By now most every NFL fan alive, hell every non-NFL fan, knows the story of Laremy Tunsil's crazy draft night. Tunsil by most accounts was considered the best all-around player in the 2016 NFL Draft. Some draft experts even considered him the best NFL prospect since Andrew Luck. Most mock drafts had him going number one overall before a couple of big trades were made to get to the top of the draft by quarterback-starved teams. Even then, many assumed that Tunsil was such a top notch, sure-fire prospect that he would still go as soon as the third pick and no later than the sixth pick of the first round of the draft. Then the infamous video of Tunsil smoking weed out of a bong attached to a gas mask showed up on Tunsil's Twitter account and just 10 minutes before the draft began.
The video, according to Deadspin, had been shopped around to various media outlets leading up to the draft for weeks, with no one showing any real interest in buying it because...well let's face it, college kids smoking weed is as about as common as a disappointed Miami Dolphins fan. Nothing to see here! Or so it would seem. All of a sudden the video is on social media and the media not only then cared but went into a feeding frenzy and the kid slid all the way down to pick 13 and right into the lap of the Miami Dolphins. The now famous bong video cost Tunsil somewhere in the neighborhood of 8 to 12 million dollars due to the slide. Of course, if he plays long enough to see his second NFL contract and turns out to be all that everyone believes he will be then he will most likely more than make up for that loss in income but this is the NFL and nothing is guaranteed. NFL careers, unlike other professional sports, are on average very short and it's hard to blame a guy for trying to get every dollar he can now.
If the whole story were not already crazy enough on its own you then had a reporter ask NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell what his thoughts were on the whole Tunsil situation and he said: "I think it's all part of what makes the draft so exciting!". WAIT, WHAT? Besides not being the most professional thing to say about such an issue it seems terribly misguided and lacking even the slightest evidence of compassion for what the young man may have just gone through. So some kid just got screwed over and humiliated on national television because some vindictive person released a video that is at least two years old showing him do something that more than half of all college students do (some estimates are even higher than just over half) and it's "exciting" to you? I understand that Goodell's job is not to be liked by the players but is it now his job to be hated by them? How can he be expected to be a competent negotiator between the owners and the players with foolish comments like that when some kids world just seemingly caved in on him? How can this man be the one that is supposed to give these players advice and direction on how to behave and act like men when his own actions and behavior are sure to lead to a total lack of respect by those very same players? Luckily Tunsil was drafted by the greatest team in the NFL but that for sure does not make good ole' Roger rubbing salt in the wound any better. There are about a hundred better ways Goodell could have addressed the question and he came up with "exciting"...sigh...
So you see all of this going down in real time and it's hard to not think back to other players with questionable pasts that have themselves been drafted into the league. There are guys that have been accused of rape, hitting/beating women and violent assaults on strangers and family members and teams seem to have no problem taking them high in the first round or even first overall. But a kid does what more kids do than do not in college (never mind that he passed every drug test in college and every drug test given by the NFL since the combine) and a photo or video of a kid taking a bong hit, smoking some weed is what makes you think twice? If you go back to look at some of these much worse cases the teams never even bothered to fully vet the players on the accusations/previous incidents before spending a very valuable draft pick on them. "No, we talked to the player and he assured us that he will be a good boy!". In some of these cases where the teams "claimed" to have done an exhaustive check of the player, the incident and their background the teams never even contacted any of the other witnesses or victims involved in the incidents. Many of the "exhaustive checks" seem to have more or less involved the player and his agent ensuring the team that everything was going to be just dandy.
This is all not to say that the NFL does not have teams that do a really good job investigating players before drafting them. Only that some teams seem to be willing to overlook certain things that our society as a whole clearly find far worse than some of the things that teams will in turn freak out about. You will be hard pressed to find anyone that believes smoking some weed to be worse than assaulting a woman or assaulting any person for that matter and yet somehow it seemed to be the other way around this past weekend for the NFL. You even had the Ravens who were reportedly set to draft Tunsil at number 6 pass on him because of this video. The Baltimore Freaking Ravens? The same team that had a player knock a woman out in an elevator and then had his wife come to their team facilities to "apologize" for the incident? The same team that was seemingly ok with the entire incident, despite Rice telling the team in detail exactly what happened? Then the famous video of him came out...
Wait, so the Ravens were going to roll on with Ray Rice and the NFL was going to give him a slap on the wrist until there was a video? Until there was a horrible public outcry, (and I admit the video was seriously violent and disturbing) it was not that big a deal for the team or the league? You had the GM and his head coach talking about what a great guy he was after the incident. The video comes out and all of a sudden, well not so much. Then you have Goodell punishing a player after he was punished? I don't think many will argue the point that Rice deserved a much stiffer penalty than the two games that the league handed down originally but is this how the league is now going to conduct business? We know what happened, in detail and here is one penalty but if the video of it surfaces then expect a worse penalty to be handed down? I am in no way arguing for or showing sympathy for Rice or what happened to him as I do not care and assume that whatever he got he deserved. Only pointing out the insanity of the process.
So what ties these two, the Rice and the Tunsil, incidents together and yet makes them different than others? It seems to be the fact that a video of the incident surfaced. Does anyone really believe that the NFL or anyone in the NFL cares one bit if a player, a highly touted player were to tell them, "Yeah, I smoked weed two years ago!"? Sure they would look further into it to make sure they kid did not have a problem but the single incident would not likely weigh into their decision on whether to take a kid or not. I have to assume that many players that were taken high (no pun intended) admitted to smoking weed at some point in college or high school or else they just flat out lied to the teams that interviewed them. Beyond that how many of those very people that were involved in making the decision to pass on the best player in the draft had done essentially the same exact thing, smoke weed, themselves in college? I personally know people that are at a very high level in their profession that I know for a fact smoked weed during the college years and it did not affect their rise in this world. The NFL is certainly no different.
One would think that the NFL as a whole would be overwhelmed with their real issues. There is the concussion situation that has even spurned a big budget film not to mention multiple lawsuits and at least one settlement of a billion dollars. I like many believe that there needs to be a lot more research into concussion's, their causes and long-term effects, why some are affected differently than other, etc... but this is without a doubt a huge issue for the league going forward, maybe the biggest. There are also players that are beating women, assaulting people, assaulting police officers, drunk driving on a mass scale and even cases manslaughter and first-degree murder. But let's stop down nearly an entire news cycle in the NFL on one of it's biggest nights because a college kid smoked some weed out of a Breaking Bad knockoff bong! Somehow a crime that is neither victimless and that only hurts the perpetrator (depending on your POV towards marijuana use) is worse than a crime with actual and real victims? None of this has to do with "Should teams or should they not care if a player is a Boy Scout?", only that the process to figure out who and what and why seems somehow backward at this point.
Now comes word that Tunsil will be evaluated for the NFL's substance abuse program!?! Wait, so if he had admitted to smoking weed one time at a party back in school, all is Kosher but if there is a video of it now he has to be "evaluated"? Seriously? An NFL spokesman, when asked about Tunsil's situation and why he would have to be evaluated stated "Any incoming player with behavior of conduct involving a substance of abuse will be evaluated by the program's advisors.". Now it would seem understandable that a kid is "evaluated" if he failed one of the drug tests that the NFL gives during and following the combine or if he had a known history of abusing any substance but are you telling me that every player that ever smoked weed in college or maybe even high school should be evaluated or is it only those that are captured on film doing so? Does anyone, including the NFL, teams or players actually know how this process works? What is considered as "conduct involving a substance of abuse?". Does this include drinking in excess because alcohol is by every definition for sure a substance that is abused in this country (especially on college campuses)? Should then every single player be "evaluated" because surely, just about every one of them got drunk at one point, or several points in college? Is there zero cutoff for time passed? Are these decisions all just made by that little guy from Twin Peaks sitting in a room flipping a big coin? Does the NFL really just operate with a policy of if there is a video we must address it but if there is no video then it did not happen? Is this real life?
So in this single situation we have found out that the NFL and many of their teams are horrible hypocrites of the highest order (I know that we all mostly knew this but this only further highlights it). Hit a woman and that's cool so long as it's not on video. Smoke weed a few times and we don't really care but by God let it show up on a video, no matter how old the video or that it happened while in college where the majority of other students are doing the same exact thing, that thing is going to cost you and cost you big. And the Commissioner, well we can't tell you how he will handle any of these incidents but it's very likely that he will begin by commenting on it in some childish/unprofessional manner and then he might penalize you or not penalize you or maybe he will penalize you and then penalize you some more. It's really hard to say because there is no real pattern to the punishment. And the fact that one incident might be worse than the other has nothing to do with the penalties because none of this is supposed to make sense either. Do not expect the punishment handed down to be equable in any way to the rule that was violated or maybe has not been violated...I'm confused too! Welcome to the NFL young man!