Reuben Foster was arrested for domestic violence by Tampa Police Saturday just after 9 p.m. EST at the Grand Hyatt Hotel. By 8:30 on Sunday morning 49ers General Manager John Lynch had announced the teams intent to release Foster.
This is Foster’s third arrest in 2018 and the second charge of domestic violence against Elissa Ennis, his sometimes girlfriend of three years. She later recanted her first allegation.
In the most recent incident, Ennis told police Foster slapped a phone from her hand, pushed her in “the chest area” and slapped her with an open hand to the left side of her face. Ennis was left with a one-inch scratch on her left collarbone, according to the statement.
The NFL is no stranger to this sort of frightening criminal behavior. On average, since 2000, the NFL sees five and a half players arrested each year from domestic violence/assault alone, four so far in 2018. This doesn’t include arrests for sex crimes or other violent crimes.
While over the last few years the NFL has made bold rule changes to curb its on-field violence, it could be argued that not enough has been done to hold players accountable for off-field brutality and criminality.
Roger Goodell’s mishandling of the 2014 Ray Rice arrest led to some reform, namely a suspension protocol, but the onus falls mainly on each team’s front office.
The 49ers are not unique in their decision to cut ties with domestic abusers, but head coach Kyle Shanahan is taking a zero-tolerance stance on domestic violence.
“If someone hits a female or a significant other, that’s not a person who’s going to be on our team. That’s very simple.”
During his press conference, Shanahan was unequivocal in condemning domestic abuse, as he continued,
“Anytime you’re dealing with domestic violence, when there is a victim, there are not many things in this world more wrong than domestic violence. I don’t know what happened with Reuben and the accuser, but after this happened a second time with the same person in our hotel, that decision-making was enough for us to move on.”
Lynch expressed that the final decision to release Foster wasn’t necessarily due to the specifics of the events that transpired on the night of November 24th.
“We had a set of standards in place that the players were involved with in developing. In this case, it was communicated exceptionally clear and to the point, as to what we expected out of him,” adding that they had “..laid out some very specific ground rules for Reuben.”
On November 27th, Foster was claimed off waivers by the Washington Redskins. However, he was placed on the Commissioner Exempt List and won’t be eligible to play yet, per NFL Network’s Ian Rappoport.
Clearly, this is another setback for the plucky new regime in San Francisco and 2018 will be filed under “better-luck-next-year” category for the 49er faithful. Cutting Foster leaves many football decisions to be made, but this presents harder real-world dilemmas. It raises issues such as, toxic masculinity, lack of personal responsibility, institutional racism, and much more.
“To the outside world, we are fantasy points. We are names and stats. But inside the locker room, you develop more of a bond, more of a relationship. You know who a person is. You don’t think about him as a jersey number or a last name or anything like that. You think of him as a human being.”
A similar appeal should be made for the other human involved, Elissa Ennis. 3,000,000 incidents of domestic violence are reported each year, while many other incidents go unreported. It is estimated that more than ten million people experience domestic violence in the U.S. each year, 93% of which are women.
Joe Staley summed it up the best, “It just pisses me off that we’re sitting here talking about this after a game. I wish we could talk about football.”