One specific narrative has emerged in the wake of the 20 lawsuits and counting that have been filed against Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson. That narrative acquired some legitimacy when Colts linebacker Darius Leonard recently supported it on social media.
The argument goes like this: Media outlets are aggressively covering the allegations against Watson while ignoring the serious domestic violence allegations against former Seahawks offensive lineman Chad Wheeler.
“It’s crazy that people bash Watson with no evidence but nobody want to say anything about Chad Wheeler who tried to kill his girlfriend,” Leonard said. “I’m just saying now, D Wat got killed with no proof but this guy who tried to put his girlfriend underground @espn or any other outlets was [quiet].”
We weren’t quiet about Wheeler. We’ve written 12 different stories about Wheeler’s case, and will continue to cover it as developments occur.
But there are differences. Watson is a franchise quarterback, arguably one of the five best players in the league. He also has been a fixture in the offseason news cycle, as a result of his strong desire to be traded by one of the most dysfunctional franchises in pro sports.
Wheeler, in contrast, is hardly an NFL household name. Undrafted in 2017, he developed into a starter in his second NFL season with the Giants. By 2019, he was cut and landed on the Seattle practice squad. Last year in Seattle, Wheeler appeared in five games with no starts.
I’m not defending those media outlets that didn’t cover the Wheeler allegations more aggressively. The angle, as reported by PFT here, that multiple NFL players were unhappy with the league’s failure to take action against Wheeler didn’t get the traction it should have. But there’s an inherent difference between Wheeler and Watson as it relates to their profile. Wheeler is, relative to Watson, a nobody. If Wheeler hadn’t been cut by the Seahawks after news of the arrest emerged, he quite possibly would have become a free agent earlier this month and gone, to date, unsigned.
Given the allegations against him, Wheeler’s career undoubtedly is over. He’s simply not good enough to get a chance at redemption.
Watson’s career will continue. There could be an interruption, but he’s far too good to be sidelined for good by this — unless he’s successfully prosecuted for crimes resulting from the strongest of the allegations made against him.
And, yes, there are only allegations at this point. Eventually, however, those allegations presumably will be supported by sworn testimony. Regardless of whether Watson disputes what is said in court or in a deposition, that testimony will constitute evidence.