A year ago at this time, 49ers cornerback Perrish Cox was out of football and defending himself against charges of raping a woman who had passed out at his apartment.
The most incriminating evidence? Cox told police that he didn’t have sex with the woman, and the DNA of the fetus that later was discovered in the woman’s uterus matched Cox’s DNA.
(That link has portions of the video of Cox being questioned by police. At one point Cox says maybe the woman had sex with Cox . . . while Cox was asleep.)
Cox was acquitted (somehow), and he thereafter signed with the 49ers, even though coach Jim Harbaugh reportedly has told his players that the only thing he won’t forgive is an offense against a female.
As anyone who remembers the O.J. Simpson case knows, the fact that Cox wasn’t convicted doesn’t mean he didn’t do it. That point could soon be demonstrated again, given that Cox (like Simpson) has been sued in civil court, where the standard of proof is far lower than proof beyond reasonable doubt. (Broncos receiver Demaryius Thomas also has been sued, presumably to give him an incentive to protect himself when testifying — and in turn to give up Cox.)
Meanwhile, we’ve buried the lede almost as deep as the 49ers and the NFL would like to bury the entire issue. We’re revisiting the Cox conundrum because Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee reports that, following a review of the situation under the personal-conduct policy, the NFL won’t suspend Cox.
The fact that Cox still could be found liable for civil sexual assault makes the decision seem premature, especially since Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger was suspended six games (reduced to four) without ever being arrested for sexual assault.
That said, there are two key differences. First, Roethlisberger had two incidents. Cox has one. From the league’s perspective, that’s important; the personal-conduct policy tilts toward punishing players who are repeat offenders.
Second, the player’s name is Perrish Cox and not Ben Roethlisberger. We’ve long believed that, when it comes to the personal-conduct policy, the penalties are tied directly to who the player is and/or how big of a national stir his off-field issues creates. Ben’s misadventures in Milledgeville and Tahoe were top-of-the-fold news; most non-hardcore NFL fans still aren’t even aware of Cox’s case. By suspending Cox, the league necessarily would shine a light on something that most people haven’t noticed yet.
Thus, don’t be surprised if the league alters its position if Cox eventually is found liable in civil court for sexual assault — and if the outcome somehow can disrupt the Tebow coverage on ESPN.