If it’s true that, as the saying goes, there’s no such thing as bad publicity, then Tuesday was a great day for the Redskins. After all, the team generated a huge reaction for claiming troubled linebacker Reuben Foster off waivers — it’s just that very little of it happened to be positive.
“Reuben Foster has been arrested three times in 2018 and was suspended for two games to begin the NFL season. Less than 72 hours after being arrested on domestic violence charges and waived, a team claimed him on waivers, possibly to have him play right away,” ESPN’s Field Yates said on Twitter, referring to Foster’s release Sunday by the 49ers.
“Give me a break,” Yates added.
While some fans and analysts saw the upside in Foster’s playing ability and posited that the Redskins' large contingent of Alabama players could potentially help steer their fellow Crimson Tide product toward better behavior, the disapproving tone of Yates’s comments were echoed by a number of other sports-media figures.
Foster won’t be able to play “right away,” as he was subsequently placed on NFL’s commissioner’s exempt list while the league investigates his latest charge of domestic violence, but the Redskins were widely criticized for appearing to value the second-year linebacker’s talent over any notion of having an ethical obligation — or perhaps just the common sense — to steer clear of such a toxic player, at least for the time being.
“I don’t think Reuben Foster will ever play a down for the Washington Redskins but that organization just told you today what they think about domestic violence,” The Athletic’s Richard Deitsch said on Twitter.
“How can the Redskins claim Foster? Bad look,” said Pete Prisco of CBS Sports.
“Washington is pulling off the rare trifecta of being generally incompetent, racist AND supportive of accused domestic abusers,” tweeted Zac Rosenblatt, an Eagles beat writer for NJ.com.
“I’m old enough to remember when [Scot McCloughan] drafting good players and playing in January was somehow too much of an embarrassment for the Redskins,” ESPN’s Seth Wickersham said.
Sports podcaster Kevin Jones tweeted that Redskins owner Daniel Snyder “does not care what you think about domestic violence” and “obviously signed off on this move.” Jones claimed that Snyder had “bad blood” with San Francisco head coach and former Washington offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan and that “part of him okaying this for the Redskins is to try and one-up the 49ers.”
Some compared the addition of Foster to the continued inability of Colin Kaepernick to latch on with an NFL team. The former 49ers quarterback, who has been a free agent since March 2017, has filed a grievance against the league for what he claims is collusion by team owners to punish him for originating player protests of racial injustice during the national anthem.
“Fascinating that teams are so afraid of blowback to Kaepernick that nobody will touch him, but obviously don’t fear strong enough backlash over a player repeatedly involved with domestic violence,” NFL.com’s Judy Battista said on Twitter. “What does that say about us as fans, esp. if the team is calculating correctly?”
“Only one way to get banned from the NFL,” tweeted Melissa Jacobs of TheFootballGirl.com. “Coincidentally, it’s the dude who was banned for kneeling who could actually help Washington stay afloat in the playoff race, not an underperforming LB facing suspension for DV.”
In a statement Tuesday, Redskins Senior Vice President of Player Personnel Doug Williams appeared to anticipate the criticism his team would get, saying, “The Redskins fully understand the severity of the recent allegations made against Reuben. If true, you can be sure these allegations are nothing our organization would ever condone. Let me be clear, Reuben will have to go through numerous steps including the full legal process, an investigation and potential discipline from the NFL, as well as meetings with counselors associated with the team before he will ever have the opportunity to wear the burgundy and gold as a player."
To that, though, Ralph Vacchiano, a Giants and Jets reporter for SNY, said on Twitter, “The Redskins claiming Rueben [sic] Foster is disgraceful and their statement on their reasoning is shameful. Absolutely shameful.”
ESPN’s Mina Kimes posted a 2014 statement from Snyder in which he said his team “strongly endorses [Commissioner Roger Goodell’s] efforts to eradicate domestic violence” after Ravens running back Ray Rice was caught on videotape hitting his then-fiancee. Others retweeted a 2015 post from the team’s official charitable foundation, one that touted the attendance by a group of wives of Redskins players and staff, including Tanya Snyder, Kiersten Allen and Sherry Gruden, at an event to help end domestic violence and support victims.
NBC Sports Washington’s Brian Mitchell, a former Redskins player, said he was “perplexed” by the addition of Foster. Looking at the situation from a position of team-related pragmatism, he claimed that “the Redskins have to be careful with this, because you’re going to try out a guy who’s going to hit you with a PR hit."
“Then on top of that, what if he is suspended?” continued Mitchell. “And I understand that they feel they have people from Alabama on this football team, but you know what? Those guys are not getting in trouble. Whether you’re with your friends or not, if you’re a guy who makes bad decisions, you’re probably going to continue to make them.”
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