I’m not a football fan. But, because I’m not a supporter of domestic violence, I was glad to hear that both Seahawks coach Pete Carroll and manager John Schneider avowed they would never allow an abuser to play for them.
Yet here we are today, being asked by the Seahawks’ new draft pick, Frank Clark, to have faith in him.
The selection of Clark as a Seahawks draft choice is dogged by charges that he struck his girlfriend, Diamond Hurt. They got into a fight in a hotel, someone called the police, the officer determined there had been some physical violence and was obliged to arrest Clark. Larry Stone’s article in The Seattle Times lays out more of the evidence and issues, and you should take a look at that.
One quote from Stone’s article bears special notice. He cites John Schneider as saying, “I would say there are always two sides to a story. You have to go through the whole thing. You can’t just go with one police report. You have to talk to everybody involved. Everybody.” Stone also notes that they did not talk to Diamond Hurt. So much for everyone?
[Update Tuesday May 5: A subsequent article in today’s Seattle Times revealed that those Seahawk representatives charged with investigating this incident in fact did not talk to any witnesses, of which there were several. Except for Frank Clark.]
That is not surprising, as another article noted that Hurt didn’t want to press charges. She may have not wanted to harm Clark’s nascent football career, especially in light of the Ray Rice publicity. A very common response in abusive relationships.
Again, I don’t know much about football. But I do know something about abusive relationships and why they exist. Abusers too often continue to abuse because they can. It is a learned behavior, it gets them what they want, and there are often few if any meaningful consequences for them. That’s because often people around them make choices that help minimize and mask the “not-so-bad” behavior.”
Renowned psychologist Paul Ekman has written, in his book Telling Lies, that intelligent people can sometimes fail to see blatant untruths because they have a vested interest in believing the lie, in “collusively helping to maintain the lie, to avoid the terrible consequences of uncovering the lie.”
It can be easy to minimize abuse when the abuser is someone you like, or you think can perform well for your organization. It can be easy to minimize a police report when that certain someone has skills you want to exploit. Domestic violence is perpetuated not only by those doing the hitting, but by those with a vested interest in other aspects of the abusers’ lives. By those well-meaning ancillary enablers who want to give some a second (or third? fourth? fifth?) chance, but up teaching that abusers can get away with a LOT of bad behavior before suffering serious consequences.
We will probably never know for sure what happened that evening. In general, however, by the time a relationship gets to physical violence, there’s been a lot of power and control and manipulation happening. And physical violence in a relationship, once it begins, happens again, and again. As a self-defense teacher, my suggestion to students is to recognize the relationship for what it is, and plan how to keep themselves safer.
Going forward could be challenging. The first step I’d like to see is Carroll, Schneider, and the Seahawks as an organization express accountability for their decision to draft a player who, by witness accounts, did hit his then-girlfriend. I’d like to see them own up to not really interviewing “everybody.” Second, I’d like to see them discuss how to hold Clark accountable going forward. Finally, I’d like to see Clark take seriously being accountable for his behavior, which would involve being publicly honest about that evening’s events. Because, whether or not I follow football, my community is affected by prominent public figures publicly deny abusive behavior.