Dorial Green-Beckham might have been arrested if he weren’t a football star. No sugarcoating. Due process, innocent-until-proven-guilty, all that stuff is important, and so is this:
Columbia police were pursuing a warrant to arrest Green-Beckham until two women declined to press charges. According to a police report released Thursday, they aren’t pursuing charges because Green-Beckham is a football standout with an NFL future. In a series of text messages urging her friend and alleged victim not to prosecute, Green-Beckham’s girlfriend alleged he had dragged her by her neck. She later recanted, saying she didn’t remember what had happened.
Mizzou coach Gary Pinkel suspended Green-Beckham this week, but this is April, and unless there are teeth behind the discipline, football will be the enabler here. In a long line of embarrassing incidents for an athletic department that wants to hold itself to a higher standard, this is the one that people around Columbia, the state of Missouri and the country will be watching the closest.
Seven Mizzou football and men’s basketball players have been arrested eight times since January. That includes Green-Beckham’s arrest on suspicion of marijuana possession in January, but not an arrest based on a police report that alleges Green-Beckham broke into an apartment last weekend, damaged property and pushed a woman down four stairs. That tally also doesn’t count an independent investigation scheduled to be released Friday about the alleged rape and eventual suicide of former swimmer Sasha Menu Courey.
It does, however, include basketball player Zach Price, kicked off the team this week after he was twice arrested on suspicion of domestic assault and assault. Former teammate Earnest Ross sought an order of protection against Price as well. This is a bad movie.
College kids do stupid things — I know I did, and I’m guessing many of you did, too — but there is too much here to brush these off as isolated, boys-will-be-boys incidents. Especially when violence against women is allegedly involved. Seven arrests plus the star receiver being accused of pushing a woman down stairs speaks to a culture problem.
Is it leadership? Athletic director Mike Alden has talked about the high expectations and standards the university has for its students and staff and the need to represent Mizzou with class and dignity.
“Our core values are respect, responsibility, discovery and excellence,” he said last fall after the Antlers were kicked out of Mizzou Arena for a second time, “and it’s critically important that we represent those values every day in everything that we do.”
But the run of problems makes this relevant: His football coach was suspended after a drunken-driving arrest two years ago, and his basketball coach was suspended last season by the NCAA.
Basketball coach Frank Haith’s problems were particularly embarrassing for the athletic department, because Alden made “character” a key selling point on a hire that was generally greeted with all the warmth of dry ice.
Look, this isn’t the worst thing in the world. As far as athletic-department problems go, North Carolina would probably trade its apparently deep-rooted academic scandal for a string of arrests.
Plus, in the big picture, the last year or so of Missouri sports has been wildly successful. Pinkel’s football team won 12 games and played for the Southeastern Conference championship with Green-Beckham catching 12 touchdowns over the course of the season. A massive facilities upgrade will transform Memorial Stadium and further support Mizzou in its transition to the tough SEC.
But this isn’t the way the Tigers want to do it.
Green-Beckham is the biggest star on campus, and because of two previous arrests involving marijuana and the problems of his peers, this latest incident will be watched particularly closely.
The police report paints an ugly picture of a troubled kid surrounded by enablers. Marijuana is one thing. It’s slowly being legalized around the country. You may be like me, completely unoffended by a college kid smoking pot. But hurting women is entirely different.
Green-Beckham is a young man. He turns 21 this weekend. Nobody deserves to be judged by what they do at 20, and nobody should be judged by his worst moments. He has one more season to play at Mizzou before he has his first chance to enter the NFL Draft. On talent, he’s a first-round pick.
There is an opportunity here for Green-Beckham to grow, to mature, to realize that the NFL is watching, and there is a future career very much tied to his present decisions. We’d all like to see a happy ending to this story, for this to be the end of Green-Beckham’s drama.
We’d all like to see the family inside the MU athletic department, and in particular the football program, support Green-Beckham with tough love, guidance and motivation to help him move off this precarious path.
It’s just that based on the last few months, each side has lost the benefit of the doubt.