There’s a disconnect between how leftists view the treatment of African-Americans by our criminal justice system and how they seem to want African-American athletes who have brushes with the law to be treated. Consider the case of Reuben Foster.
Foster, a linebacker who starred at the University of Alabama, was drafted in the first round by the San Francisco 49ers a few years ago. As a pro, he has had his moments but on the whole hasn’t lived up to expectations. He’s also had off-the-field issues, including misdemeanor gun and marijuana charges.
In addition, his girlfriend accused Foster of assaulting her. However, she recanted.
Then, late last year, the same woman, now an ex-girlfriend, again accused Foster of assault. The 49ers promptly released him.
Almost as promptly, the Washington Redskins claimed Foster. They said they had reason to believe he was innocent. In addition, Redskins who played with Foster at Alabama vouched for his character.
However, the Redskins made Foster’s ability to take the field for the team conditional, pending the outcome of the criminal investigation and the NFL’s investigation, plus the Redskins view of how he conducted himself in the meantime. The team was clear that if Foster actually did assault the woman, he wouldn’t play for the team. However, as I understand it, he was allowed to come to the Redskins’ practice facility while the matter was sorted out.
Law enforcement did not charge Foster and the NFL cleared him of wrongdoing. Finding no problem with Foster’s post-acquisition behavior, the Redskins activated him and he reported for voluntary workouts with the team this week.
But on the third play of the team’s first 11 on 11 drill, a non-contact affair, Foster tore his ACL. It looks like he will be out for the season.
Barry Svrluga, a sports columnist for the Washington Post, seems pleased. He views Foster’s injury as “karma” — the Redskins’ just desert for employing Foster. He adds that “no one thinks a player deserves an injury,” but doesn’t seem fully convinced even of that. “The mind wanders and wonders,” he says.
I wonder how one can square Svrluga’s attitude towards the Redskins acquisition of Foster, an attitude shared by the liberal sports commentariat, with liberal disdain for how the criminal justice system treats African-Americans. Liberals complain about the rate at which Blacks are incarcerated, about the stiff sentences they receive, and about their inability to find jobs once they get out of prison. They favor the early release of prisoners and insist that once released, their criminal past not be held against them. They are all about giving criminals “a second chance.”
But none of this thinking seems to permeate the discussion of Reuben Foster, who is Black. Commentators like Svrluga condemn the Redskins for employing Foster following the 2018 allegation of domestic violence despite the fact that he was never criminally charged in connection with the incident and despite the fact that Foster’s employment was conditioned on him not being charged and not found by the NFL to have engaged in wrongdoing.
Apparently, liberals favor not letting Foster inside a football team’s facility unless and until his innocence is established. Never mind that the accuser has already once recanted a similar charge. Foster should be presumed guilty and denied the opportunity to work at his profession until he is proven innocent.
That position is too illiberal even for me.
If accusations against a football player cause a team seriously to question his character, I have no problem with that team releasing the player, as San Francisco did with Foster. But if another team has information that causes it take a more favorable view of the same player’s character, no one should have a problem with that team acquiring the player (conditional on him being cleared by law enforcement and the NFL).
The left almost always seems to favor giving second chances to African-Americans who run afoul of the law. But in this case, Foster hadn’t even run afoul of the law for domestic abuse. “The law” was evaluating whether he had committed a crime and would soon conclude that he hadn’t. Under these circumstances, I don’t see how liberals, or anyone else, can fault the Redskins for giving Foster, in effect, a first chance.
Why the attacks on the Redskins for doing so? Is this a case of the feminist agenda trumping the African-American activist agenda — “MeToo” over “Black Lives Matter”?
I don’t think so. I think it’s simply a case of commentators mindlessly taking a position that sounds good to left-liberals without really thinking through its implications for other left-liberal stances.