By Dan Bernstein–
CBSChicago.com senior columnist
(CBS) Those of us consumed by both crosstown baseball locally and national drama on Capitol Hill might be late to Tuesday’s story of the Dallas Cowboys and their ironically named receiver Lucky Whitehead. But the astonishing details demand further airing out. The whole case needs much more sunlight.
Here’s a rundown of what happened over the span of just hours. Whitehead reportedly missed a court hearing in Virginia, stemming from a shoplifting arrest there in June. That led the Cowboys to release him from the team, citing the moral high ground.
“There’s a certain way that we want to handle ourselves on and off the field,” coach Jason Garrett said in a statement after Whitehead was cut. “There’s a standard that we have. We believe very strongly in adhering to those standards and trying to uphold them each and every day in everything that we do.”
Before even beginning to laugh at such comical grandstanding by the team that employs Ezekiel Elliott and has had numerous others with more-than-questionable off-field conduct, know that Whitehead didn’t miss a hearing, because he was never arrested.
It wasn’t Whitehead at all but an entirely different person who had stolen Whitehead’s identity — including his social security number — and provided it to police. The police then checked the actual perpetrator against Whitehead’s DMV photo and apparently concluded that certain people look enough alike.
The Cowboys explained upon getting the initial news that they were “gathering information,” a process that stopped well short of accepting Whitehead’s explanations and/or checking the actual facts of the case. Then it got even more shameful, if you can believe it.
Cowboys officials began leaking information about Whitehead to friendly reporters who they knew would carry water for them in a PR cleanup. And carry they did, passing along stories of all the other possible reasons they really wanted to cut him in the first place, making the fact that he was the victim of identity theft some kind of mere coincidence. It’s complete BS, of course, the team clearly happy enough to unload a replaceable player and then take advantage of that opportunity to crow publicly about their supposed standards.
Even after the fact, the team is going out of its way to dig in on having done the right thing. Garrett harrumphed his way through a surreal press conference Tuesday, continually repeating the mantra “in the best interest of the Dallas Cowboys” as if its recitation would invoke some mystical power.
It’s more than clear that the Cowboys are happy to be rid of an end-of-roster player who they didn’t much like, even as they ultimately let him go in the most spineless and unfair way possible. News came Wednesday morning that the NFLPA was investigating the circumstances with an eye on a possible grievance, and that explains why the Cowboys would want to fall back on their right to release a player for almost whatever reason they want. No grievance would likely result in Whitehead’s reinstatement, regardless, and they know it.
The Dallas Cowboys screwed this up and screwed someone over royally. But they will never have to admit it and will probably face no material consequences.