Oh, and it was going to be a so-quiet beginning to the great spectacle that is a National Football League season when training camps open this month. The league, which dedicated itself to minimizing the off-field and sideline distractions that annoyed both the fans and the sponsors who pay the bills, had done just about everything it could.
It successfully brokered a $97 million deal with protesting players to fund community projects if the players agreed to stop protesting, then instituted a new policy that allowed persisting protests but only if those were unseen by the public. Very neat, very tidy. Even the small suspensions handed out to Jameis Winston and the Eagles’ Nigel Bradham were brief, one-day stories and neither player indicated the ruling of the commissioner would be challenged.
Yeah, it was all going pretty well until this week when the grisly picture surfaced of LeSean McCoy’s ex-girlfriend who looked as if she had been pummeled within an inch of her life. In fact, she was pistol-whipped by an intruder under circumstances that appear to implicate some involvement by McCoy. That might not be the case, which the legal process will attempt to determine, but the investigating officers listed four felonies, including aggravated assault and aggravated battery. Those aren’t the sort of transgressions that result in fines or community service. People go to jail for those.
The NFL said it is monitoring the situation, which is no surprise. The league is also, no doubt, weighing the question of whether Shady McCoy will be a bigger distraction if he plays or if he is not allowed to play while this process moves forward. Roger Goodell has shown a readiness to discipline players well ahead of any legal verdict, which is a dicey approach to take, but he’s a good-of-the-game kind of guy and nobody’s smacked him with the Constitution yet. This case, however, could be different.
As we’ve learned, and as the NFL confirmed with its final protest policy, all that matters in the court of public opinion is what people can see. Ray Rice would be a player in the league today if that elevator video didn’t exist, regardless of anything else. Adrian Peterson is employed because there were no photographs of him in the act of beating children with switches. That’s just the way it is, and someone is going to have to answer for the picture of Delicia Cordon. If it doesn’t turn out to be Shady, that would be a surprise.
There is nothing alleged about her injuries. What is alleged is whether McCoy had anything to do with them. He was in Miami when the attack took place at his house in Milton, Ga., so his involvement would have to be secondhand, which is the same in the eyes of the law. An intruder went into the house late at night and demanded specific pieces of jewelry that had been given to Cordon by McCoy, specific pieces of jewelry that McCoy reportedly had previously demanded be returned. How could a random intruder ask for exactly that? It’s a good question, and the only current answer can be found in that court of public opinion. The answer, of course, is that it wasn’t a random intruder.
There are some odd tangents to this story that don’t really matter. Cordon was living in McCoy’s house, and he had begun proceedings to evict her. Her cousin was living there, too, and she’s the one who apparently posted the hospital photo before later deleting it. And, naturally, there are lawyers all over the place on both sides now, including McCoy’s, who is the guy who got the murder charge dismissed against Ray Lewis. That probably comes in handy on the resume.
None of it changes the fact that Cordon was the victim of a violent crime and all of the NFL’s fans and all of its sponsors have seen the picture and, once again, it is bad for business.
McCoy’s personal history doesn’t help him here. Go down the list, from the woman tossed to the side of the road from the party bus; to the invitation-only party for women who had to send in a picture of themselves; to the 20-cent tip on the $60 food bill after he and his buddies had been making derogatory comments about the waitresses; to the profane Twitter spat with a mother of his child; to the brawl in the Philly nightclub, and it doesn’t paint an NFL man of the year portrait. It’s hard to argue that LeSean McCoy is anything but a dirtbag, particularly when it comes to women.
That doesn’t make him guilty in this case, however. In fact, McCoy hasn’t even been charged with anything, which would probably require finding the actual perpetrator and having him flip. That’s a long way from where this stands.
What isn’t a long way away is the opening of training camp. The Buffalo Bills begin theirs on July 25. It can be predicted that McCoy will be a distraction if he is there. Goodell has some thinking to do about this one. Eventually, he’ll have to speak. The photograph already has.