The Seahawks apparently hoped that they’d be able to quietly deal with tackle Chad Wheeler’s deeply disturbing arrest for suspicion of domestic violence. The NFL continues to quietly deal with the situation. Players are not happy about that.
Per a league source, multiple players want the league office to issue a strong statement against Wheeler and impose significant discipline against him.
The Seahawks initially did nothing, presumably because they believed that they could let Wheeler’s expiring contract end, not offer him a new deal, and move on from him. The Seahawks learned it wouldn’t be that simple. With an uproar that got louder and louder as more and more people became aware of the troubling details of the case, the Seahawks eventually waived Wheeler’s rights.
Wheeler, obviously, went unclaimed on waivers. He’s now unemployed by any NFL team, and he likely never will be again.
For some players, however, that’s not nearly enough. They want the NFL to take action against Wheeler, issuing the kind of swift justice that routinely is visited upon other players. The league likely thinks that it needs to do nothing at this point to ensure Wheeler never plays again; his unemployment coupled with the threat that he’d be placed on paid leave pending the outcome of the prosecution (and then suspended without pay afterward) should be more than enough to keep all teams away from a player who wasn’t sufficiently skilled to be a starter.
The league likely prefers to do nothing because anything the league does at this point will bring extra attention to the story. Even though punishing Wheeler would be the right thing to do, a story about Wheeler sparked by the league issuing the kind of suspension his situation deserves would bring negative attention to the fact that he was even in the league in the first place.
That’s not placating players who are curious to see whether a white player will face the same kind of consequences that Black players repeatedly have faced from the league office. (The league, for example, obsessed over enforcing a six-game suspension against Ezekiel Elliott in 2017, even though he was never arrested, charged, or even sued.) Although the league likely isn’t thinking of the situation in those terms, players are. And players want to see the league do something conspicuous and consequential with Wheeler in order to prove that there isn’t a double standard at 345 Park Avenue.