On Tuesday, a little over a month after Johnny Manziel's girlfriend Colleen Crowley accused him of beating her inside of a moving car in Avon, Ohio, the NFL released the result of its extensive investigation into the roadside incident in the form of a short 100-word statement.
The league had decided not to discipline the Cleveland Browns quarterback, but all it gave as an explanation for not doing so was the following:
Our investigation included a thorough review of information from law enforcement and our own interviews with multiple individuals, including the two involved in the incident. Based on the information gathered, we have concluded that there is an insufficient basis on which to take disciplinary action.
And thus concluded the NFL's query into Manziel's alleged domestic violence. The league didn't provide any further breakdown of how the decision was made public. It didn't provide a report of any sort -- just a 100-word statement, and that was that.
There's no consistent, clear-cut story in the Manziel case. Police were unable to determine whether or not Manziel was an aggressor when he caused an abrasion to Crowley's left wrist. At the scene, he claimed that he was trying to keep her from exiting his moving car during an argument, a version of events with which Crowley later agreed.
Nevertheless, domestic violence advocates who spoke with The Huffington Post expressed frustration over the league's lack of transparency in how such decisions are made.
"I’d like them to provide more information about why they came to any conclusion," said Ruth Glenn, executive director of the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence to The Huffington Post. "[The NFL should say], ‘We reviewed the police report and even though it says this, this and this, we determined that based on the interviews we did with our domestic violence experts with the parties that we interviewed, that this was not indeed an act of domestic violence.’"
"Putting out a standard statement saying they’ve looked at it and that’s pretty much it is not OK," she added.
Rita Smith, an NFL senior advisor on domestic violence and sexual assault, explained that the reason that the statement was so tersely worded likely had to do with the league's legal department, as further counsel would be required to explain why the NFL's explanation on Manziel wasn't as extensive as was their investigation.
Explaining how the NFL came to its decision, Smith said the league's own investigation into the incident limited to the police report and interviews with those involved, didn't uncover any physical evidence to corroborate Crowley's initial claims that Manziel slammed her head into the car door glass and hit her a couple times.
That doesn't necessarily mean an assault didn't happen. Kim Gandy, president and CEO of the National Network to End Domestic Violence, noted that the lack of physical evidence gathered may have been due to starstruck police work, a not uncommon occurrence in domestic violence cases involving public figures. She also questioned why Manziel wasn't arrested at the scene for, at the very least, reckless driving.
"It’s very disturbing that across the spectrum, everyone who has touched the Manziel case has failed," said Glenn. "After listening to the [dash cam audio from the scene], she is absolutely on that audio voicing an act of domestic violence."
Smith said that Crowley later told NFL investigators and family members that Manziel didn't assault her, which may have been a tipping point in the NFL's decision not to punish Manziel. While admitting that the pair's relationship could have caused Crowley to change her story -- Crowley had been living with Manziel at the time -- Smith argued that the NFL couldn't uncover additional evidence needed to take decisive action. That very may well be, but it raises the question of why the NFL couldn't just make the effort to convey a similar explanation to the public.
In lieu of a suspension, Smith told HuffPost that resources were made available to both Manziel and Crowley to help diffuse future arguments. Whether or not they use them is unknown. But what is known is that the NFL could have explained the details of how the league came to its decision from the outset, and it didn't.
"I hope that they haven’t just washed their hands of the situation and say, ‘We didn’t find enough,'" said Gandy. Next time, the NFL should provide enough information so that people won't have to hope the NFL did the right thing, but know that they did.
Need help? In the U.S., call 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) for the National Domestic Violence Hotline.
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