As a coach, you’ve mentored hundreds of young men to go on to lead successful lives, from high school to Grambling State University, to your current NFL role as SVP of Player Personnel for Washington’s NFL team. You talk a good game about being a man of character almost every chance you get. I’ve heard you myself — and foolishly, I believed you.
Despite all that, you’re now trying to justify the hiring
of linebacker Reuben Foster, almost immediately after he was arrested
on one count of first-degree misdemeanor domestic-violence battery against his on-again-off-again girlfriend. Foster’s former team, the San Francisco 49ers, had the decency to fire Reuben less than 12 hours after his arrest, citing a welcome new team policy: any player who commits domestic violence will no longer have a place on their team.
No other team would touch Foster when he became available — could be this is a sign of progress in the NFL, that team owners, coaches are getting the message that coddling domestic abusers is bad for business? Apparently, Williams and his boss, team owner Dan Snyder, have decided to play by different rules:
Said Williams in a statement
: “If true, you can be sure these allegations are nothing our organization would ever condone.” Odd. While the statement also alluded to “numerous steps” Foster would have to go through before being allowed to play, this sure sounds like Williams condones the allegations — or at least is willing to look past them to get a good linebacker.
Williams added that joining the team would be the “best possible environment (for Reuben) to succeed both personally and professionally.”
As if the best treatment for men who abuse women is to surround them with friends, give them a high-paying job, and put them on TV every week. It’s almost laughable. And one more disturbing example of how the NFL continues to excuse misogyny and abuse against women.
But dismissing women also comes at a high price. Williams likely forgot that women make up nearly 45% of the NFL fanbase
. We also decide, more times than not, whether we will allow our sons to even play the game, or buy that next NFL jersey. Keeping female fans is a matter of survival for the NFL, and moves like Foster’s hire only disconnect women further from the game.
Men like Foster may have gone unnoticed before Ray Rice, the former Baltimore Raven who was caught on video
violently attacking his fiancée in 2014. Foster’s arrest may have received little attention before #MeToo, before we women put aside our fears and raised our voices to demand consequences for men who use their power to abuse and harass us.
We know our power. If the league intends to keep women watching and spending on the NFL, it cannot keep justifying guys like Reuben Foster.
I’ve met and worked with Doug Williams. I’ve always liked him — since the day he became the first black quarterback
to win a Super Bowl in 1988, destroying the myth that blacks were not smart enough to be signal callers. Williams has been a folk hero to many in the black community. I want him to succeed.
“Black folks want Doug Williams to win,” wrote
Jason Reid of ESPN’s Undefeated when Williams was hired last year.