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Whitlock: NFL quarterback Deshaun Watson could be the next Kobe Bryant

Op-ed
Carmen Mandato/Getty Images

We live in an era without guiding principles and values. That’s the cost of a secular culture. Warring political factions randomly enforce a code of conduct based on polls, special interests, and the acquisition of power.

Starting tomorrow, with the beginning of the NFL’s crazy season of transactions and player movement, we will learn how our current ruling class plans to assess and/or use quarterback Deshaun Watson.

On the surface, it will be a difficult ruling. Watson spent the last 10 months under a cloud of negative suspicion. Nearly two dozen women accused him of sexual assault or sexual misconduct. In the past week, a grand jury declined to indict him on criminal charges. Watson spun the grand jury’s no bill as vindication of his innocence, tweeting:

“When you stand on TRUTH, the LORD will FREE you.”

Again, we live in a godless era. Watson is a professed believer. Somehow he foolishly believes God intervened on his behalf in a dispute revolving around Watson propositioning multiple Instagram models/massage therapists to provide him a happy ending.

Lawyers set Watson free. The truth is quite muddled as it relates to allegations leveled against Watson.

The bigger problem for Watson in the court of public opinion is that a decade ago, the NFL suspended Pittsburgh quarterback Ben Roethlisberger for six games for two messy, public sexual assault allegations, even though he was never criminally indicted.

The ruling class demanded that commissioner Roger Goodell harshly punish Big Ben, who is white. Will they demand the same for Watson, who is black?

It seems unlikely. The spirit of the age dictates that, depending on their political affiliation, we hold black men and white men to far different standards.

Watson won’t be the next Ben Roethlisberger. Watson will be the next Kobe Bryant, the former NBA star who seemingly elevated his stardom by avoiding criminal prosecution resulting from a teenage woman accusing him of rape.

Like Watson, at the age of 25, with the bulk of his career still in front of him, Bryant faced a salacious rape allegation he deemed false. Much of the mainstream media celebrated Bryant’s ability to continue to play while the criminal prosecution loomed.

When the criminal case was dropped and the civil suit resolved, the media moved on and treated Bryant as a deity. Bryant’s tragic and untimely death in a helicopter crash further expanded his religious-like following. It is now far safer in American society to mock and criticize Jesus than Kobe Bryant.

The same fate could await Watson if he’s able to lead a team to the Super Bowl.

Within minutes of the grand jury’s no bill, influential NFL reporter Adam Schefter fired off a tweet announcing the news and insinuating the no bill equated to exoneration. The rest of the media immediately began speculating on which team might win the Watson sweepstakes.

The quarterback demanded a trade last off-season and sat out the 2021 season rather than play for the Houston Texans. The Carolina Panthers and the New Orleans Saints are reportedly leading the race to land Watson via trade.

Watson’s pariah status has disappeared.

Let me be clear. I don’t have a problem with Watson re-entering the league. I’m not bothered that a half-dozen NFL teams expressed an interest in signing him. I won’t be bothered if the NFL decides not to suspend him and considers the 2021 season as time served.

I believe in second, third, fourth, and fifth chances. America is the land of opportunity. I loved Michael Vick’s second career in the NFL after he served prison time for dog fighting. I argued that former Cowboys defensive end Greg Hardy was worthy of football redemption after his domestic violence incident.

I was no fan of Kobe Bryant’s playing career, his Michael Jordan impersonation, or his treatment of Shaquille O’Neal and other teammates. But I certainly believed he had every right to play basketball while the allegations against him were being resolved. And I loved how Bryant represented and carried himself in retirement.

What I don't like are racial hypocrisy and double standards. What I don’t like is a society with no guiding principles or values. What I don’t like is the fact that we pick and choose who is worthy of derision based on skin color.

I don’t like racism – regardless of the color of the perpetrator or the victim.

Former Baylor football coach Art Briles is treated as a pariah because of a bogus narrative created by powerful people in need of a scapegoat for a campus-wide sexual assault problem at Baylor. The media accepted and sold that bogus narrative. Briles is white. He never assaulted anyone or was accused of assaulting anyone. But he’s been deemed unworthy of redemption.

That’s racist.

It’s also racist that modern American society will determine its level of outrage over the murder of black people based on the race of the murderer. Black people killing black people is no big deal. It’s inevitable and harmless. It’s like abortion. It’s a good thing. It’s liberating. It’s my murder, my choice.

But when a white person kills a black person, the world must come to a halt and the actions of the victim are rendered irrelevant.

It’s racism.

When a society rejects God, it rejects principles and values that lead to fairness, order, and harmony. In this world of disorder, Deshaun Watson will be a hero and a martyr.

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