of cellphone videos. But here’s hoping Tunsil continues to be truthful in responses, though it’s probably asking too much. His agents and the Dolphins public relations staff will encourage him to keep veracity at a safe distance.
In the end – unless Tunsil is an uncontrollable pothead who’s repeatedly suspended – the Dolphins got a steal. It wouldn’t be the first time Miami benefitted from other teams’ timidity regarding weed. The Dolphins drafted Dan Marino with the 27th pick in 1983 when the future Hall of Famer was plagued by drug rumors.
Character isn’t an issue when players use marijuana; getting caught is the problem.
I can’t help thinking the NFL feels likewise about domestic violence.
But they’re not the same thing, no matter how much the league puts them in the same tent.