Tom Brady, Robert Kraft, the New England Patriots and Deflategate have taken over the airwaves, leaving the Frank Clark saga unattended. NFL fans and media alike have become infatuated with the story of deflated footballs, leaving a tale of far greater concern sitting on the sideline.
Everybody who is anybody is making headlines these days giving the masses their own personal take on Brady’s alleged cheating.
Did Brady do it?
Did Bill Belichick know?
Is the punishment too harsh? Is it too lenient?
Do you really believe the ball boy (man) was called “The Deflator” because he was trying to lose weight?
Click, click, click.
The public has been eating this stuff up like it is free beluga caviar, and we in the media continue to dish it out like candy.
Meanwhile, the fact that the Seattle Seahawks selected an alleged woman-beater with their first draft pick this spring is being swept under the rug.
In case you are unfamiliar with the details of Clark’s story, here comes the flood.
On Sunday, November 16, 2014, Clark was arrested for domestic violence.
He allegedly struck his then-girlfriend, Diamond Hurt, knocking her unconscious at a hotel in Sandusky, OH.
Police reports include a witness (the alleged victim’s brother) who states he “saw Clark grab the victim by her neck and slam her to the ground” (h/t Sandusky Register).
Two other witnesses, Lis Babson, 44, and Kristie Colie, 43, were in the room next door at the hotel and say they heard banging sounds, along with yelling and screaming, prompting Colie to pound on the door and find out what was wrong.
“She looked unconscious,’’ Colie said, per the Seattle Times. “She looked like she was knocked out, and then she started to move slowly.’’
The police report also features photos that show bruises and other marks on the victim’s face.
Then there’s the story of the hotel manager, who told the police that Clark admitted to hitting Hurt.
“Stephanie Burkhardt told authorities, per the Seattle Times, “I will hit you like I hit her.” According to Burkhardt, Clark then “shouldered her out of the way.”
“Yes, he said it,” Burkhardt said. “I would never lie about something like that.”
“I don’t know why they didn’t even question me about it,” Burkhardt said regarding the prosecutor’s office. “He straight up admitted to hitting her, and they didn’t do anything about it.”
Seems like a cut and dry case, right?
Prosecutor Lynne Gast-King didn’t see it that way and let Clark off the hook with a measly fine of $250 after he pleaded to a lesser charge of persistent disorderly conduct. He was also sentenced to two days in jail but had already served the time.
Gast-King didn’t think Clark actually hit his ex-girlfriend, despite all the evidence to the contrary.
Police chief Ken Klamar is baffled about the entire thing, per the Sandusky Register:
“I disagree with her,” Klamar said. “I believe what was written [in the police report] is an accurate portrayal of what happened that night. . . The professional work that we did was tremendous and similar to any other domestic violence incident we would handle. They were not mutual combatants. His strength versus her strength? His size versus her size? Without question, [Clark] was the aggressor in that incident, and I stand by the work. I stand by the decision to file charges of domestic violence and assault, and I don’t see it any other way.”
This is a crazy story, but the craziest part is yet to come.
According to Geoff Baker of The Seattle Times, Seattle never interviewed the victim, never interviewed the witnesses, never interviewed the hotel manager or anyone other than Clark when “investigating” the matter.
Yet the Seahawks would have you believe they did their “due diligence” before deciding on Clark in the draft. After all, general manager John Schneider made a vow during the 2012 NFL Draft (per ESPN.com), that the Seahawks would not bring in players who hit women:
“We would never take a player that struck a female or had a domestic violence dispute like that.”
Never mind that Seattle has actually brought in not one, not two, but six players with violent or sexual abuse histories since Schneider made that comment, as pointed out by Deadspin’s Barry Petchesky.
Faced with this mountain of evidence, it is clear this story isn’t just about Clark.
It’s also clear that this story is far more important to the NFL and humanity than whether or not Brady deflated some balls.
But hardly anybody is making a fuss, and nobody is talking about it, on television or on the radio.
We here at Sportsnaut have been doing our best to make a big deal about it. It is for this reason that I reached out to legendary journalist Peter King of SI.com’s MMQB to ask why the story is being buried.
Here’s what he had to say in his latest Twitter Mailbag (King addresses the Clark situation at the 2:45 mark):
“I think one of the things that’s happened…is that because of the tremendous coverage about the whole deflated football story in New England, the Seattle story has pretty much been put on the back burner.
“But I do think that at the latest by training camp the Seahawks are going to be confronted with a lot of questions about why they chose Frank Clark, and whether they truly believe he’s not guilty of any domestic violence.”
While it is comforting to know that the media will, in fact, confront the Seahawks about this issue, it is still troubling that Deflategate has taken precedence over this serious matter.
In the grand scheme of things, nobody gets hurt because Brady may or may not have deflated some footballs, with or without help of a certain fat man trying to lose weight.
What does matter in the grand scheme of things is that the NFL continues to embrace players with a history of domestic violence, and that the media continues to let it do so without a tremendous fight.
The Dallas Cowboys signed Greg Hardy to a one-year deal worth $11.3 million this winter, despite the fact that a judge ruled him guilty of domestic violence last year (he was later exonerated by his peers in another court). Adrian Peterson is being welcomed back to the Minnesota Vikings with open arms after he was found guilty of abusing his four-year-old son.
Ray McDonald found a job quickly this offseason with the Chicago Bears after he was dismissed by the San Francisco 49ers, due to an investigation into domestic/sexual violence. Like Seattle, Chicago didn’t even bother interviewing the alleged victim but declared the matter settled. Ahmad Brooks is still a member of the 49ers, despite the fact he was named by the same woman accusing McDonald as having sexually assaulted her last year.
We were all horrified when the video came out of Ray Rice knocking his then-girlfriend unconscious, but the only reason he is still without a job is that he is an aging running back whose best days are well behind him.
Now we have Clark and the Seahawks.
Commissioner Roger Goodell always likes to talk about “protecting the shield,” but in reality what he means is protecting the league from unsavory lawsuits. Remember, he handed Rice a two-game suspension after the news came out of his violent attack against his girlfriend, and it wasn’t until the video came out that the league took any of this seriously (or appeared to, anyway).
The NFL has made one thing abundantly clear: Unless you are a murderer, or unless you suck at football, there is a place for you at the table if you can make big plays.
If Gallup did a poll asking Americans which issue, Deflategate or domestic violence, was more important to the nation, there’s no doubt domestic violence would win in a landslide. But there hasn’t been a public outcry against teams that harbor violent offenders.
Meanwhile, America is transfixed with Deflategate and what will happen next.
Rather than bombarding Gillette Stadium, news crews across America should be gathered in front of Virginia Mason Athletic Center demanding answers. Seattle has willfully ignored evidence that calls Clark a violent offender. It has failed to do due diligence investigating the matter but hasn’t been called to task.
After Rice’s elevator video surfaced, the NFL and national media vowed, “never again,” to turn a blind eye to domestic violence. So why is everyone so quiet right now?
The whole thing reeks of hypocrisy, and it needs to end now.
Photo: Seattle Times