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Seattle Seahawks Face Criticism Over Draft Pick

Friday, May 08, 2015

 

The 2015 NFL draft is now in the books and the grades are out. While most pundits agree the Seattle Seahawks had a successful draft, bolstered by the swap of their first round pick with the New Orleans Saints for stud tight end Jimmy Graham, how 12's ultimately grade out the Seahawks draft will depend on how they view, arguably, the most controversial pick in this year’s draft class. After selecting Michigan DE Frank Clark in the second round, the Seahawks are answering questions and skepticism leveled at the team for reaching for a player that many had slotted as a mid-round selection. And they have also invoked questions and skepticism concerning their vetting of the domestic violence accusations surrounding Clark. 

The accusations are dark. A woman lying semi-conscious on a hotel room floor, cradling her battered head in her hands. Four witnesses, including two of the victim's siblings, claiming they confronted the irate and intoxicated Clark as he attempted to leave the room following the alleged assault. One of the four was even reported to have actually witnessed Clark beating the woman. But what took place in that room prior to hotel security and law enforcement's arrival is open to speculation. What is not subject to speculation is that Clark was arrested, charged with two counts of first-degree misdemeanors for domestic violence and assault, and promptly dismissed from the Michigan football team. Those actions alone would seemingly have taken him off of the Seahawks draft board. Especially when you consider GM John Schneider's repeated insistence that no player that strikes a woman would ever be on the Seahawks roster on his watch. Domestic violence, according to Schneider, "would be a deal breaker." Yet, a young woman whose face was battered while she was staying in a hotel room with Clark, and assault charges filed against Clark (later reduced in a plea agreement to disorderly conduct), were not a deal breaker for Schneider and the Seahawks in selecting him with the 63rd overall pick. A move that would have still raised some eyebrows had Clark not had the assault allegations.

For their part, Schneider and Seahawks Head Coach Pete Carroll have been adamant in defending both the pick of Clark and his character. Both have claimed an absolute belief that Clark never put his hands on the young woman, with Schneider citing how "shocked" those involved with the football program at Michigan were over Clark's arrest. Schneider went on sports media to relate, repeatedly and almost verbatim each time, how he arrived in Ann Arbor right after the arrest and was "struck by how shocked everyone was." While those in charge of the Michigan football program may have been shocked, they certainly did not seem to put much stock in Clark's denial of guilt, as he was dismissed from the team within a few days of his arrest. By his own admission, it was that shock displayed by those on the Wolverines’ staff that gave Schneider the confidence to go ahead and select him. And by all accounts, the Seahawks brass never attempted to verify any of the witness statements of the incident by interviewing those present. One could make the argument that if the Hawks brain trust doesn't know the truth, it's because they don't want to know the truth. 

Every player in the draft comes with a certain amount of risk attached to them. Many come from the mean streets where violence, substance abuse, and living just outside the law are a part of everyday life. Most have been told from an early age that they are special and that the rules don't always apply to them off the field. And being successful on the field is the only thing that matters in the National Football League. But with the Clark selection, the Seahawks are assuming all the risk of a PR hit, a media backlash, and potentially alienating some of their fan base. Even in the win-at-all-costs NFL, that amount of risk would seem reserved solely for a game changing talent. Maybe even a once in a generation talent. And I doubt anyone in the Seahawks organization sees Frank Clark as either of those.

So does the potential reward of Frank Clark's play on the field outweigh the risk of losing the moral high-ground that the Seahawks brass claim governs their player personnel moves? Or does moral high-ground even exist in the National Football League? Those may be the questions being asked now as the media beats its collective chest and demands to know the lengths that Schneider and the Hawks went to in vetting the Clark assault allegations. But I doubt those will still be the questions being asked by the media, or 12's, when the Seahawks start racking up wins this season. In the NFL, winning makes everything alright. Even if you're winning with an accused woman beater on your team.

GoLocalPDX partner Oregon Sports News: Since 2011, Oregon Sports News has provided entertaining, hard-hitting local sports news & commentary every weekday. To read more from this author, check out Oregon Sports News by clicking here.

 

Related Slideshow: Oregon’s Most Devastating Sports Injuries

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