No sooner had the Steelers released wide receiver Cedrick Wilson than the finger-pointing started.
Releasing Wilson following his arrest for assault while keeping linebacker James Harrison following an incident in which he received similar charges showed the Steelers’ hypocrisy.
But that’s not the whole story.
Are different players treated differently for the same infraction? Absolutely.
But there’s more to it than just that.
As team president Dan Rooney later explained, “In the situation with James Harrison, he contacted us immediately after his incident and has taken responsibility for his actions. In today's decision with Cedrick Wilson, we determined the situation was severe enough to warrant the player being released immediately.”
There was also a difference in the two situations beyond that.
While Wilson stormed into a public place and allegedly struck his former girlfriend in a crowded restaurant, Harrison allegedly struck his girlfriend at a private residence.
What’s the difference, you might ask?
In Wilson’s case, there are 50 to 100 witnesses that saw him strike his former girlfriend.
In Harrison’s case, the only two people who know what happened are Harrison and his girlfriend.
And, right or wrong, these kind of cases often come down to a he-said, she-said situation.
Harrison reportedly admitted to police and the Steelers immediately after his incident that he did, indeed, strike the woman.
That, in itself, shows some remorse.
Fact is, he could have said nothing happened and would have had a good chance of getting the charges dropped in court.
Wilson’s infraction, on the other hand, showed an extreme lack of sense. Who, after all, goes into a restaurant and picks a fight? And with a woman, at that?
Couple that with the problems the couple had in January, when police were called to Wilson’s home after the woman in question fired a couple of shots – while Wilson wasn’t there – following an argument, and you see a relationship that is troubled.
In fact, it’s a good idea that if SWAT is called into your relationship, you probably shouldn’t see that person any more.
The Steelers likely sat down with Wilson after that and told him as much. Yet he walked into a crowded restaurant and slugged his former girlfriend.
Would the Steelers have released Wilson if he were a starting wide receiver?
Maybe, maybe not.
But the fact is, he isn’t.
And different employees are treated differently, based on their value to the company.
Harrison is likely looking at a one-game suspension – at least – from the NFL for his infraction if convicted.
Perhaps the Steelers felt that punishment in itself will be enough to insure that Harrison will walk the straight and narrow from now on.
In Wilson’s case, he was a guy who already had a tenuous spot, at best, on the roster. His arrest and the fact there was no doubt about his actions was just the final straw.
The biggest thing to me is that these kind of incidents are a symptom of one of the ills of our society.
The Steelers have had four players arrested for assault on a woman they were involved with in recent years – Santonio Holmes, Najeh Davenport, Harrison and Wilson.
In each case, the woman involved was somebody that the player had fathered a child with out of wedlock.
That, in itself, is usually a recipe for problems.
The mother is angry that the father didn’t marry her. The father usually ends up angry because he doesn’t get to see the child as much as he likes – if he wants to at all. And those bad feelings lead to plenty of arguments.
But society doesn’t frown upon these kind of unions as it did, say, 30 years ago.