On Frank Clark, The Seahawks Failed Everyone

Submitted by Ace on May 5th, 2015 at 12:39 PM

When the Seattle Seahawks drafted Frank Clark in the second round of last weekend's NFL Draft, the obvious question arose: how would organization handle Clark's November arrest for a domestic violence charge?

The details of the arrest report were disturbing; Brady Hoke called the incident "unacceptable" while dismissing Clark from the program; at the NFL Combine, Clark engaged in an unsettling bit of victim-blaming instead of shouldering the full responsibility for his actions.* Clark pled guity to reduced charges in April. For an NFL team looking to draft Clark, due diligence was required; this wasn't even Clark's first run-in with the law.

On Friday, Seahawks GM John Schneider said all the right things about the organization's investigation into the incident:

“Our organization has an in-depth understanding of Frank Clark’s situation and background,” Schneider told reporters in Renton after the second and third rounds on Friday. “We have done a ton of research on this young man. There hasn’t been one player in this draft that we have spent more time researching and scrutinizing more than Frank. That’s why we have provided Frank with this opportunity and are looking forward to him succeeding in our culture here in Seattle.”

Schneider said, based on the team's investigation, he didn't believe Clark hit his girlfriend, and domestic violence issues were a deal-breaker when evaluating players. That revelation came as quite the surprise to many, including witnessess of the November incident—witnesses who, according to a bombshell report in the Seattle Times today, were never consulted by the Seahawks:

But the Seahawks made him the 63rd overall pick in the draft, saying team officials had conducted an extensive investigation of their own and felt confident that the 6-foot-2, 277-pound Clark had not struck his girlfriend. The team acknowledged on Monday that their investigation did not include interviews with witnesses other than Clark.

The police report describing the incident quotes Diamond Hurt, then 20, saying Clark punched her in the face. Hurt’s younger brothers are quoted saying the same thing.

When Babson and Colie found her, Hurt “was just laying there,’’ Babson said. “She looked like she was unconscious to me.

“The kids were saying, ‘He killed my sister!’ ’’

Colie added that Hurt “was on the ground, curled up and holding her head and stuff.’’

Both women gave written statements to police via email the following day. But they say they never heard back from anybody about the case until The Seattle Times contacted them on Monday.

The Seahawks didn't perform a thorough investigation. They didn't even perform a half-assed one. They talked to the person they wanted to play football for them, heard what they wanted to hear, and willfully ignored a great deal of evidence that directly contradicted their conclusions.

It's a remarkable failure that hurts all parties involved.

It's an unfortunate reality-check for the ever-increasing number of people hoping the NFL will actually take domestic violence seriously, instead of doing the bare minimum to avoid negative PR. I can't imagine how the victim must feel seeing Clark's new employer take her alleged assailant at his word and make no effort to get the full story, one corroborated by multiple witnesses.

It also does no favors for Clark. While his alleged transgressions—and his subsequent statements—leave little room for sympathy, he's had his day in court and isn't subject to further discipline from the NFL; he should be able to move forward with his career, ideally with the support of an organization that is there to help him learn from his past and become a better person.

Seattle's investigation and its backlash, which is only just beginning, cast that into serious doubt. If the Seahawks feel obligated to correct their mistakes with this investigation, Clark will be the one looking for a job, and while he has nobody to blame but himself for being in that position, that doesn't mean it's justified. Cutting Clark may save some face for the organization, but that's about it, and it certainly doesn't help Clark find his way to a better path. If Clark remains, on the other hand, Seattle's initial handling of this doesn't instill confidence they'll do a whole lot to support Clark's growth as anything but a football player.

The Seahawks hurt themselves, too—at the very least they're facing a major controversy, and at worst they'll cut a second-round pick before he ever suits up for them—but they've somehow set themselves up as the least sympathetic party in this most recent ordeal.

What's perhaps the most galling is how unnecessary this is. Clark's alleged assault was common knowledge heading into the draft, and most expected he'd still get drafted; I don't think the central issue here is with him getting a chance to play in the NFL, or even that he got selected earlier than expected for a player with his off-field history. What concerns me most is this: Seattle didn't take the issue seriously, no matter what they say, and in doing so they set everyone up for failure.

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*Clark would later make a more contrite statement of apology (last paragraph). He still maintains he didn't strike the victim.

Comments

MGoViso

May 5th, 2015 at 12:46 PM ^

This is a good commentary, but it is not one I prefer to read on MGoBlog. I get that commentary on an ex-player is inherently on-topic and that most (if not all) front-page content is run by Brian or Seth, so the blog staff overall agrees it is an important commentary to run. Just making my personal thoughts known, as vain or irrelevant as that may be.

Thanks for these thoughts, Ace.

Jgruss42

May 5th, 2015 at 5:48 PM ^

Respectfully disagree
I think the MGoBlog staff do care what we think. If they didn't the forum would not be as robust as it is today.
*I* may disagree with OP, or *I* may not care what he says, but I think that the staff might.
He was simply giving his feedback.
I agree with later posters that it would be more worthwhile if he expanded his thoughts, and would help everybody else understand his opinion. Nevertheless, any graciously worded opinion should be welcome IMO.

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MGlobules

May 6th, 2015 at 4:01 PM ^

first comments always carry more weight, and the vehemence of the response--for and against--attests to that fact. Further down, this would (obvs) have drawn far less notice.

I wish there were much more content like this, that carefully traced the issues based on the facts (as opposed to pontificating, which we get enough of). I love stuff like this that wades in, sees what actually happened and draws the bottom lines, including moral ones. The fact that the Seahawks move does Frank Clark few favors is one of the important hot takes here, salutary.

I'd go further and say that this site has been dragged down pretty far the last year or so by the "screw your morality let's have another Upton gif" crowd, and it has debased the product. You used to come here to read serious writing, from Brian first of all. (Compared to a place like grantland, this place looks kinda weak of late.) It might be some more serious in-depth pieces that are needed to lift it from the doldrums where it's kind of been languishing. As more than one poster notes, no one is forced to read them.

 

GoBlueInNYC

May 5th, 2015 at 1:11 PM ^

Just curious, why do you think that this commentary doesn't belong here? (Or that you don't want to see it here or however you would like to frame it.)

It's a recent/on-going storyline involving a former M player that has gained (to a degree) national attention that also speaks to broader issues in the world of not just football but most high level sports. It seems like it touches on a variety of things that all would fall within the typical purview of the blog.

4godkingandwol…

May 5th, 2015 at 2:56 PM ^

... Harbaugh and Flight Tracker.  

 

All kidding aside, some people view sports as a distraction from the "real" issues of the world.  I personally think that is an awfully selfish view and leads to exactly the types of issues where you have the Seahawks effectively saying, "fuck it, he graded high," or the NFL saying, "2 games is the right suspension without video evidence, a life time ban is the right suspension with video evidence."

 

 

bronxblue

May 5th, 2015 at 1:49 PM ^

I guess I don't get the issue here.  You say you don't want to read this commentary, and yet apparently did (or at least went to the comments section) and then commented first on it.  There are lots of things posted here I don't care about and don't read, but I usually don't then comment that I don't know why it was posted here.

This is an accurate discussion of a major story relating to a former player.  It is done pretty even-handedly, and gets to some larger issues that affect sports, not just Michigan.  As long as this place doesn't become one big soapbox, I don't see the harm.  But again, you are entitled to not want to read it; I just don't see the value in publicly stating that in an article you seem to agree with beyond that.

A-Maizen-Blue

May 5th, 2015 at 5:28 PM ^

He didn't say he didn't want to read it.

He said he preferred not to read these kind of stories on MGoBlog.  It was his opinion, it is ok to have an opinion.  If you don't like opinions go live in North Korea, you'll be aloud to think one way.

I am a bit confused why one of our boys is being bashed by our fanbase.  Very perplexing that everyone has decided to jump on and bash Frank.  

The kid made a mistake and due process played its course.  He's plead guilty to disorderly conduct, he's paid his debt and now its time to move forward.  

Now that this is over, and he's ready to move on and grow, some Michigan Wolverines want to take shots at him?

 

WFNY_DP

May 6th, 2015 at 10:02 AM ^

If you don't have the intellect to know that "aloud" is when something makes an audible sound, and "allowed" is when you have permission to do something, then maybe you shouldn't be commenting on the intellect of others.

WFNY_DP

May 6th, 2015 at 11:24 AM ^

Speaking of strong arguments (note the actual spelling of "argument")...

Actually, I wasn't making an "argument" in this particular area of the discussion. Really, I just find the whole "if you're too stupid to understand my point" retort to be the completely worthless response of a charlatan. It does nothing to clarify your point, and it's overtly attempting to be insulting on top of everything else. Moreover, basically calling someone stupid when, in the prior comment, you made a pretty elementary word usage mistake... well, there's a saying about those who live in glass houses and throwing stones.

 

TL;DR - if you're going to call people stupid, you'd better make damn sure you aren't stupid yourself.

ssuarez

May 6th, 2015 at 11:05 AM ^

Do you not see little red squigly lines when you post these insightful comments?

Ace is holding one of our players accountable for his actions, and not doing so would be a disservice to him and to our university. Saying that we shouldn't write this sort of article about our players is disgusting, and values football and loyalty over ethics. This is something that I hope you can understand is contrary to how most Michigan fans like to believe we as a fanbase should act. Aren't we better than that, or is that just all bullshit that we say to make ourselves feel superior. I think you are the one that is not acting like a Michigan fan. 

WFNY_DP

May 6th, 2015 at 12:20 PM ^

My gripe with the "why are we bashing Frank?" comment is that it misses the point. To me, Ace isn't "bashing Frank" so much as he's "bashing" the Seahawks and NFL for acting like they give a shit about domestic violence when their actions indicate otherwise.

bronxblue

May 5th, 2015 at 9:23 PM ^

Ah yes, the "support the troops" argument.  It's not worth the time to argue this point, but I'll leave it that voicing your opinion means others can comment on it.  I did, and the OP is free to do as well.  I simply noted that an opinion that you didn't care about reading an article on a site you could have just skipped seems like a weird hill to plant you flag on.

A-Maizen-Blue

May 6th, 2015 at 10:03 AM ^

Its not the support our troops arguement so much as it is he paid his debt.

 

It wouldn't surprise me to see a bunch of our rivals who don't have any loyalty attack one of our boys, but its a bunch of Wolverines attacking him. 

 

The player paid his debt to society, yet that is not enough?

 

What is your solution?  No more second chances?  Zero tolerance?  Double jeopardy? 

My solution is rehabilitation, education and support.

 

State Street

May 5th, 2015 at 12:47 PM ^

If Deflategate is any indication, Goddell will look into this and will announce the results of his investigation at Clark's retirement press conference.

UofM Die Hard …

May 5th, 2015 at 12:48 PM ^

Pretty good friends with a sports radio personality overe here in Seattle that conducted the interview...

 

Lets just say he didnt buy anything Schneider was selling.  Its too bad too, that organization has done some really good things in the draft...this one could really snake bite them bad.  

All my friends here know I love Michigan, right when they drafted him my phone blew up, I said I hated it and pointed them to the awesome writing here to research all that mess with Clark. 

 

Good stuff Ace

Candor for Sale

May 5th, 2015 at 12:48 PM ^

I guess I still can't understand when organizations think that they're going to get away with these types of things (in this case, lack of thorough investigation) and no one will ever know. Or even worse, that people will know and that the organization itself can weather the bad PR for a few months.

I appreciate the angle of this piece as "it hurts all involved" rather than "CUT FRANK CLARK HE'S THE WORST HUMAN ON THE PLANET".

GoBlueinMN

May 5th, 2015 at 12:48 PM ^

People being disgusted with the lip service the NFL and its teams give the issue of domestic violence is at least a step in the right direction. In years past, it seems as though people would have taken the Seahawks' statement that they fully investigated the matter at face value and would have moved on.

Kudos to the Seattle Times for not doing so and to Ace for taking a strong postition on the issue as well.

ijohnb

May 5th, 2015 at 2:48 PM ^

say they did a full investigation and determined that he did punch her, but found him contrite in his explanation?  Would your reaction to it be different?  Put a different way, can and should a player be allowed to play in the NFL if he has been convicted of domestic violence?  What if it was a really bad act but they are really, really sorry for what they did?  Would that make it possible for them to play?  If the answer is no, can a person with such a convition actually be contrite about it and still be allowed to play?  If the answer is no, why be contrite?

If the answer is no, a player so convicted should not be allowed to play, to what other crimes does this zero tolerance standard apply?  Would/should this be a permanent ban?

DLup06

May 5th, 2015 at 5:12 PM ^

No, it's a farce that Seattle says one thing, but does another. They could say, we investigated, the circumstances are bad, but we believe that Frank is trying to make his life better and we want to help him do that. People could still get up in arms, but they would have less ammo.

Instead, Seattle says that DV is a deal breaker and that they investigated the incident, implying with those two things that no DV happened. The Seattle Times made the investigation assertion look incomplete at best, and so now Seattle is in a difficult position that they created for themselves, and puts Frank Clark in a more difficult position than if they had been honest in their own investigation

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bjk

May 6th, 2015 at 12:21 AM ^

the charge Clark was eventually convicted of was considerably watered down; two witnesses said the Seattle Times was the first to talk to them about the incident since the day it happened.

This gives me the feeling that powers were working in Clark's behalf long before the NFL came along. The legal case is the NFL's cover; witnesses there may be, but no serious conviction came out of it.

maizenbluenc

May 6th, 2015 at 10:14 AM ^

If you read the police report here: she said Frank hit her in the face, and her brother said he observed Frank hitting her. One the scene Frank said he didn't hit her, she sustained the facial injury as they fell to the floor.

A couple of other things to note: She also said Frank drank at least a 5th - and she blew a 0% BAC - which brings into question his recollection.

her own statement said they argued, she threw a remote at him, he tried to restrain her, and she bit him - all before Frank hitting her and holding against the wall dropping to the floor. She said the blood on her face was Frank's. For all we know the blood on the towel may have been as well.  The papers tend to overlook the biting part of this: no one wants to hear it, but they both should have been charged in my view. They both should not have done what they did.

As for the two witnesses in the next room - the arguing and head bumping noise they hear correlates with both Frank's and Diamond's statements that they argued, and he held her up against the wall - lifting her by her shirt according to her. While their statements to the Seattle Times are compelling - other than the part about Diamond not moving on the floor - they didn't see what happened. All of that was stated in the police report, and most likely their email statements. Granted a verbal 3rd party account adds context, but given the written statements, I think Seattle's investigation could have been thorough without interviewing those two witnesses. Thank goodness the one woman had the courage to stand her ground and step in though. It sounds like the hotel staff actions are to be commended as well.

As for the hitting or not hitting: no matter how you look at it - whether he hit her or not doesn't matter - whatever the legal definition is, this was a domestic argument that got violent. While I agree it is OK for Frank to get a third chance - they both need to own up to their physically violent acts, learn and grow from this incident. I think Frank Clark is doing that - but his message is back and forth on the acknowledgement part. And that is what bothers me.

Moe

May 5th, 2015 at 12:50 PM ^

Were told to email their statements and then were never heard from again.  Is it even common to email a statment?  And once you do nothing comes of it?  That seems really strange to me.

Wolverinefan84

May 5th, 2015 at 12:52 PM ^

I don't have a problem with Frank getting drafted. I hope he's learned from this horrible situation and never has any run-ins with the law again. But for Seattle to say they completed an extensive investigation and learned everything they could is a lie. They knew that gathering all the facts must include hearing from the witnesses and the victim. The NFL can say how much they disapprove domestic violence and run as many ads and campaigns against domestic violence as they want; however, the facts surrounding Seattle's "in-depth" investigation just show that the league and its teams aren't nearly as serious on domestic violence issues as they should be.

bluebyyou

May 5th, 2015 at 4:32 PM ^

I can't believe any one of us supports domestic violence, but at the same time, you also have to respect what has transpired.

The victim said she would not testify against Clark and press charges.  Would you think that she would be more forthcoming now with the Seahawks/NFL knowing that Clark might lose any opportunity to work?  Do you not think that perhaps one reason that Clark was allowed to plead guilty to a very much reduced offense was because the prosecuting attorney had a weak case without a battered victim?

Admittedly, there is some degree of photographic evidence but also a fact situation that is less than clear.  Didn't Clark have a nose injury (a bite?) and wasn't hit in the face with a remote control?

I think the NFL is largely FOS with respect to everything that doesn't make them money, but sometimes there is only so much you can do.  Clark, I suspect, will be on a very short leash and any future domestic issues will not be tolerated.

 

umumum

May 5th, 2015 at 8:00 PM ^

This case/investigation suggests just the opposite.  Why would the next one be treated differently?  

Look, I am fine with Clark getting a 3rd chance.  But the Seahawks look ridiculous here.  If they had done some or all of the following, I might feel differently:

1.  actually investigate the matter--at least attempting to interview the witnesses

2.  actually say that Clark made a huge mistake, but is contrite and we are giving him another opportunity

3.  actually say what you suggest--that Clark is on a very short leash---even better that there will be zero tolerance.

But the Seahawks didn't do or say any of that.  They aren't entitled to a presumption that is what they meant.

 

 

Gobgoblue

May 5th, 2015 at 12:53 PM ^

Harbaugh said to Winston. I fucked up. Fucked up and learned from it. That he couldn't do that really says something. I won't be a fan of Clark.

Everyone Murders

May 5th, 2015 at 2:33 PM ^

You're right on what the proper message is.  However, what this says to me is that Clark did not have somebody coaching him on how to conduct his interviews - at least not someone with the judgment of Harbaugh.

But it's a mistake to assume that Clark "couldn't do that" (i.e., own up to having fucked up).  We don't know who is in his ear, telling him how to deal with this issue.  He may just be getting bad advice w/r/t PR.  The bigger issue is whether he recognizes the true gravity of the situation (assuming he did what he was accused of).

Everyone Murders

May 5th, 2015 at 3:08 PM ^

I had missed that.  It's an interesting piece on MLive, and it seemed that Clark was saying a lot of the right things in that interview (i.e., it's never right to lay hands on a woman - or anybody - in anger), but your core point that he had Harbaugh and Hoke advising him is correct.

Point taken.

WFNY_DP

May 5th, 2015 at 12:56 PM ^

...but maybe, in addressing a player who may or may not have punched a woman in the face, refrain from using the following turn of phrase: "It's a slap in the face to the ever-increasing number of people hoping the NFL will actually take domestic violence seriously..."

I mean, unless you're going for super meta and I just missed it.

 

On the whole, I agree: none of this does anyone any favors, from the NFL, to the Seahawks, to Clark himself.

RITWolverine

May 5th, 2015 at 4:20 PM ^

Don't feel bad, Ace. As a crime reporter, I almost had a similar (worse) slip up. I wrote that a young man's life had been tragically cut short in a story about a vigil in his memory - he had been stabbed to death. Luckily the editors caught that one before it made it online/to press.