Tuesday, June 19, 2018
Sports

Tone-deaf NFL allows serial rapist on HOF list

Let's meet one of the 94 distinguished nominees for the NFL's 2017 Hall of Fame class.

Darren Sharper is a five-time Pro Bowl safety who played in the league 14 seasons for Green Bay, Minnesota and New Orleans. He's wearing other colors now. You'll find him in federal-prison orange unis, serving an 18-year sentence for drugging and raping up to 16 women in four states.

He already had pleaded no-contest or guilty to reduced charges related to his serial date-rape crimes in California, Arizona and Nevada.

But hey, what's a little social peccadillo when the guy led the NFC in interceptions in 2005 and finished his career with 11 interceptions returned for touchdowns!

Now we're talking!

Sports Illustrated writer Peter King, a member of the Hall of Fame voting committee, has said that Sharper must remain in consideration because voters are prohibited from taking off-field issues into account. The only restriction is that a "player and coach must have been retired at least five years before he can be considered," according to the Hall of Fame website.

Well, isn't that special?

Perhaps the 48-member nominating committee — primarily media representatives from each pro football city — are the only people on the planet who don't see the infuriating and insulting disconnect.

We don't give rapists a pass. We abhor violence against women. No one doing time in prison should be in a position to request a furlough on the off-chance he makes it through the nomination process and get enshrined.

At least becoming the first honoree wearing an ankle monitor would no doubt be worthy of a mention in his Hall of Fame bio.

"The question ultimately becomes, 'How often does the NFL want to have this attached to their brand?' "said Carol Wick, the former CEO of Harbor House, a domestic-violence shelter in Central Florida. "Rapists and child molesters and men beating their wives over and over again. How long do they want to continue to have people get outraged about it? Or are they going to put their foot down and say 'No. This is just not acceptable behavior.' "

Most of us would ask that question, know what the answer is, and stop enabling the nonsense.

Not the NFL. The "league of denial" has not only sullied its brand for years while looking away from dangers of hits to the heads and concussions. It continues a tone-deaf approach to violence against women, usually reactive and rarely proactive.

And, yes, this nomination also stains the brand of fine journalists like King and others, who can't possibly be that clueless about the perception and the realities of nominating a serial rapist to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

It's surreal when you think about it.

As I mentioned to Wick while we chatted on Sunday, "Why are we even having this conversation?"

Sharper and two of his running mates routinely spiked women's drinks so they could rape them. Sharper's charges throughout the country involved nine women, although a judge in the case has said that there may be as many as 16.

Incredibly, some doofus nominated him last year, too.

"Do we keep nominating him until he's out of prison?" Wick said.

Please keep this in mind as the NFL prepares to wrap itself in pink next month in recognition of Breast Cancer Awareness Month. No one is suggesting this is an unworthy cause — and the NFL wants you to know it cares — but you may want to look at the profit margins on that merchandise.

And, hey, should a serial rapist sneak into the hallowed hall in Canton, well, nothing to see here, ladies.

The fact this is even a remote possibility is preposterous.

The NFL and the Hall of Fame committee should wrap itself in yellow: Cowards not brave enough to make a simple change in its process.

Otherwise, don't pretend you embrace women's causes when you don't have the human decency to respect them.

— Orlando Sentinel (TNS)

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Published: 06/19/18