Four days after the fact, the Seattle Seahawks released a statement. Four days after Chad Wheeler, an offensive lineman on Seattle’s roster for the past two seasons was arrested for an allegedly heinous attack on his girlfriend, the Seahawks said ... something.
It was a little more than their perfunctory “we are aware of the situation and gathering information” from Monday, after news spread of Wheeler’s arrest, but not much.
And if we’re being pessimistic, given the Seahawks’ history with other players accused of domestic violence, it came only after a swell of outrage on social media that saw Wheeler’s name a trending topic on Twitter, and thousands wondering what the Seahawks and NFL were waiting for in terms of discipline for the backup lineman.
Once again — stop if you’ve read this before — we’re reminded where the league’s, and particularly Seattle’s, concerns really lie.
Not with women.
Always with optics.
Wheeler was arrested early Saturday morning after police were called to an apartment by a woman who said there was a “physical fight” involving her boyfriend. She was hiding in the bathroom when she called police and said she was being “killed.”
The details of what allegedly occurred are horrific.
The woman told police that the alleged incident began suddenly, when Wheeler asked her to stand and bow to him. When she refused, the 6-foot-7, 310-pound Wheeler allegedly attacked her, throwing her on a bed and strangling her with one hand while trying to smother her with the other.
When she tried to fight back, she said he grabbed her arm and twisted it, and she later lost consciousness for an unknown amount of time.
When she awoke, Wheeler was allegedly standing near the bed and said, “Wow, you’re alive?”
The woman ran to the bathroom, locked the door, and called police and family. Wheeler picked the lock, went into the bathroom, and began to apologize, which is where he was when police forced their way into the apartment.
An incident report said the woman’s face was bloodied and one arm was hanging limply by her side when police found her on the bathroom floor.
Wheeler was initially uncooperative with police and arrested on a felony charge.
The woman was brought to a local hospital with a dislocated arm and other injuries.
Wheeler left King County Jail on Tuesday morning after posting bond — his bail was set at $400,000.
The Seahawks’ Wednesday statement makes it clear they just want to move on and wash their hands of it all, saying they’re “saddened,” not horrified or shocked or disgusted, by the details emerging against Wheeler, and that he’s no longer part of the team since his contract ended with the conclusion of the 2020 season. (It was later reported the Seahawks waived him.) They also offered the phone number of the National Domestic Violence Hotline for those who may be in danger, and they encouraged Wheeler to get the help he needs, and anyone who may need immediate help with a mental health crisis to call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.
News reports citing the police incident report say Wheeler has been prescribed medication for bipolar disorder but had not been taking it. That is a serious mental health concern, but that same National Domestic Violence Hotline declares that bipolar disorder does not cause one to become an abuser.
You tried though, Seahawks.
What Wheeler is accused of is heinous and inexcusable. It was, by pretty much any legal definition, attempted murder (though inexplicably he was booked on “suspicion of domestic violence”). Whether Wheeler is a member of the team or not, Carroll, whose own Twitter bio says he’s “all about helping people be the best they can be,” is doing the opposite here.
A strong condemnation of all domestic violence from Carroll himself would be welcomed. Those “12s” Carroll speaks of so often, the Seahawks’ loud legion of fans, a lot of them are women and girls. At minimum they’d be heartened to know that the head coach of their beloved team has made it clear in no uncertain terms that he has zero tolerance for abuse or abusers.
As many as one-third of women in this country have experienced some kind of physical violence from a partner, and one-quarter of men. Wheeler would not be an outlier. The women who don antifreeze green Seahawks jerseys on fall Sundays, some of them live with men just like Wheeler.
This isn’t the first time Carroll has clammed up when it comes to players on his roster who are accused of violence, or has shown indifference to such matters. One reporter who covers the team tweeted that he can’t recall a time when Carroll made any kind of statement when a player was accused of partner violence or cut over a domestic violence incident.
Carroll and general manager John Schneider seem to have no problems welcoming players accused of violence to the team. Frank Clark was accused of beating his girlfriend in an Ohio hotel room in 2014, an incident that got him kicked off the team at Michigan, yet drafted by the Seahawks in the second round the next spring.
In April 2017, defensive back Tramaine Brock was accused of punching and trying to strangle his girlfriend, but after charges were dropped for lack of evidence that summer, the Seahawks signed him.
Schneider has said the Seahawks would “never, ever” take a player that “struck a female.” A couple of years after saying that, he gave the thumbs-up to draft Clark, who assaulted his girlfriend — it involved strangulation to the point of unconsciousness as well as punches to her face — in front of her younger brothers.
Schneider excused away the pick, trotting out the hackneyed “I have sisters” line when asked about the chilling details of Clark’s arrest.
Similarly, Wheeler’s behavior wasn’t exactly out of nowhere. While a student at USC, he had to be subdued by police with bean-bag rounds to end an incident in which he was punching walls and windows in the presence of his girlfriend and their baby.
A starter with the Trojans, Wheeler was signed by the New York Giants as a rookie. He joined the Seahawks in 2019.
Seattle put out its statement, and Carroll and Schneider are likely hoping everyone forgets about Wheeler before the next time they meet with media, perhaps before the draft. It’s in the past, they might say. He’s no longer on the team.
They can move on, blithely downplaying another violent incident against a woman at the hands of a player they will quickly forget.
If only Wheeler’s alleged victim were so lucky.
Last weekend, when an officer asked her if she thought she was going to die after the alleged attack, she responded, “I thought I already had.”
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