ESPN and NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell seem determined to turn Pacman Jones into the next Michael Vick - a sacrificial lamb suitable for crucifixion in the media to show the league doesn't tolerate bad guys. Maybe Jones deserves it for his past transgressions, which I've never closely followed before he came to Dallas, but not for the incident that most recently hounded him out of the league.
Much of the coverage I've seen has been mean-spirited and misleading. I want to punch ESPN anchor Trey Wingo in the chops every time he announces that Jerry Jones hired Pacman a four-man security team to look after him. "Why does a grown man need four men to follow him around?" Wingo gleefully repeats like a manta, when any fool knows security staff don't work 24 hours per day and a four-man team is needed to provide a week's worth of coverage, one shift at a time. I've even heard Wingo corrected on that point by people he's interviewing and he persists in the misrepresentation. Pacman never had more than one bodyguard with him at a time but you woudn't know it from ESPN's spin on the situation. Do the math, Wingo, and stop the smears!
Tanya Eiserer at the Dallas News Crime Blog ordered the incident reports on the matter (see here -pdf). Thank you, thank you, thank you, Tanya! I'm so grateful somebody's actually performing journalism on the incident instead of just demagoguing about it, I could give give you a big, sloppy kiss!
So what do we discover from these documents? Many interesting things.
For starters, what exactly happened? The official offense report says that Pacman and his bodyguard "caused a verbal argument disturbance" in a hotel restroom. Officer Rodney Allen was already at scene for some other, unknown reason and he called in the disturbance, Corporal Miguel Jamaica was sent as backup. Here's a relevant excerpt from Officer Allen's narrative in his report:
I observed Mr. Adam Jones and his bodyguard walking in the hallway towards the restroom. At that point I observed Mr. Jones and his bodyguard joking around with each other. As I admired the hotel designs, the hotel security advised me that something was going on in the restroom near the lobby. The hotel security then asked me to check out the problem becaue two male individuals were in the restroom playing around. As I arrived at the restroom, I observed Mr. Jones girlfriend at the restroom door stating two male individuals to stop playing around. ...
[Officer Allen] asked hotel security to help me escort Mr. Jones and his bodyguard to their vehicles. ... Before Mr. Jones and his bodyguard left the location, I asked both of them did they want to make an offense report and both of them refused ...Officer Jamaica's report adds this additional material. After arriving at the scene, said Jamaica, Officer Allen:
Ater Mr. Jones and his bodyguard left the location, I then talked with the on duty manager. The manager stated to me that she wanted me to make a note of the incident. I then gave the manager the incident number #312126v. I also did not observe Mr. Jones intoxicated.
informed me that no offense had occurred and that the hotel just wanted them gone. Both parties left without further incident. At no time did anyone involved in the disturbance or hotel management report an offense to me. After the parties left, I suggested to PO Allen that he complete a Miscellaneous Incident Report documenting the incident.Here's where things get even more interesting. Deputy Chief Vincent Goelbeck criticized Officer Allen, in particular, in a memo to Chief David Kunkle which alleged that Allen's vague account of the incident could be "construed as not being forthcoming." He could also have pointed out that Allen gave contradictory accounts about whether Pacman was drinking, saying in his report that "I also did not observe Mr. Jones intoxicated." But that differs from the version he told supervisors who questioned him about the incident after the fact:
[Allen's incident report] was very vague but both officers stated that they did not witness or have information that an assault had occurred or that hotel management wanted any offense made. During the verbal questioning of Officer Allen, he stated that Mr. Jones appeared to have been drinking but not to the point where an arrest needed to be made for public intoxication. However he didn't include this in his written statement. Officer Allen was counseled on the importance of a detailed [incident report] and being specific with information during questions from supervisors, understanding that vaguesness can be construed as not being forthcoming with all of the fact known, which can cast doubt on his and the department's credibility.So the officer has given two different stories about whether Jones was drinking - one is obviously a lie but who knows how to pick between them?
Lt. Kimberly Owens has reiterated to her officers and supervisors the importance of contacting all chain of command on a potentially high-profile incident like this.
Otherwise, all accounts from those at the scene attribute whatever happened in the restroom to "playing around" or some type of horseplay, not a fight or a brawl. Neither officer at the scene thought arrests were merited and the hotel declined to press charges.
Pacman Jones already has been suspended from the league over this and many talking heads on ESPN, in particular, are declaring he should never be allowed to play professional football again. That's pure demagoguery.
Those same talking heads have criticized Jerry Jones because he initially reviewed the incident and decided not to discipline Pacman. Cynics jumped to the conclusion that the Cowboys' owner was simply willing to tolerate any misconduct to keep his players on the field, and the media drumbeat finally pressured NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell to intervene with his own suspension. The irony, though: When you look at the details of the case, Jerry Jones was right and Roger Goodell's decision was based in cowardice and media pandering.
The worst thing Pacman Jones has been accused of that night was horseplay. Nobody was hurt. No one involved including the hotel management thought anyone should be arrested or that charges should be filed. Nobody went to jail. And the officer on the scene wrote an offense report so vague (and which he contradicted other statements to supervisors) that a Deputy Chief said it undermined the credibility of the department.
If Pacman Jones had been out drunk with his posse in a strip club and he decided to "make it rain" as he did in the most famous of his prior indiscretions, I'd think it'd be fine to bounce him out of the league for good - after all, he's had plenty of chances.
But nothing I see in these official accounts indicates to me he was engaging in that type of behavior. When confronted he immediately demurred, left the premises as requested, and even "thanked" Officer Allen at the scene for intervening. Nobody at the scene thought he'd committed any offense or deserved to be arrested.
Although I'm a lifelong Cowboys fan, personally I have few stakes from a fan's standpoint regarding whether Pacman Jones gets to play. He's been at best an average cornerback and kick returner for Dallas despite his much-ballyhooed speed and skills coming in. (Give me Terrance Newman as CB any day of the week and twice on Sundays.) But if these documents from the Dallas Police Department are an accurate reflection of what happened - and I know of no other first-hand documentation - Pacman Jones didn't do anything here that merits the media demagoguery he's enduring, much less suspension by the league and possibly terminating his career.
Free Pacman Jones! Or at least reinstate him.