One of the benefits of a Friday afternoon NFL bad-news dump is that maybe not as many people will notice. The other benefit is that maybe people won’t ask the NFL tough questions about it.
Plenty of tough questions could be asked about the NFL’s decision to fine but not to suspend Washington linebacker Reuben Foster after the incident that got him fired by the 49ers — and that resulted in the NFL placing Foster on the Commissioner Exempt list after Washington claimed Foster on waivers last November.
So how does the NFL, with a Personal Conduct Policy that vows decisive action against alleged domestic abusers and potential repeat offenders (Foster is both), only fine Foster two game checks and not suspend him? (Foster has twice been accused of domestic abuse. On both occasions, his accuser recanted her allegations. He was suspended two games last year after a substance-abuse policy violation and a no-contest plea to a weapons charge that arose from his 2018 domestic-violence arrest.)
Here’s why Foster wasn’t suspended, based on information leaked by the league to one of its in-house reporters: The NFL viewed video provided by the hotel where the latest incident happened, and it decided that no violation of the Personal Conduct Policy occurred, and multiple attempts to contact the accuser “were unsuccessful.”
So why was Foster fined? Again, here’s what the NFL leaked to its in-house reporter: It “is related to other behavior over the past year and failing to live up to obligations the NFL set forth as part of Foster’s 2-game suspension last year for drug and weapons charges.”
So what does that mean? Apparently, we’ll find out if/when the NFL leaks more details about what Foster did to deserve a two-game fine to one of its in-house reporters.
Or maybe it won’t. Maybe that’s all we’ll ever know about a process that continues to be more about P.R. than justice, where the league seemingly picks a desired outcome based on how it will fly in the public eye and then works backward.
Even though the league concluded that Foster didn’t violate the Personal Conduct Policy, the league knew that it couldn’t give him a pass. So the league fined him for something he surely wouldn’t have been fined for if he’d never landed on the league’s radar screen for a potential violation of the Personal Conduct Policy that the league ultimately concluded wasn’t a violation at all.
Still, don’t feel bad for Foster. He got paid last year for five games in which he didn’t play. This year, he’ll play in two games without getting paid.
The end result? Washington now has the full benefit of a first-round pick on whom the 49ers have given up. Unless and until Foster does something else that gets him suspended, not fined.