The fallout from the Redskins claiming Foster last month out of jail after the San Francisco 49ers cut the former first-round was never about Foster’s guilt or innocence. It was about the Redskins, not Reuben Foster.
Among the Redskins‘ long list of embarrassing episodes was the fact that the team was front and center of the NFL’s cheerleading sexploitation scandal in May in a New York Times article about topless photo shots and compromising situations. In case you forgot, later that month, Dennis Greene, the team’s one-time president of business operations connected to the cheerleading scandal, resigned.
Of all teams that was going to take a chance on Foster — and, let us remember, not one other NFL team put in a claim on Foster — the Redskins were the last team that should have been in the Reuben Foster business. Yet there was the Prince of Darkness, Redskins team president Bruce Allen, ignoring the advice of the business officials trying to save this franchise and claiming Foster off waivers, setting off a firestorm of controversy and irreparable damage to the organization.
Damage was done, devastating damage. Brian Lafemina, the NFL executive hired in May to be the team’s new chief operating officer and president of business operations, went to Allen and owner Dan Snyder with direct feedback from corporate ticket holders upset with the Foster signing, according to sources. Soon after Foster, along with chief marketing officer Steve Ziff, senior vice president of sales and marketing Jake Bye and chief commercial officer Todd Kline — all executives with veteran experience with other franchises brought here to stop the bleeding at the box office and change the poison-filled perception of the franchise — were gone, either fired or resigned in the wake of the Foster claim.
If you don’t understand the damage done among the fan base — not the handful that were still showing up at Ghost Town Field as the 2018 season wound down, but the ones staying away, the corporate ticket holders and sponsors and others abandoning the franchise — and within the football industry by the exodus of a high-profile team of executives just months after they were hired, then Bruce Allen is the team president you deserve.
Now we can assume the team awaits whatever consequences the league will have for Foster. As we have seen from the Ezekiel Elliott six-game suspension in 2017, absent of any criminal charges after domestic violence allegations, for violating the NFL’s personal conduct policy, the league operates under its own rules and standards.
Following criticism of the league’s bungling of the Kareem Hunt domestic violence probe, officials — remember, led by former District police chief Cathy Lanier, now head of NFL security, hired in the face of charges the league failed to address domestic violence issues adequately — may feel the pressure to make an example out of Foster. Not that they will need much motivation.
Foster was arrested three times in 12 months. Granted, two of the arrests were domestic violence allegations by his ex-girlfriend, Elissa Ennis, and both of those charges were dismissed. But those dismissals were very different.
The state attorney’s office in Tampa concluded there was insufficient evidence against Foster after “a meticulous review of the facts of the case,” according to Estella Gray, director of communications for the office.
Ennis’ attorney, Adante Pointer, told ABC News that they were “disappointed. The prosecutor’s choice is yet another slap in the face to Miss Ennis, just like the one Mr. Foster gave her in Tampa.”
The previous case in California, stemming from an incident in February when Ennis claimed that Foster caused facial bruises and cuts on her back, knee and neck, was dismissed by Santa Clara judge after Ennis recanted her claims, changing her story and claiming the wounds were sustained in a fight with two women.
The Santa Clara district attorney, though, believed that Ennis was lying in her recant, and absolutely believed that Foster beat her up.
“We are disappointed because the evidence demonstrated that Mr. Foster seriously hurt his girlfriend,” district attorney Jeffrey Rosen said in a statement. “Some have wondered why we still think Mr. Foster hurt his girlfriend when she said that he didn’t. Recantation is common among domestic-violence victims. Some are scared, some feel guilty, some are coerced, some need money. Whatever the cause, we move forward on cases when victims falsely recant because we know that if we don’t more victims will be hurt.”
Now he is the Redskins‘ problem, a former first-round pick by the 49ers in 2017 who they cut loose after this latest arrest. Here’s what San Francisco general manager John Lynch said about their decision to get out of the Reuben Foster business at the time. “Unfortunately, what transpired yesterday — this isn’t a comment on what happened there because that would be mere speculation on our part,” Lynch said. “It’s more of a comment of him not living up to what we had communicated. The energy and the time that we’ve invested into him. That doesn’t mean we don’t love him. We all do. We care for him. But we feel like it’s in the best interest of our organization to move on at this point.”
I guess the secret Alabama club of Redskins players who the team claimed vouched for him — though none would admit doing so and several denied ever talking to the front office about their former Crimson Tide teammate — will now have the job of baby-sitting Foster.
Maybe Bruce Allen himself will mentor the troubled young man — Father Flanagan.
• You can hear Thom Loverro on 106.7 The Fan Wednesday afternoons and Saturday and Sunday mornings and also on the Kevin Sheehan Show podcast every Tuesday and Thursday.
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