I’m a football fan, and I’m not a very politically correct one. I idolize my favorite players. So many have iconic, legendary careers. I rarely sweat the small stuff, such as addiction issues or mincing words in the media because I’d rather see them on-field than off, and people got issues right? That being said, it’s astounding even to me that law enforcement and the judicial system so radically dropped the ball in regards to the crimes these players have committed.
I once was asked if I believe there is an entitlement problem in the NFL. I used to feel that the notion that NFL players were conditioned toward entitlement was hyperbole at best. They work so hard at training and strategic gameplay, and there are countless rags to riches stories. I’ve seen The Blind Side, but I can’t deny the following verdicts, if not complete exonerations, are a miscarriage of justice. Is that entitlement? My initial answer was no, but now I’m not so sure.
I don’t believe anyone should be exempt from the law based on physical prowess or celebrity. I can acknowledge that athletes seem to have fewer academic requirements to graduate college than non-athletes. And, there’s no denying that anyone who displays greater athletic ability than others, even kids in Little League, receive exaggerated praise; however, aren’t they deserving of praise, having acquired an ability that normal people just don’t have?
This is probably an issue that parents and coaches need to address early-on, and maybe the NFL too. As far as arrests go, there were more than 800 players arrested between 2000 and 2016. Many didn’t receive convictions, which is unfair to regular folks who committed similar crimes for harsher sentences. It almost seems that the greater your athletic career, the more license you have to break the law without consequence. Is that entitlement? I’m thinking yeah it is, but you can decide for yourself if these players got off easy or not.
15 Johnny Manziel – Alleged Domestic Violence
Johnny Manziel, former quarterback for the Cleveland Browns, has a dreamboat’s face, but is better described as every woman’s nightmare. Not only was he accused of breaking a bar employee’s nose, he also faced charges for brutally attacking his ex-girlfriend, Colleen Crowley. Crowley told police that Manziel forced her into a car against her will by her hair, and then hit her and threatened to end her life and his. The charges were dismissed, but Manziel’s problems seem to persist.
He seems unwilling to change his ways. In late December 2016, he was partying with Lil Jon in Miami nightclubs. It’s reported he spent $35,000 on expensive alcohol. He should probably consider curbing his spending because he’s a free agent, and won’t play a game in 2016 because the NFL has concerns regarding his substance abuse problems. He’s lost a lot of potential endorsement deals, and seems unable to get his life back on track. Here’s hoping Manziel exercises his demons, realizes his own potential, and makes serious life changes. As an unemployed football player, the justice system may not go easy on him again.
14 Greg Hardy – Alleged Domestic Violence
Former Ole Miss defensive end, Greg Hardy, went on to play for both the Panthers and the Dallas Cowboys. Unfortunately his numerous arrests for drug possession and domestic violence charges resulted in a relatively short career. Hardy assaulted his girlfriend, Nicole Holder, in 2014 while she was taking a bath. Allegedly, he pulled her out of the tub by her hair, and then proceeded to choke her on a couch that was covered in firearms. She sustained injuries, including bruises on her neck of which there is photographic evidence.
Initially, it seemed justice would be served in this case. Hardy was found guilty of assault, but his attorney successfully argued for a new trial. The trial was granted, and the case was dismissed. The NFL did little to punish Hardy either. Although he played only a single game, Hardy earned more than $13 million because he conveniently found himself on the exempt/commissioner’s permission list. He is a current free agent, but that probably has more to do with recent cocaine possession charges than his domestic violence record.
13 Ray Rice – Aggravated Assault
It cannot be disputed that Ray Rice punched his wife and then dragged her out of an elevator rather unsuccessfully. She was limp and unresponsive before somewhat coming to. There is video evidence of the crime, which can be viewed online from a number of sources, including TMZ. Despite this very telling evidence, Rice avoided a trial by accepting pretrial intervention. He issued an apology, attended a year's’ worth of rehabilitation classes, and was fined $58,000 by the NFL.
People were understandably shocked that the NFL did not do more to punish Rice for assaulting his wife. Arguably, it was a court’s matter because it happened off the field, but the judicial system went light on Rice too. It wasn’t until after the video surfaced that the Ravens even dropped Rice. Because of Rice, the NFL did update its domestic violence policy. Instead of allowing players free reign to assault, rape, and batter, they’re now suspended for six-games if they’re found in violation of the policy. If they violate the policy twice, they’re banned for life. (Take note – that means you can only beat a woman once if you want to keep your contract.)
12 Ben Roethlisberger – Allegedly Assaulted A Woman
Ben Roethlisberger has been accused of sexual assault twice; however, the first case lacked enough evidence to be pursued in a court of law. Andrea McNulty alleges that Roethlisberger sexually assaulted her in his hotel room in Lake Tahoe. This was in June 2008, but the details are murky at best. McNulty stated the sex was consensual to a third party after the fact, and also allegedly stated she’d hoped to become pregnant with his child. The case was settled out of court.
Roethlisberger’s second sexual assault charge came with far more details, and it’s very shocking that charges weren’t pursued against him. Allegedly, the 20 year old victim was led to a restroom by an off-duty policeman after being encouraged to drink copious alcoholic beverages. Roethlisberger is said to have assaulted her in the restroom, and the young woman sought medical attention afterwards. The scariest thing about this case was how the police handled the investigation. First responder to the crime scene, Milledgeville Police Sergeant Jerry Blash, is quoted to have said: “We have a problem, this drunken [expletive], drunk off her ass, is accusing Ben of rape.” He later posed for a photo with the Steelers QB.
11 Albert Haynesworth – Alleged Assault
Albert Haynesworth stomped his opponent on the field, and no one pressed charges. Back in October 2006, Haynesworth threw a dangerous on-air tantrum and brutally stomped Andre Gurode, center for the Dallas Cowboys, in the forehead. Gurode was not wearing a helmet, and some eyewitnesses claimed Haynesworth removed his helmet before the brutal attack, but conflicting reports make it impossible to confirm or deny that. It took 30 stitches to close up the laceration, and there’s no arrest record for the event.
The NFL suspended Haynesworth for a record five games, but shouldn’t the police have gotten involved too? In August 2016, a police officer was convicted of misdemeanor assault for a very similar crime. The officer was recorded stomping a suspect in the head while he was subdued. The officer wasn’t sentenced to jail time, but he didn’t get off scot-free either. He lost his job and was sentenced to 2-years’ probation. Perhaps if Haynesworth was similarly charged and paid his dues for the crime he committed, he wouldn’t have collided with that man in Tennessee and partially paralyzed him. He allegedly sexually assaulted a waitress too.
10 Leonard Little – Vehicular Manslaughter
Leonard Little, of the St. Louis Rams, should, arguably, have gone to prison for vehicular manslaughter. The defensive end drove home drunk from a party on October 19, 1998. He was speeding and ran a red light before crashing into Susan Gutweiler, a 47-year-old mother. She died the following day, and Little was charged with vehicular manslaughter.
Vehicular manslaughter statutes allow for more severe punishments for drunk drivers, but he received little more than a slap on the wrist. His blood-alcohol level was .19 (that’s twice today’s legal limit). At the time of the accident, the legal limit was .10 in St. Louis, MO. So, he was quite obviously under the influence, yet was sentenced to just four years’ probation and ordered to commit 1,000 hours of community service. This light sentence did little to rehabilitate him. He was arrested for another DUI in 2004. Guess what his sentence was? If you guessed probation, you get a prize (the prize is the disappointment you’re feeling).
9 Jim Dunaway – Murder
Jim Dunaway played defensive tackle for the Buffalo Bills for a period of eight years, and a single season with the Miami Dolphins. In 1998, more than a decade after his football career ended, Dunaway’s ex-wife was found dead in a swimming pool. Although he was charged with her murder, a grand jury decided not to indict Dunaway. Police say that she was placed in the pool while unconscious as a result of a fractured skull and she drowned to death.
Coincidentally, or perhaps not, Nonniel Dunaway had won a divorce judgment that awarded her half her ex-husband’s NFL pension, $1800 a month in alimony, and an 800-acre property. There are many who believe this motivated Dunaway to murder his wife, including his own children who successfully sued him for wrongful death. He was court ordered to pay his children $579,000 for the death of their mother, but he never served hard time.
8 Jameis Winston - Allegedly Assaulted Two Women
In college, Jameis Winston was accused of raping two girls; one of whom was not satisfied with the school’s attempt to cover-up their star athlete’s alleged sexual assault. She successfully sued Florida State University for $950,000. It’s also alleged that when she reported the crime to police, a detective told her that life would be miserable if she pursued her case against Winston, and that Tallahassee is a “big football town.” Suffice to say, no time was ever served for the crime, but Winston was forced to settle with the victim out of court in a separate civil lawsuit.
Winston went on to play pro ball for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and continues to QB for the team. He hasn’t had any legal troubles since he went pro, and he has proven himself to be a strong player on the field. That being said, it’s hard to forget the allegations and the fact that DNA evidence matched him to the victim.
7 Ryan Leaf – Burglary And Drug Possession
Heisman Trophy winner Ryan Leaf should have had an illustrious career. He QB’d for the San Diego Chargers between 1998 and 2000, and spent some time with the Buccaneers, Cowboys, and Seahawks. Unfortunately, his performance was undermined by underlying issues, including injuries and poor work ethic. After college, he dropped the ball (some would say literally), and he’s considered one of the worst draft busts ever.
You may remember his 2012 arrest. He was sentenced to seven years for burglary, theft, and drug charges, but that wasn’t Leaf’s first foray into the world of burglary, theft, and possession. In 2009, Leaf was given a slap on the wrist (restitution, probation, and community service) for charges stemming from a (you guessed it) burglary, which included allegations that he obtained controlled substances using fraudulent methods. His addiction issues could stem from old football injuries, and seemed to be ongoing at the time. He’d also recently lost a coaching position because he tried to solicit painkillers from a West Texas A&M student. Hopefully, he returns from prison a new man willing to stay sober for the sake of his own future.
6 Eugene Robinson – Soliciting A Street Walker
Atlanta Falcons safety Eugene Robinson’s story is a bit ironic. The evening after receiving the Bart Starr Award for Outstanding Moral Character (and the evening before Super Bowl XXXIII), Robinson’s morals took him down skid row where he solicited a prostitute to perform oral sex on him for $40. Too bad she wasn’t actually a working girl, but rather an undercover police officer. Robinson was forced to return the award he’d just received earlier that day, and he cost the Falcons a Super Bowl win the very next day.
During the Super Bowl, Robinson was asleep on the field, likely because his night was spent being bailed out of jail and not sleeping comfortably. He was so off his game, he allowed multiple preventable touchdowns to occur. Ultimately, the Broncos beat the Falcons 34 to 19, and the next season was Robinson’s last one playing for the Falcons. Police dropped the charges when he agreed to attend an AIDs education course, and since the incident Robinson has retired from football; however, he is coaching varsity football at a Christian school in North Carolina and he’s got a regular broadcasting gig with the Carolina Panthers Radio Network.
5 Adam “Pacman” Jones – Alleged Assault, Possession Charges, And Vandalism
Adam “Pacman” Jones has racked up quite the rap sheet, but routinely the charges against him are dismissed. During training camp, the Bengals cornerback was accused of assault and felony vandalism, but the charges were dismissed. About a year later, he was found in possession of marijuana, tried to punch a cop, and was charged with obstruction. Those charges were also dismissed. Later in 2006, he was arrested for public intoxication and disorderly conduct and was accused of spitting on a woman in a bar. Although the charges weren’t dismissed for these crimes, he received a light sentence of six months probation.
He’s been involved in multiple gang-related nightclub shootings, but for whatever reason he seems to routinely escape charges. Accused murderer and gang member, Edward Morris III, alleges that Pacman offered to pay him to shoot a man, but Pacman agreed to help police officers in their investigation of another nightclub shooting, so no charges were filed. Pacman remains active on the NFL roster, currently playing for the Cincinnati Bengals after being cut by the Dallas Cowboys in 2008. Here’s hoping he recognizes his own potential before he finds himself without a job and standing in front of a less sympathetic judge.
4 Marshawn Lynch – Hit And Run
2006 Pac-10 Offensive Player of the Year, Marshawn Lynch, earned the nickname “Beast Mode” for his performance on the field, but he’s kind of beast in real life too. The former Seahawks running back began his professional career playing for the Buffalo Bills. Side note: he was my favorite Bills player at the time. I liked him because he was a bit weird, and openly admitted to not knowing Buffalo wasn't part of New York City. Unfortunately, the Bills didn’t know what to do with Lynch and he was traded back to Seattle.
What’s most sad about Lynch isn’t that the Bills traded him (although that was clearly a mistake), it’s that he basically has been wrecking his career since he went pro by repeatedly breaking the law. Most Bills fans stopped liking him the moment he hit a Buffalo woman while driving his Porsche SUV. He drove away from the scene of the accident before police arrived. Although the woman’s injuries weren’t serious (she was bruised and required seven stiches for a cut), the hit and run exposed a dangerous side of Lynch. In unrelated cases, Lynch has been charged with having an unlicensed gun in his trunk and DUI.
3 Kenny Britt – Eluding Police In A Car Chase
Kenny Britt has had numerous run-ins with the law. He’s been arrested for DUI, drug possession, and resisting arrest. In most cases, he was let off with little more than a slap on the wrist. There’s no way to discern if this was preferential treatment because he plays football, or if this was simply the judicial system being lenient with a young man. Although he’s been able to escape hard time, he has paid numerous fines and he was suspended for a single game in 2012. Perhaps his most famous crime is when he forced police officers into a high-speed chase after refusing to be pulled over for speeding.
He was charged with eluding a police officer and obstruction of justice, but those charges were significantly reduced. He eventually plead guilty to careless driving and was asked to pay a $478 fine. Amazingly, all other charges were dropped. Britt continues to play football as a wide receiver for the Los Angeles Rams (formerly the St. Louis Rams).
2 O.J. Simpson – Alleged Murder
If ever there was a player who got away with domestic violence, it’s O.J. Simpson. It’s reported that police were dispatched to his and then wife, Nicole Brown Simpson’s, Brentwood home more than eight times. On the ninth visit, Brown told police, “You never do anything about him. You talk to him and leave.” She also stated, “He’s going to kill me.” They later divorced. Simpson was charged once after he brutally beat Brown. As consequence, he received only fines, probation, and community service.
Perhaps coincidentally, perhaps not, Brown and a friend were murdered just five days after Brown plead with police to arrest Simpson for breaking down her door and entering her home. Simpson led police on a highway chase that lasted 50-miles before he surrendered with a gun in his Bronco. In one of the most famous criminal cases in history, former Bills and 49ers running back OJ “The Juice” Simpson was found not guilty of murder.
1 Brandon Marshall – Alleged Assault and Battery
Brandon Marshall has a history of committing crimes and getting off easy. His legal problems started when he was a junior at Central Florida. He was accused of assaulting a police officer, trespassing, resisting arrest, and disorderly conduct. All of the charges were dismissed. The next year, he was caught stealing bed sheets which retailed for $19.99 from a Burlington Coat Factory. Those charges were also dropped. He has once been charged with driving under the influence, but the charge was reduced to ability-impaired driving and he was asked to complete a year of probation and 24 hours of community service.
He has been accused of domestic violence multiple times, but nearly every single case was dismissed. It seems he could be the catalyst in tumultuous relationships, as he’s repeatedly been involved in domestic violence reports; seemingly with a different girlfriend every single time. In one case, he was accused of punching his girlfriend and taking her purse. In another, he was accused of preventing his girlfriend from leaving his home in a taxi cab. In yet another case, he was accused of cutting a woman in her thigh and punching her in the face.
Although Marshall has received few punishments for the crimes he’s likely to have committed, this story does have a somewhat happy ending. The Jets wide receiver was diagnosed with borderline personality disorder, went to treatment, and now speaks publicly about the importance of diagnosing and treating mental health disorders.