The latest file on Roger Goodell’s desk, which is so overloaded with criminal-conduct cases that he can’t find the pencil sharpener with a weedblower, involves a familiar name. Remember Aldon Smith, who was busted last September for drunk driving and avoided an NFL suspension only because he immediately entered a substance-abuse facility?
He’s in trouble again, for the fourth time since 2012, this time for allegedly telling a TSA agent that he was in possession of a bomb at Los Angeles International Airport. All of us have been subjected to random secondary screening while passing through airport security. Not many of us respond by dropping a bomb comment.
This isn’t what anyone meant when Smith, star linebacker and pass-rusher of the San Francisco 49ers, was compared early in his career to Lawrence Taylor. Like L.T., Smith finds the police blotter as easily as he finds quarterbacks. Personally, it may cost him a long, lucrative career in the NFL, with the 49ers now doubting whether they should grant him a 2015 option by the May 3 deadline. For the San Francisco franchise, it’s the second major legal controversy involving a star player in the last week, with quarterback Colin Kaepernick accused of misconduct by a 25-year-old woman. And for Goodell?
It’s a continuing nightmare.
When he instituted a policy seven years ago to clean up off-field criminal behavior, Goodell thought it would lead to a decrease in arrests and an increase in responsibility. Instead, a little more than two months since the Super Bowl, we’re immersed in yet another offseason inundated by crime stories. After the dog brutality of Michael Vick, the murder-suicide of Jovan Belcher, the murder rap of Aaron Hernandez and other horrific stories attached to the league in recent years, Goodell was hoping for a quiet few months.
Instead, the 49ers are a constant source of agita for the commissioner, with no fewer than four players in legal messes in recent weeks. Before the Smith arrest, the weary eyes of football jurisprudence had turned to Kaepernick, once known for tats but now for an apparent tattler. If you believe TMZ.com, the GQ cover dude and prolific jersey-seller is being investigated for an alleged sexual assault in which an unnamed woman wound up in the hospital. If you believe Miami police, he is being probed for an unspecified episode in that honorable, morally upright city last week, when the woman claimed she smoked weed with Kaepernick and two other NFL players and retreated with Kaepernick to a bedroom, where she says they got naked but didn’t have sex while the others — 49ers receiver Quinton Patton and Seahawks receiver Ricardo Lockette — “peeked’’ into the bedroom until the woman told them to close the door and scram.
And if you believe Kaepernick, he’s the victim of a vicious lie, which can happen if a woman seeking money — I speak from personal experience — tells massive, malicious lies about you.
“The charges made in the TMZ story and other stories I’ve seen are completely wrong. They make things up about me that never happened,’’ Kaepernick wrote on his Twitter feed.
He continued: “I take great pride in who I am and what I do, but I guess sometimes you have to deal with someone who makes things up.
“ I want to thank all of the people who have shared their encouraging sentiments. I assure you that your faith is not misplaced.’’
If this sounds familiar — see: Jameis Winston, without the weed part — just know that you have NO IDEA what happened in the bedroom, that NO CHARGES have been filed and that it makes NO SENSE to draw conclusions. Also know it’s about the last thing Goodell needs. These developments come after one of 32 people responsible for paying Goodell’s $44.2-million annual salary, Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay, was arrested March 16 on felony charges of possession of controlled substances and impaired driving. The Irsay case turned scandalous last week when the Indianapolis Star reported a woman with whom Irsay had a long relationship, 42-year-old Kimberly Wundrum, died March 1 of a suspected drug overdose in a townhouse given to her by Irsay and purchased by an Irsay-operated, Colts-related fund called “Blue Trust.’’ It isn’t believed Irsay was breaking any laws; he and his family own 100 percent of the franchise. But if he was keeping a drug-abusing mistress in a house and paying for it, Irsay certainly is guilty of deceiving a company and using funds for unsavory reasons. And, yes, he was married at the time.
The league’s Personal Conduct Policy is supposed to apply to all league personnel, including owners. Many NFL players, including Atlanta Falcons receiver Roddy White, have said they doubt Goodell will come down on Irsay as he would an NFL player in the same situation. Point being, the damaging stories don’t end in Goodell’s domain. A federal grand jury has investigated fraud allegations involving Cleveland Browns owner Jimmy Haslem and his truck-stop empire, which didn’t pay promised rebates to customers. Former NFL star Darren Sharper, an analyst with the NFL Network as recently as last season, is facing nine rape accusations in five states.
Next week, next month or maybe tomorrow, another suspect will have another familiar football name.
When will it all end?
And doesn’t The Shield, which is supposed to represent the honor and glory of the National Football League, look battered beyond recognition?