News of Dez Bryant's arrest for assault/family violence (that's the way some police departments annotate these offenses - I'll explain how I know that shortly) has dominated the news about the Dallas Cowboys for the past couple of days. Now, just a day after the story broke in the media, there are already a flurry of stories outlining what punishment should be administered or how the team should look to part ways from Bryant.
All of which seems a bit premature. At the moment, all that is public record is one account, given by Dez's mother, Angela Bryant, and a 911 phone call. If you listen to the 911 call, you hear a lot of confusion and some kind of tumult still going on in the background, although it appears Dez himself is not there.
Now, I want to say one thing. I have been there, trying to make sense of a distraught, rather incoherent caller. I have a little experience as a 911 call taker, and I still work with a police department (in a civilian capacity). And there is one thing that is almost invariably true:
Nothing is the way it first appears. There is always more to the story, and there are at least as many variations on what happened as there are people who witnessed it. Given time, you usually wind up with some people whose accounts vary and waver. And in the end, the best you usually come up with is some approximation of the truth. Real truth about human events is far more elusive than most realize.
Certainly there is still a lot to try and figure out about what happened with Dez Bryant and his family. And yet, in the instant-reaction media world we exist in, people have already made up their minds and are making recommendations about what the team should do.
More after the jump.
One thing that should be mentioned is that events indicate that there is a great deal of dysfunction in the Bryant family. This was largely known long ago, and was detailed in an article in the Dallas Morning News before Dez was even drafted, and reprinted in the wake of the family violence call. It talks about the many issues Angela faced in raising Dez and his siblings - and one poignant yet ironic description of their relationship.
Just don't question Angela's love for Dez, 19-year Lyeddia and 17-year-old Deon, all sired by Hatton.
You feel the bond between Dez and Angela when they're in the same room laughing and joking. You can sense the connection when he stares into her eyes, while posing for a photograph and when he drapes his arm around her shoulder and tugs her close.
They have the same smooth, dark skin. The same high cheekbones. The same broad smile, though Angela wears a glistening gold grill. They're really more like brother and sister, as you might expect, than mother and son.
In all this, don't forget that, no matter how it happened, it is a tragedy for a family. Family Violence is treated differently from other assault offenses under the Texas Penal Code. It is an acknowledgement of the sad and often horrifying dynamics that exist between people who are related to or live with one another. Those close bonds also can cause people to lash out more violently than they would against complete strangers. Here is a family, one of many, many impoverished, single-parent households that have become so very common in the United States in the past few decades.
But unlike the vast majority, one member of this family has something special. Dez parlayed his athletic talent into that golden ticket, a spot on the Dallas Cowboys as their number one draft pick - in the days before rookie pay scales. Suddenly, he was the breadwinner, possibly for everyone in his immediate family. I can't say for sure, but I suspect he paid for the house his mother is living in. That is a dynamic most of us aren't familiar with. Money does not eliminate strains and stresses in a family, and can sometimes make them worse.
At the moment, no determination has been made of who initiated the incident, or what exactly happened. That may never be known, since this could all come to a halt if Angela decided to not pursue the charges (which, in family violence cases, are actually pressed by the police officers, not the victims, but the case usually cannot proceed if the victim elects not to cooperate with the authorities, especially when all the police have to go on is testimony). And Angela might have second thoughts about this. I have certainly seen people try to get these kinds of charges dropped with a lot less at stake..
And if the charges are dropped, or further investigation does not find sufficient substantiation of them, then no action will be taken by the authorities. Which makes any action by the team or the league not only without reason, but probably open to legal action by the NFLPA.
Which is why immediate calls from major media players like Rich Gosselin for the team to immediately suspend Dez are, in my opinion, ill considered at best.
Bryant doesn't get it. He never has and, if the Cowboys don't take action at some point very soon, he never will.
Playing pro football is a privilege, not a right. It's a children's game played by adults. But being a millionaire doesn't give anyone the right to act like a child. In the real world, adults must be held accountable for their actions both on and off the field.
Harsh. And making assumptions not yet supported by the facts. Above all, Gosselin shows no grasp of the anguish that family violence can bring to all involved.
Please understand, at this moment, I am not defending Dez for what he may have done. I am just saying that we don't know what he actually did. We don't know if someone else took a swing at him first. We don't know if there was an argument, or what it was about.
Most of us don't know at all what he and his family are trying to overcome. They came from some abject, horrific, even hellish experiences. And now that there is actually a way out, they may not be able to deal with it. I cannot begin to explain why, but I see almost daily, in my job in the police station, people who seem compelled to take every step possible to destroy themselves. It is real, and it shatters your heart to see it over and over. The saddest thing about all of it is that it may be healthiest for Dez to get as far away from his relatives as possible. This type of incident may be inevitable if he spends time with them. So how many of you want to go tell someone to walk away from the people you have loved all your life? (By the way, I have said pretty much exactly that, more than once.)
The more logical approach is the one taken by the league. While they have the power to fine, suspend or ban players, they are right now "monitoring" things to see what comes out. Further, as Gregg Rosenthal at NFL.com points out, Dez' history is checkered, but not exactly with major things.
Make no mistake: Disciplining Bryant could be tricky for the NFL, no matter how his case plays out. What has Bryant done to get in hot water since entering the league? Get banned from a mall? Had money issues off the field? Allegedly involved in a nightclub brawl in which no charges were filed?
These actions show a troubling pattern, but they aren't the type of issues the NFL normally would view as repeat offenses.
If charges do proceed, then Dez will almost certainly have to pay a price. It may cost him him games, money, or even his spot on the Cowboys' roster. But this is a very different situation from a shooting at a nightclub, or drowning dogs who won't fight. This is a family going through pain and agony, and it may or may not be Dez' fault. There may be some good reasons for leniency in his case. Such as, he probably needs to keep earning his paycheck in the NFL. Because if he gets punished and loses a lot of his income, guess who gets punished right along with him?
That's right. Angela, and his siblings, could wind up on the street right alongside Dez if he were to be kicked out of football. It is one of the reasons a lot of these cases fall apart when the victim realizes no one is going to be paying the bills if the actor in the case goes to jail. I don't see the justice for anyone if Dez takes a big hit. And I don't understand the apparent burning desire to punish Dez Bryant. He does not have a history of being a thug. He's just a kid with bad judgement. This is not going out and starting a fight, or pulling a gun on someone in a bar. This is family violence. No matter who is guilty, in the end, everyone pays.