De’Andre Johnson’s time as a member of the Florida State football team should be through. The surveillance footage, first published by the Tallahassee Democrat, provides about as unassailable a smoking gun as there could be.
There’s certainly no guarantee the video that surfaced Monday, showing Johnson punching a woman in the face at a Tallahassee bar last month, will lead to his dismissal. Video exists of Oklahoma running back Joe Mixon punching a coed last summer, just as there’s widely circulated footage of former LSU running back Jeremy Hill sucker-punching someone outside a bar in 2013. Both Mixon and Hill rejoined their respective teams.
But considering the heavy scrutiny under which Florida State head coach Jimbo Fisher already operates, he likely has no choice but to dismiss De’Andre Johnson.
The wishy-washiness with which I had to write the above sentence is rather disheartening. The speed with which “supporters” will pounce in “defense” of an athlete arrested under circumstances like De’Andre Johnson speaks to the prevalent and pervasive culture overzealous fandom has fostered.
One item to be addressed up front and as clearly as possible: Thousands play college football and are never involved in these kind of situations. To use De’Andre Johnson’s arrest as an indictment of football fostering rampant violence is misleading. However, when these cases do arise and the cacophony of excuses and bellyaching sure to follow grows, it does demonstrate how callous attitudes can be when it comes to a damn game.
Young people who don’t play football make terrible decisions all the time — I certainly know I did when I was De’Andre Johnson’s age, albeit not of this nature — and it shouldn’t necessarily define them forever. Nor should it preclude them from receiving that second chance the most ardent “supporters” often demand in instances involving football players.
But really, how much does the Twitter and comment section championing of second chances really have to do with the athletes? Would these same defenders of wayward youth feel the same way about a rival team’s highly touted prospect were he caught on film and arrested for punching a woman?
I venture to guess these fans are just as likely to shake their pom-poms for an opponent’s touchdown as they are to advocate a rival’s “second chance.”
Second chance or no, there are consequences to pay for blowing the first chance, and certain cardinal sins demand a stern response. Striking a woman is one such cardinal sin. If you’re making excuses she swings first — which the video clearly shows that the victim does so — stop. Stop now. Any man responding with a jab across the face to such a non-life threatening incident is cowardly, say nothing for a highly conditioned, Div. I athlete.
It’s rather embarrassing that needs to be stated so clearly, but it’s where we’re at right now in the football culture, apparently. And for the broad-brush crowd, this isn’t an attitude exclusive to #FSUTwitter. Within any fan base, there are multitudes of people willing to make excuses for abhorrent behavior. There are instances of programs turning a blind eye to such conduct.
Should Fisher dismiss De’Andre Johnson, the talented quarterback will get a second chance, just like Jonathan Taylor, DeVonte Fields and others dismissed for domestic violence.
Players can certainly make good on their second chances, and they’re sterling examples of the maturation process coaches and proponents of the game are apt to tout. But granting someone a second chance — which, really, should be earned — shouldn’t be the same as making excuses for their initial screw-ups. And too often, there’s a chorus of excuses that follow these cases simply because of the logo on a guy’s helmet.