Usually These Sorts Of Things Don’t Take Two Years

adamjonesThere are all kinds of unanswered questions regarding the release of Cowboys cornerback Adam Jones in the wake of a proposed Outside the Lines report by ESPN’s John Barr. The quick rundown, from the Four-Letter’s standpoint, is that Jerry Jones released the cornerback after Barr contacted the Cowboys’ organization about a response to allegations that Jones hired someone to shoot at men he had a dispute in while a member of the Titans (albeit suspended) in 2007. (This happeend in the ATL; a random reminder that all sorts of cool stuff goes down in that city late at night, but for an athlete, not much of it is good. I had a hell of a time the one time I set foot in there, at least while not cursing the traffic.)

While lamenting that Jones is again getting cut or disciplined for shit he was never convicted of in court (yes, I understand Lord Rog is gonna nail ass to the wall for even being arrested; that doesn’t mean I have to like it as policy), a bigger question arises: if the inquisition from the Four-Letter is behind the release and the NFL knew about the allegations, then it means a couple of things:

  1. This obviously was of no concern to the league because no one could put Jones there at the time. There wasn’t enough evidence.
  2. Jerry Jones had to have known about this when he signed Adam Jones. I find it hard to believe otherwise.

That said, why the uproar now over a confidential informant whom we don’t know a whole lot about (and with good reason)?  There’s obviously a lot of bluster behind the whole thing, and Jones appears to be very, very pissed, even threatening a lawsuit against ESPN. Be looking forward to Sunday; see if this OTL piece tells me anything or is a hack job on what seems to be the channel’s favorite subject: athlete misdeeds.

A Heartbreaking Work Of Staggering Idiocy

inanimatecarbonrodThe staggering development of soon-to-be former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich’s apparent corruption, charges so blazen and blatant they would make “Lincoln roll over in his grave,” to paraphrase U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald (yes, that very same one in the Valerie Plame investigation; he is an equal opportunity angel of justice), is not staggering because a Chicago pol has some skeletons in his closet.

It is staggering because by all accounts, the Inanimate Carbon Rod, a Democrat, is quite possibly one of the dumbest men ever to hold elective office if all of the accusations hold up in court. He is accused of pay-for-play tactics that, per the FBI’s Robert Grant, shocked even the most hardened and cynical of agents.

Here is a basic laundry list of the most audacious alleged crimes contained in the indictment (PDF file):

  • Schemed to sell the appointment of President-Elect Barack Obama’s Senate seat to the highest bidder in exchange for either a high paying position with a non-profit or a labor union, a placement for his wife Patricia on corporate boards, campaign funds, or an ambassadorship or cabinet post (he wanted to be Secretary of Health and Human Services, apparently)
  • Threatened to put a halt to any public help to the Tribune Co. in selling Wrigley Field if they did not fire members of the Chicago Tribune’s editorial board who wrote unflattering portraits of him
  • Wanting to hold up $8 million dollars for Chicago’s Children’s Memorial Hospital because its administrator didn’t cough up $50K for his re-election campaign

The last one is what really makes it art. Earlier in the day, I thought it boring, quid-pro-quo crap; there was no particular skullduggery that made it stand out, but as soon as you get the health and care of kids involved, there’s a new level of arrogance there that would make Karl Rove smile from ear to ear, no matter what the political party.

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The Jump To Conclusions Mat Has Way Too Many Footprints On It


Look, I’m not going to state that the facts out there surrounding Plaxico Burress’ shooting himself in the thigh aren’t there. It’s monumentally stupid of him to be carrying a gun illegally, only having a permit that had expired in Florida and at the very least, not applying for one in either New York or New Jersey. The fact that it went off in his pants suggests he has no clue about how to operate the safety on a gun, which is even more disturbing.

But I can’t help but sit back and want to smack the usual suspects like Bob Costas, Mike Ditka, and the rest of the NFL studio show crews make the usual suggestions about how players shouldn’t be allowed to own guns, and that they shouldn’t be out late after certain hours. Witness Ditka on the guns bit:

“This is all about priorities. When you get stature in life, you get the kind of contract, you have an obligation and responsibility to your teammates, to the organization, to the National Football League and to the fans. He just flaunted this money in their face. He has no respect for anybody but himself. I feel sorry for him, in the sense that, I don’t understand the league, why can anybody have a gun? I will have a policy, no guns, any NFL players we find out, period, you’re suspended.”

Lucky for us he never ran as the GOP candidate for Senate from Illinois. Jesus, who thought this guy would make a good senatorial candidate?  As long as he has the permits (which he apparently didn’t), it shouldn’t have mattered, period. The NFL is not big enough to where it should decide to take away people’s individual rights.

When I witnessesd Costas’ outrage on Football Night in America, I thought, “Spoken like a man who has never understood what it’s like to have to fear for your life.” It took Tiki Barber to correct Costas, by saying that many black athletes grow up in tough situations with gangs where they are protected because of their athletic abilities, and are used to a world where you have to protect yourself — you do not trust security people or the police. I don’t know if this is reflective of Burress’ background, but if you are a black man with millionaire money, you’re going to be wary inside and outside your home.

The situations are not comparable, as Burress was out on the town with teammates Antonio Pierce and either Derrick Ward or Ahmad Bradshaw (depending on who you read or hear)( but it’s silly not to think of how Sean Taylor was killed in his home and Antoine Walker was robbed near his home in Chicago.  Again — those are at home, but don’t you think you would protect yourself even more when you were out of you think you are a target? Yet this impulse seems to elude everyone commenting on the stubject before everything is known.

It is merely another string in Burress being a bad actor; it is part of a narrative to take missed meetings and fines and conflate them into something larger and more insidious. But the cycle hasn’t played itself out yet. Burress still has to be charged, and we have to find out his side of the story, too.  It’s asking too much to back off for a little bit though — there is blood in the water.

A Tale of Two Joneses

Matt Jones is a lucky man.

You get busted with six grams of cocaine bheind a bar with your friends, and you usually run into intent to sell — doesn’t matter who you are. But, the Jacksonville wide receiver is going to be heading to drug court, as a first time offender, because prosecutors and investigators couldn’t find any intent to sell.

“Matt made a mistake and he knows it, but he’s learned from it and he is doing all the right things in his life, both on and off the football field,” Bassett said. “He has handled this and reacted to all of this in the right way and I commend him for that.” Washington County prosecutor John Threet has no problem with Jones being transferred to drug court.

Threet said that after the arrest there has been no evidence uncovered indicating Jones had any intent to sell the cocaine. Drug court is an option for anyone convicted of possession for the first time.

If a person doesn’t have a criminal history, Threet said, possession typically results in probation or drug court. He said the transfer has nothing to do with Jones. “Without any intention of selling, it’ll be straight possession, because that’s the law,” Threet said.

Again, a lucky man. Compare that with Adam Jones. Through his own fault and an overzealous commissioner looking to establish his own brand of law and order, his every move is now tracked like a target of the paparazzi — and now, if you look at the copy surrounding every story of an alleged fight with one of his team-issued bodyguards, you can see this coming: all of the talk on ESPN or any sports talk radio show later today will be about, “What will Roger Goodell do; when will he suspend this bum again?”

But no complaint was filed against Adam Jones for the fight by the bodyguard. Reports say Jones may have been drinking at the Joule Hotel, but the bodyguard has not filed a complaint. So, right now, this is nothing. It is probably a regrettable personal action, and may be worth a couple games of suspension down the line. But right now, we just don’t know. There’s not enough, but it’s not going to stop anyone tomorrow when the arguments that Jones has blown his second chance are promptly rolled out.

Meanwhile, everyone will forget how Matt Jones was doing coke behind the back of a bar, especially if he completes that program and that felony never shows up on his record. (Again, I know; he’s a first time offender — but I thought that we were supposedly to be collectively outraged at everyone who goes of fthe rails in Lord Rog’s regime equally.)

Straight Outta Centennial

I don’t usually make it a point to note every transgression by athletes off-the-field. Travis Henry is an exception for two reasons.

  • he used to play for the football team I root for
  • he got busted in my old neighborhood!

The former Bronco running back was arrested by federal agents in Centennnial, Colorado (which only really became its own city about 10 years ago) and accused of being on the money end of a multi-state cocaine ring. (Someone check Matt Jones’ little black book.)  The DEA basically set him and his alleged partner, James Mack, up for the bust, with the use of a “drug drealer turned informant” who decided to snitch after getting pulled over at a traffic stop in Billings, Montana.

After his arrest, federal agents instructed the informant to meet with Mack and Henry. Two days later on Sept. 18, he wore a recording device when he met with Mack in Aurora.

In the meeting, he told Mack that he sold the fake drugs to the dealer in Montana, but on his way back to Colorado, the highway patrol stopped him and seized the money. Mack told the informant he would have to tell Henry about the loss.

On Sept. 22, the informant made a recorded phone call to Henry in which he promised to give Henry three kilograms of cocaine to compensate him for the money taken by the highway patrol.

Four days later, he called Henry and told him he had five kilograms of cocaine – three of it was his and he could buy the remaining two kilograms. Henry went to the informant’s house and spoke with him by phone in the following days, confirming the drug deals.

DEA chemist Amy Harman provided six kilogram “bricks” for the informant who on Tuesday at 5:43 p.m. called Henry and told him to pick the drugs up at the informant’s home in Centennial, the affidavit says.

If you want to pull off a quiet deal, go to Centennial — typical quiet suburb, no reason to suspect anybody of anything going on around there.  This represents a very, very quick fall for Henry, if he’s convicted or pleads out to such charges, especially considering that he got dropped last June after the first year of a $22 million contract and that he’s got nine mouths to feed.

Cedric Benson Is Waiting For An Apology

Or at least he should be — from the Chicago Bears for pretty much dumping his ass because of the off-field problems (yes, they could have dumped him for on-field lack of production, but it was very much done in the wake of the arrests), from mass media sources for partially convicting him before the charges played out, and from anyone who decided that he was guilty and tarred him as just another thug or something like that.

Remember those two alcohol-related charges Benson was arrested on in May and June of this year in Texas?  He shouldn’t even have been arrested. Benson said repeatedly that he was harassed by police and that the charges had no merit. Turns out he was right. The charges didn’t even have enough of a basis to go to trial.

According to defense attorney Sam Bassett, two Travis County grand juries found no probable cause to indict Benson for the two alcohol-related arrests in Texas that led to his release from the Bears. “Since my initial review of the evidence in both cases, I have said that Cedric was not guilty,” Bassett said. “I hope that this situation reminds us all that not every person who is arrested for a crime is guilty.”

A lesson the Bears and Lord Roger Goodell of Iron Fist would do well to learn.  Benson had said he was not drunk and that he was being mistreated by police in those arrests.  Again, I understand why the NFL has such a strong policy and why teams are loath to keep players who are arrested — it’s a public image, bottom-line type thing. However, it’s swung way too far in that direction, taking away livelihoods before anyone is actually convicted in a court of law.

There’s a fundamental problem with that.

UPDATE: Reading news service copy gets you this:

Travis County Attorney David Escamilla said there were problems in both cases. In the initial arrest, officials did not conduct a field sobriety test and there was no video evidence.

In the driving while intoxicated case, there was video evidence but Benson “appears very well” in the recording, Escamilla said.

Benson’s status as a well-known sports figure in Austin did not play a factor in the outcome of the cases, the county attorney said.

“Sometimes it’s to his benefit and sometimes it’s not,” Escamilla said. “We call them as we see them.”

So the first one was Boating While Black and the second one had Benson appearing to be OK, and it sounds like there wasn’t a test done there either. It does not take a lot to get indictment on DUI charges from a grand jury — these things are usually pretty quick and seamless. And remember just how much he got dogged about the off-field stuff on top of the on-field.

Analysts: stick to the on-field talk. Benson didn’t produce in Chicago. Future lesson: do not conflate the on-field and off-field prior to the legal system running its course.

Evidence Of The Summer Baseball Lull

The police blotter mentality in sports media is overkill, and this little piece on Derrick Rose is only contributing to the mess because ti made the “SportsCenter Right Now” segments all morning.

What did Rose do to earn the ink? He got a speeding ticket. Seriously. It’s just a speeding ticket from April that he’s going to court for soon and because he is the #1 pick overall, it’s apparently of merit, just like LeBron James’ speeding ticket from a few months back. Rose was doing 100+ in a 65 zone, and will be in court a week from Friday. He’s likely to only get traffic school and a fine, since it’s a misdemeanor and he’s a first-time offender.

So, who the fuck cares and why is it on my television? Eventually you have to start buying into the theories that the sports media truly does dislike athletes, because there’s really no other reason this makes anything more than minor AP wire copy. It doesn’t deserve even ten seconds on ESPN, because that happens to everyone: people speed excessively, they get caught, and they have to go to court for it. Most go to traffic school, get fined, some in extreme cases as repeat speeders get probation or licenses suspended.

It’s just because we’re bored and need to fill the 24-7 TV news cycle. That, and maybe every athlete has to look like a malcontent or threat to society.

Photo: AP/Charles Rex Abrogast

New Rule: Get Arrested And You’re Guilty

OK. So let me get this straight: aloof running back gets arrested while on a boat in Austin with his mother, his friends, and several female friends (all white, let’s note) and contests the police account, saying he was mistreated and abused. Last Saturday, he gets pulled over and arrested for DUI charges, but maintains that he passed a sobriety test and is innocent of the charges.

Without either of the charges being borne out, he is released by his employer. In what fucking world does this make any sort of sense whatsoever?

This is the world of the NFL, where you can lose your job even if you are completely innocent of any charges against you. Welcome to the real world of the NFL, Cedric Benson — the running back was released from the Bears after last weekend’s arrest, with GM Jerry Angelo expressing the franchise’s supposed frustration with the first-round pick.

Cedric displayed a pattern of behavior we will not tolerate. As I said this past weekend, you have to protect your job. Everyone in this organization is held accountable for their actions. When individual priorities overshadow team goals, we suffer the consequences as a team. Those who fail to understand the importance of ‘team’ will not play for the Chicago Bears.

Bears management needed an excuse to cut Benson. He has underperformed, but has not had the benefit of a well-put together O-line the past year or a quarterback that is any consistent threat in the passing game — as such, it meant he would probably get one more shot this year to show the form that made him a first round pick.

But voila, two arrests and no convictions are enough to throw him out the window. Just how an arrest without any form of conviction or basis was enough to get rid of Tank Johnson (I don’t mean the weapons charges, I mean the DUI afterwards that really wasn’t.) This is the world Roger Goodell has created and the standard he has set — and every other player in the league ought to be incensed (unless you are Jared Allen. now of the Vikings, which means you’re glad you got off easy last year in KC.)

If Benson pleaded guilty or no contest to either charge, it would be a different story. But as of right now, he believes both arrests are unjustified and is willing to challenge the matter in court. Would that the Bears be only that willing to allow due process to play out, but this is Lord Rog’s World, and frankly, it’s time Gene Upshaw and the NFLPA did something to exert some sort of check and balance on teams

The owners have handed the NFLPA a golden opportunity by deciding to drop out of the CBA for 2011.  Now Upshaw needs to prove his worth by giving the men he represents at least a chance at due process for off-the-field incidents.

Photo: Jim Prishing/Chicago Tribune

The Prisons Of Our Design

In no way do I mean to pick on Chicago per se, necessarily. I love the city; I made plenty of 6-8 hour drives from my dinky little college in Iowa between 2000 and 2004 to enjoy the city and it remains on my list of preferred cities to live in should my day job take me out of California any time soon. But ballers are not having the best of times with the city. Eddy Curry and Antoine Walker both got jacked at home last year while in the Windy City, and Illinois native son Rashard Mendenhall, fresh from being drafted in the first round by the Pittsburgh Steelers, got held up last night while out walking.

Fortunately, Mendenhall and the woman who was with him are OK, and he told his mom it wasn’t anything worth trying to lose his life over.

The “athlete getting robbed or assaulted” story always twinges a nerve in me (and I suspect a few others), because you can largely sense how this will play out when (not if) it makes the screamer shows on ESPN and past the desk of various columnists over the next day or so. Many will gloss over, but others, desperate for time to fill, always trend towards something more than the usual lament about how the streets aren’t safe. What Mendenhall went through is pretty much garden variety ish for anyone these days — it doesn’t read like he was targeted because of who he is yet, and I want to leave that emphasis on yet. But I can sense a train of thought forming in the response of mainstream blowhards to this for one simple reason: Mendenhall was out at 2 A.M. when he was robbed.

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I Think I Have A Business Model That Might Work

Generally, I don’t take a whole lot of particular joy in writing “jock getting in trouble” stories; those of you who have read this site for a while have noticed that the “police blotter” tag is getting less and less of a workout because there’s no fun in it and most of it contributes to a very skewed view of athletes.

But every time a high-profile athlete gets a DUI, I just have to shake my head at the whole damn thing. Not because it’s wrong (obviously) and or oh-so-easy to avoid when you’re fucking loaded, but because I see a serious business opportunity for anyone with some start-up cash, and I wish it would be me. So when I read about Carmelo Anthony getting pulled over for a DUI (and let’s just note that the blood tests are NOT in, he was arrested on “suspicion of DUI”), I kept thinking of that business opportunity.

Famous athletes are like you and me — we all like to party, they have a better budget to do so. They like a tipple now and then, and the problem is that the standards of what’s legally drunk is down to .08 everywhere and you don’t need that kind of attention.

So, if I happened to know a baller or two, I’d propose this plan: start a nation-wide network of high-class limo services catering to the rich and famous, keep them out of trouble with the cops with a network of driers available when they hit the town.

I’d need to know a few ballers who liked to party, but word of mouth and trustworthiness would make it a hit. Teams would contract for it, and it would keep guys off the front pages for dumb decisions that all of us have made at one time or another. (Most of you out there, if you drink, have had to drive when you know you could have been legally hauled off for DUI but have hearty constitutions and didn’t show it on the way home. No, I certainly don’t advocate this.)

Maybe I’d call it “Off-Court Transport” or something catchy like that.

Photo courtesy of Denver Police Department