May 5, 2017

I THINK WE SHOULD JUST SHUT IT DOWN: Wrestling With the NFL’s Violence Problem.

Suppose you’re considering a job applicant who seems to check all the right boxes. He has the skills you’re looking for. He has accolades from experts in the field. It’s obvious that he can be of enormous help to your company. Then, in the course of your background check, you learn that he is facing accusations of sexual assault. What do you do?

If you’re an ordinary employer, you go to the next applicant on your list. If you’re the National Football League, you roll out the red carpet.

That’s at least one potential lesson from this past weekend’s NFL draft. In the first round, the Oakland Raiders drafted Gareon Conley, who has been accused of rape. In the second round, the Cincinnati Bengals selected Joe Mixon, who in a much-viewed video punches a woman so hard that she falls down unconscious. In the sixth round, the Cleveland Browns selected Caleb Brantley, who was accused of doing pretty much what Mixon did. And they are not the only drafted players who face or have faced such charges.

Of course not every accusation is true. The players might turn out to be innocent. (Well, not Mixon, who pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor and reached a civil settlement with the victim.) But most employers would nevertheless tread warily, no matter how much talent the prospective hire might bring. Yes, there is a certain unfairness in punishing would-be employees who have been convicted of no crime. On the other hand, a business has reputation and morale to worry about.

The NFL is different.

Well, they don’t call it the National Felons’ League for nothing.

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