UNDATED (WSAU) NFL players accused of off-the-field misconduct has become all too common. The league, at the heights of popularity, senses that player misconduct is one true threat to the game. Will we watch less if we’re turned off by the people who are actually playing? That’s why the NFL hands down its own punishment in these cases, and has an ever-tightening standard of player conduct.
The case involving Packers defensive back Brandon Underwood is still unresolved. It’s too soon to say exactly what happened at the condo on Lake Delton. We know there was sexual contact between Underwood and two women from Milwaukee. He says it was consensual; two Milwaukee women say it was not. The women have told conflicting stories. At first they claimed they were assaulted by more than one person. They later told police only one person was involved. This is a matter for the police to sort out.
There’s a stigma to being branded as a rapist. Lake Delton police were correct not to release any names until their investigation is complete. It’s entirely possible that charges will not be filed. The District Attorney’s office may simply decline to prosecute a he-said-she-said case where the alleged victims’ credibilities are in doubt.
But since there are pro athletes involved, there's bound to be media attention. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel worked the story, and quickly had the names of the Packers who took part in a charity golf tournament at The Dells. Then they got the names of the Packers who were staying at the condo on Lake Delton. There were 7 of them. Police said six had been cleared of any wrongdoing. Journal Sentinel reporters learned that it was Brandon Underwood who was not cleared, and was being investigated. That has since been confirmed by multiple non-law-enforcement sources.
Underwood is a legitimate subject for reporting about this story. It’s unrealistic for a professional athlete to expect that his name will be shielded if there was an allegation of this nature against him. But the Journal Sentinel published the names of all seven Packers at the condo that night. Six of them the newspaper knew would not face charges, and had been cleared of wrongdoing. Why publicize their names? Why should they be smeared in connection with this story?
You’ve heard that athletes get special treatment, and it’s true. But sometimes special treatment has a downside. The mere fact that you’re a Green Bay Packer when one of your teammates might have misbehaved is enough to get your name dragged through the mud. Their names should not have been published. They are owed an apology.
Operations Manager-Midwest Communications, Wausau