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Brandon Marshall's Past Comes Back To Haunt Him And That's Not A Bad Thing

By Chuck Sudo in News on Sep 18, 2014 9:00PM

Image via NBC Chicago screen grab.

With the NFL struggling to address recent stories centered on its players engaging in domestic violence and child abuse, Brandon Marshall’s past is coming back to haunt him.

Prior to Marshall’s 2012 arrival in Chicago, he was one of several NFL players who made headlines for his behavior toward women off the field. He was arrested three times between 2007 and 2009 for domestic violence while with the Denver Broncos. Charges were dropped in a 2009 incident. Marshall was acquitted in a 2008 misdemeanor battery incident and he was sentenced to complete a diversion program in 2007 in a case where he was charged with hitting a girlfriend’s car window and blocking her taxi.

Marshall was diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder in July 2011, three months after his wife Michi was arrested during another domestic dispute where police claimed Michi Marshall stabbed her husband in self-defense. The Mayo Clinic lists widely varying mood swings, inappropriate anger and antagonistic behavior that sometimes manifests itself as physical fights and difficulty controlling impulses and emotions among BPD’s symptoms.

Marshall credits the diagnosis and his subsequent treatment with turning his life around; he’s become a vocal advocate for mental health awareness and has had no further domestic violence incidents since he became a Bear. But the past is the past—what Marshall did happened and he can’t change that, no matter how hard he may try.

A 2012 ESPN E:60 profile on Marshall that re-aired Tuesday focused on his past issues with domestic violence. Marshall wasn’t pleased with the news when he was informed by the network and, this being the Information Age, Marshall turned to Twitter to voice his displeasure.

On Wednesday, attorney Gloria Allred held a news conference in Atlanta where she claimed the NFL and Commissioner Roger Goodell ignored the previous complaints against Marshall. (A look at USA Today’s invaluable NFL Arrest Tracker shows Marshall was suspended one game by the league for the 2008 domestic violence incident.) Allred was accompanied by Kristeena Spivey and Clarence Watley—a friend and the father, respectively, of Marshall’s former girlfriend Rasheedah Watley, the victim in the domestic disputes involving Marshall, and the two talked of how their calls for Goodell and the league to investigate the charges fell on deaf ears. Marshall has long denied the charges he abused Watley.

Allred’s news conference reminded people of Marshall’s past but the attorney had a larger goal here: further cementing a pattern of leniency, if not negligence and obfuscation, by the NFL and Goodell against players charged with domestic violence.

That pattern won’t be hard to establish. Ray Rice, the former Baltimore Ravens running back, was suspended two games by Goodell for punching out his now-wife Janay in an elevator in February. It wasn’t until TMZ published video footage last week of Rice knocking out his wife in the elevator that the league moved to suspend Rice for the remainder of the season; the Ravens cut Rice. Minnesota Vikings All-Pro running back Adrian Peterson, who was arrested last week on child abuse charges, was suspended indefinitely Wednesday, two days after the Vikings said he would play for the team Sunday, despite indisputable evidence Peterson beat his son. Carolina Panthers Greg Hardy was also suspended Wednesday while he appeals a domestic violence conviction. Arizona Cardinals running back Jonathan Dwyer was arrested Wednesday on domestic violence charges. As the list grows, critics have called for the NFL to get as tough on players accused of domestic violence as they would a player who tests positive for smoking marijuana or having another controlled substance in his system.

This is the fundamental problem with the NFL’s arbitrary punishments for players like Rice and Marshall. In its efforts to project a tough moral stance, the league promotes a superficial personal conduct policy that merely gives the appearance of governing its players. And there are too many fans of pro football looking at the NFL these days as some sort of morality police when instead, we should be having this discussion continuously, not just when it affects someone’s fantasy football team.

Allred was aiming for a target higher than Marshall, as she called a growing throng for Goodell’s resignation and for the league to take domestic violence more seriously.

"Our focus is on the process and we want the process to be fair. We want the investigation that is conducted in the future, investigations, of NFL players to afford due process to victims as well as NFL players," Allred said. "The present process is obviously not fair."

Marshall, for all his progress, pissed away a lot of the goodwill he earned the past three years in an ill-advised news conference at Halas Hall Thursday afternoon. Marshall wouldn't address the recent string of domestic violence incidents involving players, but went on a meandering, 45-minute rant where he demanded an apology from ESPN, framed himself as a victim, and went so far as to pass out packets of information related to the case, including a letter regarding couples counseling and another letter from Watley to Goodell where she claimed she was pressured to make up allegations in an attempted cash grab.

In short; Marshall spent much of the press conference victim blaming, although he acknowledged the current situation dominating NFL headlines was "sad."

It remains to be seen if the pressure will lead to Goodell’s resignation or NFL owners firing him as commissioner. But money talks and Goodell may be on a fast train out of office if the league’s sponsors begin suspending their agreements because of the negative publicity from the Rice and Peterson cases. As we saw in the NBA when former Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling was forced to sell his team after decades of racist comments, money talks.

As for Marshall, it’s unfortunate he’s being used as an example of the NFL’s pattern of coddling domestic abusers, but the fact remains that once upon a time, he beat women. That should not completely define him and, if he continues his advocacy for mental health awareness and has no more incidents, it won’t for a majority of people.

Domestic violence and child abuse are serious issues in our society. If the steady stream of new instances coming from the NFL can foster a discussion, a serious discussion, and some action, then that’s a good thing.

People can be penitent. People can be contrite. People can change. So can the NFL, if it gives a shit.

As feminist author Roxane Gay said in June: