On the heels of a lawsuit filed accusing Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones of sexual assault come allegations that special teams player C.J. Spillman sexually assaulted a woman at a Texas hotel in September. A woman filed a police report accusing Spillman of raping her at the Gaylord Texan hotel in Grapevine on September 20.
The football player has not been charged and has played in two games since the alleged incident. Today the team announced that he will continue to practice, with coach Jason Garrett saying that Spillman's status with the team will not change unless he is arrested or charged.
Some people say that with scrutiny on the way the NFL is handling other domestic violence and sexual assault cases--particularly in relation to the Ray Rice case--the team and the league should act quickly to suspend a player accused of sexual assault. However, Garrett told reporters, "I think you have to be careful with just accusations and allegations in this situation.
When someone is officially charged or arrested for something, that's when it becomes a different situation in our minds. For now, he's a member of our football team and will take part in everything we do to this point." Garrett's protection of due process seems to be self-contradictory, since earlier this week, he told his players that the team will enact a zero-tolerance policy for domestic violence.
Anyone involved in a domestic violence incident will be suspended from the team, "regardless of due process." Playing around with due process--a constitutional right in courtroom matters--can be a tricky thing. If all players accused of sexual assault were suspended prior to investigation and verification of the veracity of the claim, it would certainly be easy to manipulate the sport. Want your team to win? Just accuse the opposing quarterback of rape.
Some professional athletes have a sense of entitlement that leaves them to believe that they can take what they want and that they are above the law. Others may simply be high-profile targets for manipulative people seeking either attention or a large settlement. As such cases show, an accusation alone can tarnish one's reputation and have a tremendous impact on a career.
Ben Roethlisberger was accused of rape but never charged. Kobe Bryant was criminally charged after a rape claim, but the case was dismissed after his accuser refused to testify. Both of these men, despite having no criminal conviction for the acts of which they were accused, are eternally linked with the accusations.
If a professional athlete is guilty of rape, he deserves the professional and legal consequences of his actions.If he is falsely accused, doesn't he deserve the same due process rights guaranteed to all of us under the United States Constitution?
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