A bizarre story has emerged in Cleveland only two days before the draft.
Via WOIO-TV, a woman has accused an unnamed NFL prospect of sexual assault. The player is expected to be selected in round one. WOIO-TV has decided not to name the prospect, pending the issuance of a police report. WOIO-TV also has emphasized that the player has not yet been charged with a crime.
Here’s where it gets weirder. The story quotes the lawyer for the unnamed player, but still doesn’t name the player. Kevin Spellacy represents the unnamed player, and Spellacy calls the allegation “ludicrous and ridiculous.”
“In my opinion this young lady is an opportunist and it’s actually despicable,” Spellacy said.
Spellacy told WOIO that the unnamed player was never alone with the alleged victim at the Westin Hotel in Cleveland, the site of the alleged incident. Spellacy also said that the unnamed player has three witnesses who claim the unnamed player did nothing wrong. Spellacy said he’s willing to make the player available for an interview with police immediately after the draft.
Why not do it before the draft? Because if the player is interviewed — and if the news get out as to who the player is — a potential La’el Collins situation could emerge. Two years ago, Collins was questioned in connection with a murder. Because he wasn’t cleared from involvement before the draft, he tumbled completely out of the draft, even though he was never accused, arrested, or charged with any crime.
If the unnamed player in this case isn’t cleared before Thursday night, he could tumble even if he’s not guilty.
This makes it incumbent on every agent of every player who isn’t the subject of the investigation to say clearly and loudly and in no uncertain terms that their guy isn’t the guy who is facing this investigation. As to agent who represents a player who was in or around Cleveland on April 9, the date of the alleged incident, there should be a shouting of the player’s non-involvement even more loudly, along with a demand that WOIO disclose the accused player’s name ASAP. With a small, defined universe of players who may be the player facing the accusation, failure to identify the player indirectly defames the other players who it could be, but who it isn’t.
As to the 32 teams, someone unwittingly will be picking a player who brings negative publicity and, potentially, a prosecution and a guilty verdict to town. Thus, they each should be seeking clear assurances from each player they are considering that the player they are considering isn’t the guy who is accused of sexual assault.
Although WOIO has taken steps to keep the player’s name out of it, the mere existence of the story necessarily will pull the player’s name into it. With more than 48 hours to go until the draft begins, it’s inescapable.
Even if the name isn’t leaked to the media (and chances are it will be), the teams definitely will know who it is, When that player slides, so will everyone else.