Saturday was an uncommonly busy day in the sports world. Some went so far as to call it one of the greatest days in sports history.
It was an amazing, eventful sports day. We had the Kentucky Derby, Yankees vs. Red Sox, the NHL playoffs, Game Seven between the Clippers and Spurs, the final day of the NFL Draft, and of course, the “Fight of the Century” between Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao.
But as the day moved along, it didn’t seem like such a wonderful day to me. Maybe that’s because the issue of violence against women kept rearing its ugly head.
I had zero interest in Mayweather-Pacquiao from the start. Boxing is an increasingly irrelevant sport. It tells you something when two guys meeting well past their primes could qualify as the fight of the century, even a century that’s 15 years old.
Mayweather’s history of domestic violence made it worse. He has been charged with domestic battery five times in 14 years – in front of his own children at one point. He pleaded guilty three times and served two months in jail in 2012.
Whether that’s old news or not, as some media apologists contended, it was distasteful to see Mayweather be glorified in any fashion, and to profit so handsomely. I wouldn’t have paid 99 cents to watch it, never mind $99.
Hearing that Mayweather’s camp might have tried to pull the credentials of Michelle Beadle and Rachel Nichols, two top female journalists who have had the temerity to challenge the champ on his history of domestic abuse, was equally disturbing.
It’s unclear exactly what went down in Vegas. Kelly Swanson, the Buffalo native who is Mayweather’s publicist, said the women were credentialed. Beadle said she left Vegas before learning that her credential had been “reapproved.” It sure sounded as if someone had been bullied.
Anyway, around the time that Beadle was tweeting she was done with the fight, the Bills picked Karlos Williams, a running back from Florida State, in the fifth round of the NFL draft.
Williams was investigated on suspicion of domestic battery last October. Tallahassee police opened the case after Miranda Wilhelm, the mother of Williams’ child, posted three photos on Facebook that showed a bruised arm and a caption:
“This was done to me two nights ago by a man I have lived with for two years and bared two children by.”
Wilhelm later chose not to cooperate with police and no charges were filed against Williams, who was “under review” by the university for a period of time. An investigator said Wilhelm told him she had removed her Facebook post “because of all the feedback.”
A few days later, in another Tallahassee police report, a man who had been robbed during a drug deal claimed that the deal had been set up by Karlos Williams, who faced no charges. The man who was charged with the robbery was Miranda Wilhelm’s brother.
Jim Monos, the Bills’ chief personnel man, said the team wasn’t deterred by Williams’ recent trouble.
“We had him in,” Monos said. “He explained everything. He’s been cleared, he’s fine. We feel very comfortable we did our work on him.”
Tampa Bay said the same thing about Jameis Winston, a far more celebrated Florida State player with a trail of dubious behavior. Winston was accused of raping an FSU student as a freshman in December of 2012. He was never charged.
According to a New York Times investigation, local police did little to pursue Erica Kinsman’s rape allegation. The Times said police didn’t interview Winston for two weeks after the crime was reported, or write a report for two months. They didn’t collect DNA from him.
Winston was also charged with shoplifting crab legs in college. He was suspended for a game for standing on a table on campus and shouting a sexually explicit, violent comment about women.
The Bucs made Winston the No. 1 overall pick in the draft Thursday night. Winston celebrated by posting a photo of himself eating crab legs. The Bucs said they had performed an exhaustive background check on Winston, interviewing more than 75 people.
But according to the sports website The Cauldron, the Bucs never attempted to interview the alleged victim. Kinsman has filed a civil suit against Winston, which remains in litigation.
With their first pick of the draft on Friday (50th overall), the Bills took another of Winston’s teammates, cornerback Ronald Darby. Darby has signed an affidavit saying he witnessed Winston having consensual sex with Kinsman on the night in question.
The Bills were satisfied his character wasn’t an issue.
“I didn’t have to do anything at all,” Darby said. “I was around a lot of stuff, of course, but you can’t control what you’re around.”
No, and as far as the players and police were concerned, nothing happened that night in December 2012. And Karlos Williams’ pregnant girlfriend got those bruises on her arm when she punched a door.
When you’re a famous athlete, domestic violence can be difficult to prove, unless you happen to be videotaped punching out a woman in a hotel elevator, like the unfortunate Ray Rice.
The Bills are well past the days of “character and intelligence.” The locker room is full of players with dubious pasts, several of whom slipped in the draft because of alcohol- or marijuana-related cases while in college.
Boys will be boys, after all. I gave the Bills credit last fall for being a team that gives second chances, a Second Chance Saloon. They opened the door to Richie Incognito, who bullied his teammate in Miami and once fondled a woman with a golf club at a charity event.
This isn’t some bridge club. It’s pro football, a violent sport where young men put their bodies on the line and are fortunate to emerge without brain damage or permanently damaged limbs.
The Bills like having players on the edge, and it got more pronounced when they hired Rex Ryan, who promotes a rogue culture and believes he can rehabilitate the most marginal characters.
It’s fine if they win. But there’s a point where it begins to smell of arrogance. The Williams pick made little sense. The Bills didn’t have a need at running back. Why go after a guy who was suspected of beating a woman and setting up a drug deal that went bad?
“We do our research,” GM Doug Whaley said, “and we get as much information as possible and we let the information make the decision.”
Whaley said the Bills didn’t interview Wilhelm, the woman his fifth-round pick was suspected of beating. But again, the Bucs didn’t even bother to talk to the woman who has publicly accused Winston of raping her.
The most important thing, Whaley said, is looking into a kid’s eyes and knowing he’s telling you the truth. What a lot of athletes are good at, I imagine, is telling teams what they want to hear.