Saturday, October 18, 2008

Free Pacman Jones! Or at least let him back on the football field

As UT's Longhorn football team approached their spectacular game with Oklahoma last week and a tough stretch in their schedule over the next few games, including tonight hosting #11 Missouri, I've found myself checking in more frequently at the venerable sports cable network ESPN and couldn't help but notice they're producing a flood of stories aggressively criticizing troubled Dallas Cowboys cornerback Adam "Pacman" Jones, who was suspended this week by the league after an argument with a bodyguard at a hotel.

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 ...

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.
Officer Jamaica's report adds this additional material. After arriving at the scene, said Jamaica, Officer Allen:
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.

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.
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?

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.


Michael said...

Sorry, Grits. Pacman's a thug. So was Michael Vick. You'e be better off defending OJ.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

And there's the rub, Michael. Once you label him a thug, everyone feel justified in punishing him whether or not it's actually justified by the facts.

Anonymous said...

When your in the position that Jones is in, one needs to be very careful of his behavior in public to avoid this kind of problem for oneself.
Maybe he needs to really think about what is at stake for him and act accordingly at all times. Guilty or not,I don't know and not judging but he knows what could happen to him at anytime and that should always be on his mind when out in public.
Cowboys team(all NFL teams) needs to get back to the Roger S., Tom Landry days and those guys who had morals and values of Role Models for the youth of today. Seems like the ones we have now are demonstrating drinking and drugs use to our youth.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

"Seems like the ones we have now are demonstrating drinking and drugs use to our youth."

There's some truth to that, and there's also some truth to the countercharge that the media simply reports on and focus on it more than in Staubach's day. How would Mickey Mantle, e.g., have been viewed if covered by today's tabloids?

Also, keep in mind that the officer's report said he "did not observe Mr. Jones intoxicated." Your point may have some validity generally, but it's not a relevant observation about this particular case.

I'm off for the day with the grandbaby to the SA Zoo - have a great day, folks!

Jeff Versteeg said...

This was a fantastic post. Literally no one is reporting what actually happened, and I'm pretty shocked to find out that the incident was so benign. Thanks for doing some actual reporting here.

What I'm not shocked to find out is that ESPN was once again putting sensationalism ahead of journalism. It has been a longstanding ESPN policy to report on anything salacious ad nauseum. Whether it be T.O., Michael Vick, the recent O.J. trial, Maurice Clarett, or the Brett Favre soap opera, actual sporting events have taken a backseat celebrity gossip-style reporting for a long time now at ESPN.

Cable is now overrun with grating commentary instead of news, and ESPN is no different. Lots of talking heads, most of them making the same shallow, obvious, company-line points. I've stopped watching Sportscenter all together because there's just so much filler now.

For the anonymous commenter, you are deluded if you think the Landry Cowboys were a bunch of upstanding gentlemen. Those Cowboys were just as ill-mannered as the current team. The media just didn't cover things that happened off the field the same way that they do now, and the league didn't have this crazy no-tolerance policy because of a perceived image problem. You don't think Landry's Cowboys were out there getting plastered, starting bar fights and abusing their wives and girlfriends? Of course they were. Don't be naive.

Don Dickson said...

Ditto what the previous author said about the Cowboys of old. They were a wild, wild bunch.

I know. One of them later became my business partner.

Having said that, the current crop of players, Cowboys and others, would do well to adjust to modern realities. When your resume looks like Adam Jones' does, you and your bodyguard have pretty well squandered the luxury of engaging in horseplay in hotel lavatories that is sufficiently loud and obnoxious that the hotel management would prefer to have you escorted from the premises.

Consider, too, that the Cowboys of old made a few hundred thousand a year, at best, not several millions. You want more money, more is expected of you. Nothing unfair about that.

Anonymous said...

Pacman didn't violate any law, and if he wants to rough house with his babysitter, so be it. It's obvious that the contact made was not offensive, most likely mutal, so what's the point of suspending him? He has no victim here. Because he got kicked out of a hotel for grabassing with one of his peers he should be suspended?How many of you would have been consequenced for grab assing with one of your peers or brothers. I would've been given a life sentence. This Pacman is still a kid. He ought to appeal. His suspension is bullshit and very over reactive.

Anonymous said...

Jones should have received a LIFETIME suspension for his behavior at the Minxx strip club in Las Vegas during the 2007 NBA all-star weekend. He instigated the riot in which a member of his "posse" shot three, permanently paralyzing Tom Urbanski, a bouncer at the club. The girl who was with Jones at the club was murdered last Summer in Boston when someone threw her off a roof. His buddy sits in Clark County Jail awaiting trial on three counts of Aggravated Assault. Jones walks around free as a bird causing havoc simply because he has skills on the football field. Pathetic.

Anonymous said...

Anon 10:57 is right about what happened in Las Vegas. I was living there at the time and it was the subject of bitter complaining among people who worked in the industry. It's pretty much a joke that Pacman walked away from that with probation.

To the guy who thinks the Cowboys of old were angels, go read North Dallas Forty.

I agree with Grits that this latest incident seems like bullshit. But it's hard for me to feel sorry for Pacman.

Bill B.

Anonymous said...

Pacman couldn't cover a cold. We need Newman back.

FleaStiff said...

Frankly, I don't much care.

I've heard things like horseplay and horseing around. Perhaps if the partner in the horseplay is a bodyguard a term such as sparring might be relevant. I do not know.
Perhaps more specific terminology should be used than conclusionary terms such as horseplay.

The cop said 'not intoxicated' which is the salient fact. He perhaps should have added 'had been drinking' or 'odor of alcohol on his breath' or something, but he did include the critical point in his report: not drunk.

As to whether he should be running back and forth mindlessly chasing after a ball, he appears to be over the age of eight and therefore should not be engaging in such childish nonsense. Let him rot in jail for stupidity rather than assault.

Anonymous said...

Just give him a chance. Hell that's what "Chuey" wants to give juvenile offenders in the valley.. "a chance." In other words, a pass.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

No "e" in Chuy if you're talking about Sen. Hinojosa.

And if somebody did nothing wrong, as in this instance, they deserve "a pass."

I know there are some small number of folks, though for whatever reason they seem to migrate to corrections fields, who think a good enough reason for punishment is "just because you can." But for the rest of the human race punishment is usually accompanied by some sort of culpability.

Anonymous said...

this is my first time visit here. i really love this blog. am i welcome here??? :)

Anonymous said...

Scott, I must agree with you that the case to suspend Pacman is weak and I can appreciate your efforts to get Pacman reinstated to help stop the bleeding of a Cowboys team riddled with holes. But not even the mighty Pacman could have ameliorated the slaughter that we witnessed today. I feel your pain, brother, but you must let go of any false belief that the Cowboys can salvage their season-with or without the Pacman.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

No doubt nothing's going to save the Cowboys this season.

OTOH, the Longhorns (knock wood!) appear to be on a roll.

Anonymous said...

OTOH, the Longhorns (knock wood!) appear to be on a roll.

They should be, their players are paid more than the Cowboys.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

"their players are paid more than the Cowboys."

Hey, if you want to compete with OU, whaddya gonna do? ;)

Anonymous said...

Grits' compassion for down and outters has no bounds. FREE PACMAN!


Don Dickson said...

"Pacman" checked into an alcohol treatment center "in another part of the country" today.


Gritsforbreakfast said...

parantar, all are welcome.

Plato, "compassion" dramatically overstates how I feel about Pacman - after Bill Bush's comment I looked into the Vegas incident a bit more and agree he could easily have wound up in prison over it. (I guess it's true what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas!)

However, in general, I get even more upset with demagoguing news coverage from "professionals" who should know better than I am at a 20-something overnight millionaire who's too immature to handle his business like an adult. MSM crime coverage seems to get hold of celebrity cases or some high-profile child abduction and just let themselves go completely apes&*t, saying any salacious, BS thing that pops into their heads. For me, that phenomenon has made TV news virtually unwatchable and I hate to see the same mentality contaminating sports coverage in cases like this, Waxman's steroid hearings, etc., especially when they're hyping situations that don't really justify it.

Anonymous said...

If officers had to be called to handle the situation, then there was a problem.

He should have known better than to cause any situation which would draw negative attention. We are not talking law here Grits, we are talking business. He brought bad publicity, throwing it in the face of the commish.

Pacman Jones was given a no tolerance pass back to the NFL. He failed.

There are consequences which relate back to the initial problem, not the subsequent "probation violation."