This is a repost of an original PennLive publication – click here to read the original article
On Nov. 25, the day after Reuben Foster was arrested – for the second time this year – on suspicion of domestic violence, the San Francisco 49ers released him. By Nov. 27, Foster had been claimed off waivers by the Washington Redskins.
Though his talent is unquestionable, many find it hard to believe that any team would risk adding him to their roster.
Unless, of course, the Redskins have identified that they have the opportunity – perhaps the last of Foster’s life – to support him in his evolution as a human being.
At a time when so many are concerned with how he should be punished, it’s appropriate to identify the fact that this troubled, violent young man is a human being – a flawed human being whose psychology has been shaped by a set of circumstances with which few, if any, can identify.
As a child, Foster’s father shot his mother then fled the state and went on the lamb for sixteen years. By the time he was apprehended by authorities, Reuben had become one of the best linebackers in the country, dismantling opposing offenses across the state of Alabama. He was the Defensive MVP of the Under Armor High School All-America game. Not long after, while playing (and winning championships) at Alabama, he won the Butkus award as the top linebacker in college football. Months later, he was a first round draft pick, and a millionaire.
His circumstances have whittled a unique psychology; we have no way of knowing what his life is like, or how we would behave were we in his shoes.
But we know his behavior is unacceptable.
His experience as an athlete might be the final chance anyone has to make a significant impact on that behavior. In football, the reward systems should be clear, the mentors of sound mind and strong ethics, and the standards high.
To be clear, I am not sympathizing with Foster; I am condemning his actions. But given the circumstances, we have a choice to make: the Redskins can meet him in the only educational platform he has left (football) and attempt to mold him into a productive member of society, or the NFL kick him out of the league and add someone who is confused, violent, and known to be in possession of weapons into society, with a new chip on his shoulder.
Reuben is 24 years old. We can kick him out, or do our best to support him. I won’t recommend one or the other, but it’s essential that we recognize the context of this decision. This might be the last chance we have.
That might be wishful thinking. Washington Redskins senior VP Doug Williams referred to Foster’s second domestic abuse arrest in the same calendar year “small potatoes” in the grand scheme of things. He apologized soon after, but his laissez-faire comments reflect the blind eye of the NFL in regard to its potential in the lives of these men.
Foster’s arrest came on the heels of surveillance video surfacing which revealed Chiefs running back Kareem Hunt physically assaulting a nineteen-year-old woman in public.
Tyreek Hill choked and punched his pregnant girlfriend when he was in college. Greg Hardy allegedly assaulted his girlfriend by choking her and throwing her on a bed covered with – oddly enough – assault rifles. Josh Brown admittedly abused his wife more than twenty times over the course of one year. And the list goes on.
The NFL has enough potatoes to feed the nation’s capital.
Domestic violence is not the norm for NFL players, but it has become an all-too-common narrative as each assault deservingly finds its way into national headlines.
When cases like these erupt, we need to provide these men with the feedback they need to change before casting them back into society. I believe in the human capacity for growth – these men need it. And if it doesn’t come from their coaches and teammates, who will it come from?
By 2020, I envision an NFL featuring coaches whose primary role is to prepare minds – not for the rigors of the game, necessarily, but the rigors of life during and after a professional career – with individualized wellness approaches and actionable strategies.
This is owed not to only to the players, but to their communities.
Redskins, prove me right.