Soon-to-be free-agent Eagles safety Nate Allen escaped charges on Monday after the 16-year-old who accused Allen of indecent exposure outside a Red Lobster began to tell inconsistent stories to police. That’s good news for Allen, but possibly bad news for the NFL’s renewed zeal when it comes to policing the off-field lives of players.
False charges are made — and not abandoned by a nervous teenager — all the time. Currently working in the league office is a man who spent five years in jail for something he didn’t do, thanks to a victim who told a lie that enough people believed.
That’s the risk the NFL has assumed with its new approach to players facing allegations of violent crime. Unlike the false rape accusations against Brian Banks, which prompted him to agree to a plea deal in lieu of risking a far longer sentence at trial, the vetting process that will make charges stick long enough to derail a player’s career is a lot less strenuous, thanks to the NFL’s woefully misguided belief that benching a player with pay pending the resolution of his legal case doesn’t amount to any type of discipline on the player.
It does, and now all it takes is someone who has the desire to make trouble for the player and the ability to tell a persuasive lie with a straight face to create major problems — and possibly to extract a major cash settlement — from a player. But as Panthers defensive end Greg Hardy has learned, even a major cash settlement may not be enough, if it comes after testimony and other evidence has been generated to allow the NFL, under a far lower standard of proof, to determine that the guy did something he shouldn’t have done, even if the allegations are false. Which, in turn, creates an incentive for players to make major cash settlements as early in the process as possible; preferably, before anyone even knows about the allegations.
Which, in turn, creates even more of an incentive for someone to make false claims against the player, especially if the objective is simply to score a payday.
The NFL either doesn’t understand this concept or regards it as an acceptable risk in light of the intense scrutiny the league has faced in the aftermath of the Ray Rice situation. Either way, the table has been set for NFL players to be set up.