The lawyer for Reuben Foster’s accuser and advocates of victims of domestic violence blasted the Washington Redskins on Wednesday for signing the linebacker just three days after his latest arrest on accusations he assaulted a woman prompted the San Francisco 49ers to release him.
“The NFL and its teams have a long history of supporting players with domestic violence issues, so it’s not a surprise to us; however, it is a disappointment,” said Adante Pointer, attorney for Foster’s ex-girlfriend, who told police in Tampa last weekend that Foster slapped her face, pushed her chest, and slapped a phone out of her hand.
Pointer was particularly critical of the apparently cursory efforts the Redskins made to investigate the allegations before signing Foster on Tuesday.
Neither he nor his client were contacted by the Redskins, Pointer said. In a statement on Tuesday, Redskins player personnel director Doug Williams said the club made the decision to sign Foster after having “candid conversations with a number of his ex-Alabama teammates and current Redskins players who were overwhelmingly supportive of us taking this chance.”
“The Redskins fully understand the severity of the recent allegations made against Reuben,” Williams said in the statement. “If true, you can be sure these allegations are nothing our organization would ever condone.”
In interviews on Wednesday, two of the five active Redskins players from Alabama said they were not contacted about the decision to sign Foster.
“None of those friends have dated him,” Pointer said. “My client has a much different experience in dealing with Mr. Foster, and it’s pretty well-documented.”
This is the second time this year that Pointer’s client has accused Foster, 24, of domestic violence. In February, the woman told police near San Jose that Foster had punched her and dragged her across his home during an argument, leaving her with a swollen lip, a ruptured ear drum, and cuts and scratches on her neck and legs. Those accusations resulted in domestic violence charges against Foster that were eventually dropped when the woman recanted, saying she had suffered the injuries in a fight with another woman and had fabricated the allegations against Foster as part of “a money scheme.”
A lawyer who represented Foster earlier this year did not reply to a request to comment Wednesday. The Washington Post does not name alleged victims of domestic violence.
The woman had a different lawyer earlier this year, and Pointer declined to address how that case was handled.
“Reuben and her know what happened, and what she said on the stand is what she said on the stand . . . We’re not going to backtrack on that at this time,” Pointer said.
Among national organizations that advocate for women and victims of domestic violence, denunciation of the Redskins’ decision to sign Foster was widespread.
“Reuben Foster should not have the privilege of playing in the NFL. And the fact that Daniel Snyder and the Washington organization are so willing to look the other way at his repeated history of domestic abuse says everything you need to know about him and the team,” said Karin Roland, chief campaigns officer for UltraViolet. “The fact that Reuben Foster has a job and Colin Kaepernick does not perfectly sums up the NFL today.”
Sasha Drobnick, managing attorney with the Domestic Violence Legal Empowerment and Appeals Project, called the Foster signing “disgraceful.”
“It sends a clear message that they value their teams’ success rather than domestic violence by their players,” Drobnick said. “It’s already incredibly difficult for victims to come forward, even more so when the abuser is a public figure. The Redskins are making it that much harder by sending this message.”
Late Tuesday, the NFL placed Foster on the commissioner’s exempt list pending a league investigation into the incident in Tampa, making it unlikely he will return to play this season. Since the Ray Rice domestic violence scandal in 2014, the NFL has taken upon itself to conduct investigations of criminal allegations against its players, with Commissioner Roger Goodell dispensing punishments with mixed results.
In 2016, a decision to suspend former New York Giants kicker Josh Brown for one game after he admitted to abusing his wife was met with widespread derision, and the NFL ultimately suspended Brown for an additional six games. Last year, the NFL suspended Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott for six games for allegations he assaulted an ex-girlfriend, even though the allegations ultimately never resulted in criminal charges, and Elliott denied them.
Deborah Epstein, a former member of the NFL Player’s Association’s commission on domestic violence, said Wednesday she’s not optimistic the league will get a handle on the recurring problem of players assaulting women.
“It’s not possible to have a meaningful impact on eradicating domestic violence in the NFL if the only consequence for a player who’s been arrested . . . is that he’s released from one team and picked up by another,” said Epstein, director of Georgetown Law’s Domestic Violence Clinic. “In the end, the message is: If you’re a talented player with athletic ability you can get away with perpetrating violence against women.”
Rick Maese and Julie Tate contributed to this report