Seattle Seahawks backup offensive lineman Chad Wheeler was arrested on Saturday on suspicion of felony domestic violence, according to multiple Seattle area reports. On Monday, he appeared in court for a bail hearing, and that day the Seattles Times‘s Bob Condotta reported on many of the details contained in the police report filed by officers in Kent, Washington.
According to Condotta, police wrote in their report that Wheeler and his girlfriend got in a fight after Wheeler “asked the victim to bow to him.” She did not, so Wheeler threw her on the bed. Wheeler then strangled the woman, causing her to lose consciousness, police wrote. When she became conscious again, Wheeler was standing near the bed and, reportedly, said, “Wow, you’re alive?” The woman then ran into the bathroom, where she called her family and 911.
According to police, they got a 911 call from a woman saying she had a dislocated arm and was bleeding after a fight with her boyfriend. She described herself as being “killed,” per the Times article, and told officers she was locked in a bathroom. From the Times:
According to the report, when officers arrived they could hear screaming from inside the apartment, and after forcing their way in they heard more screaming from a bathroom. They forced their way in to the bathroom and found the victim and Wheeler. He was standing beside her, the report said.
Wheeler initially was uncooperative before being detained, the report said, and he did not speak to officers.
The woman told police that Wheeler picked the lock to get inside the bathroom, the Times reported. She was taken to a local hospital for treatment for her injuries. Wheeler was booked into a county jail a little after 1:15 a.m. on Saturday, according to jail records. He posted bail on Tuesday.
A day later, today, he was dropped by the Seahawks. The team issued a statement conveying all the PR platitudes that NFL teams are well-versed in at this point. But it’s impossible from the outside to really know why the Seahawks did this. Perhaps it was because they were horrified at the details being reported. Perhaps it was because a lot of people were genuinely upset at them. But it’s impossible to divorce the actions of the Seahawks from who Wheeler was to them: A backup offensive lineman who, before Saturday, already was scheduled to become a restricted free agent once the NFL’s calendar resets in March. Wheeler meant much less to them than, say, defensive end Frank Clark did when he was drafted by the team in 2015 despite having been kicked off his college team after being arrested on domestic violence charges.
Adhering to the platitudes the Seahawks laid out in their statement today only required them to not offer a new contract to a little known athlete playing a very unglamorous position who, before today, probably couldn’t be named by many Seahawks fans, let alone the broader NFL fanbase. They weren’t willing to do the same thing in 2015 when the player in question was early round draft talent.
The rules of sportswriting say that here I am supposed to tell you what this all means. Does it mean the Seahawks care about domestic violence now? Does it mean the NFL cares? Did football get this one right? These questions are duplicitous, though, because they assume the most important questions are about football—which they are not—and ignore the critical question of if the woman who called police has what she needs to feel safe. That is, unfortunately, a question I cannot myself answer. I can only say that I hope she does.
Ultimately, the only meaning that can be extrapolated here is that a relatively unnamed lineman is easy to drop. A reminder that this means nothing else will come to you in about a week and a half, when the Super Bowl is played and wide receiver Antonio Brown takes the field for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Brown is still being sued in a Broward County court by a former trainer, Britney Taylor, who says he sexually assaulted her multiple times. After the lawsuit became public, another woman said that Brown exposed his barely covered penis to her while she was working for him, and that he later sent her threatening text messages.
But Brown was a big-time wide receiver before the lawsuit, with Pro Bowls, Super Bowls, and gaudy stats to his name. Wheeler? I’d never heard of him before this week. All today means is that the NFL, like all sports leagues, like all big businesses, will forgive just about anything if you can make them enough money to balance out the people yelling at them online. Perhaps the Seahawks will pat themselves on the back for this one. And perhaps Brown will soon hoist the Super Bowl trophy.