LaVon Brazill Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

Suspending the “Double Standard”

In the days following LaVon Brazill’s suspension announcement, the oh-so-predictable outbreak of outrage has come.

Brazill, as is well known by now, was suspended for a year following yet another violation of the NFL’s substance-abuse policy. The third-year receiver out of Ohio University was also suspended last year for four games for marijuana use. While this most recent offense may or may not be marijuana, the punishment is still a one-year suspension.

Now, I’m not referring to the outrage over Brazill’s suspension, although there certainly has been both private and public admonishment of the 25-year-old receiver.

What perturbs me, rather, is the outrage over the so-called “double standard” applied to Brazill and owner Jim Irsay, who is currently awaiting discipline from the league over his March arrest. While it’s an opinion that has been iterated by many, the most notable in the Indianapolis community was Bob Kravitz of the Indianapolis Star, who recently penned an impassioned plea to Jim Irsay, clamoring for his rehabilitation.

This is a player who is: a) a sixth-round draft pick, b) fighting for a bottom-of-the-roster spot this season and c) a repeat substance abuse offender with multiple suspensions on his NFL resume.

Brazill had a reasonable chance of being cut prior to the arrest, but now, after he’s been suspended for a season, cutting him would be wrong?

This isn’t a case of taking a moral stand. It’s simply good business. Right now, the risk-reward ratio with Brazill isn’t favorable. He’s not a great player and he doesn’t really have the potential to be one. He’s not Josh Gordon, who has star potential and will likely still have a shot at a contract with an NFL team despite his pending year-long suspension on top of a recent DWI arrest.

He’s LaVon Brazill, a receiver at the bottom of the depth chart with 23 career receptions to his name.

Regardless, he’s not just a name in our football fantasy world. He’s a human being. To Kravitz, this is where the disconnect comes:

“Irsay has been addicted to alcohol and drugs for long stretches of his life, but when he was arrested in the spring, the community (and myself) gathered around him and largely supported him. We said he was a sick man. We said he needed to go to rehab. We said he was an otherwise fine, big-hearted man who had many of the same demons that diminished his father. Get well, Jim, we said.

Now comes Brazill, and here’s the response. He’s a moron. He’s a knucklehead. He’s a dummy. Cut him. Cut him now. (I wonder what the response would have been if he was something other than a marginal player who would have had to fight for a spot on the 53-man roster?)”

There’s several things that don’t work with this line of thinking, by my estimation.

First, Irsay has built up a level of respect and love in the community that Brazill has not. This isn’t a case of hypocrisy; it’s again just a case of risk-reward. We know Jim Irsay. We know the good he’s done, the teams he’s helped build. It’s a similar case with Robert Mathis, who faces a four-game suspension this season for violating the league’s PED policy. Mathis has carved out a place for himself in the organization and in the community over the last decade.

LaVon Brazill has not. That’s not hypocrisy. It’s simple human nature. We trust those we know to be reliable, to be productive, to be a benefit to society.

If Adrian Wojnarowski tweets an NBA free-agency signing that turns out to be false, do you think anybody in the public or media is going to ridicule him? No! He’s a human being, and they make mistakes, some are more prone to excellence than others. We trust Woj. We know he’s excellent. Some personal trainer from Cleveland who claims he has sources? If he’s wrong about LeBron returning to Cleveland, he’s going to get BLASTED, and deservedly so.

If you can’t see the different contexts behind those situations, I don’t know what to tell you.

Now, this doesn’t mean the Colts have to cut Brazill. I’m not arguing that at all. Brazill won’t be paid for 2014, he’s not hurting the team by keeping him around, in theory. Hey, he could turn out to be good for a catch again some day in 2015, or something.

But if they don’t want to deal with his crap, if Ryan Grigson says goodbye, the franchise is not being hypocritical. It’s being a business.

And we haven’t even gotten into the whole AN OWNER IS NOT A PLAYER THEY ARE COMPLETELY DIFFERENT CIRCUMSTANCES IT IS COMPLETELY SILLY TO TRY TO APPLY ONE-SIZE-FITS-ALL LABELS ON THESE VERY FLUID, COMPLICATED SITUATIONS thing.

In the end, however, this shouldn’t be a bi-partisan race between “He’s an idiot” vs. “He needs help.”

Both are true, for both Irsay and Brazill. That doesn’t mean the Colts are obligated to be the ones to keep him on.

I hope they do, because it would be a nice gesture, I’ve always liked Brazill and I’d rather not see Ryan Grigson’s sole productive late-round pick be cut after playing less than two season’s worth of games. As a human being, I’d rather see success stories than another athlete waylaid by an addiction.

But if LaVon Brazill’s no longer a Colt come September, it’s the fault of one man and one man only, and no amount of politically correct hand-wringing is going to change that.

Kyle J. Rodriguez

About Kyle J. Rodriguez

A film and numbers guru, Kyle writes about the NFL and the Indianapolis Colts for Bleacher Report, Draft Mecca and The Football Educator, and is a co-founder and associate editor of Colts Authority. Kyle also is a high school sports reporter for the MLive Media Group in Michigan, covering high school sports across the state.

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