It’s been more than 24 hours since someone first alerted me about Chad Wheeler, and more than 12 since mainstream media started covering the story. And yet, as this story is published, this is the only official statement we have from the Seattle Seahawks about Wheeler’s arrest:
“We are aware of the situation and still gathering information.”
This used to be the thing people were relieved to hear their team say, because the alternative was too often some variation of “We stand by our guy,” which basically implied the victim was a liar and the team and all the men on it didn’t believe her.
But when pictures of a victim, so bruised and bloodied she looks like she’s been in a car accident, go viral, we’re past the “gathering information” stage and on to “why the hell are you allowing a man who did this to a woman to remain in your organization?” Because really, how much more information do you need?
In case you missed the story, here’s how the Seattle Times reported it:
The victim had called 911 to state that she was being “killed.” Police were advised that she had suffered a dislocated arm and was bleeding.
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 into 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.
She was transported to Valley Medical Center in Kent because of arm pain, the report said.
Wheeler is 6-feet-7 and 310 pounds, and the victim is 5-9 and 145 pounds, the report said.”
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The victim also told police this all began when Wheeler asked her, a woman of color, to “bow to him.” She also recounted what happened when she regained consciousness, saying Wheeler was standing next to her bed and said, “Wow, you’re alive?”
The narratives about Wheeler being bipolar and off his medications have already been put into place, as mental illness is often used as an excuse when white people commit violent acts. But mental illness doesn’t cause domestic abuse, though the two can coincide. At its most fundamental, abuse is the result of a desire for power and control, which is why anger management counseling is rarely effective.
Meanwhile, despite the #NoMore campaign, despite domestic violence training and education, despite the NFL’s lip service to caring about women, who now make up nearly 50 percent of their fan base, we continue to see NFL players batter and sexually assault women. This is not surprising. Domestic violence takes place across every socio-economic and demographic group. What is upsetting is that NFL teams STILL don’t know how to handle it properly.
“Waiting to gather more information,” after seeing the pictures of Wheeler’s victim, is just another way of saying “we’re waiting to see if there’s a reason this was justified.” And what reason would that be? But the sad fact is that too many men in America still believe in the idea of a woman “pushing him too far” or “starting it herself.”
By not cutting Chad Wheeler, a mediocre player at best, the minute those pictures were in hand, Seattle continues the NFL’s storied tradition of treating women as something fungible, easily discarded and not nearly as important as the giant men who populate the league. As of now, Wheeler’s teammates have been silent. As have players around the league. Why can’t they bring themselves to say, “This is not acceptable?” Why is that so controversial in cases of battered women?
Some days, it feels like it will never change. Today is one of those days.
[Update] January 27, 2021 3:22 pm: More than 24 hours after Chad Wheeler’s arrest became public, the Seahawks released this woefully inadequate statement.