The Seattle Seahawks went on the defensive when they drafted former Michigan defensive end Frank Clark, who was kicked off his college team after being arrested on charges of domestic violence last November. Facing criticism of the second-round selection, team executives claimed that they had conducted a thorough investigation into the incident, and determined that Clark did not in fact hit a woman. According to a devastating report from the Seattle Times, neither of those things is true.
After Clark was selected, Seahawks GM John Schneider held a conference call with reporters, and assured them that the team had gone above and beyond while investigating the accusations against Clark. (Via SeattlePI.com):
“Our organization has an in-depth understanding of Frank Clark’s situation and background,” Schneider told reporters in Renton after the second and third rounds on Friday. “We have done a ton of research on this young man. There hasn’t been one player in this draft that we have spent more time researching and scrutinizing more than Frank. That’s why we have provided Frank with this opportunity and are looking forward to him succeeding in our culture here in Seattle.”
Yesterday, Schneider went on 710 ESPN radio and reiterated his conclusion, based on the team’s allegedly thorough investigation, that Clark had not actually struck his then-girlfriend. Schneider told the hosts that the team “absolutely” would not have drafted Clark if they believed that he had hit a woman. He added, “In my opinion, if you strike a woman, you’re off our board. I’m sorry, there’s just no two ways about it.”
Clark was charged with first-degree misdemeanors for domestic violence and assault after an incident with his then-girlfriend, Diamond Hurt, but three weeks ago pleaded to a reduced charge of persistent disorderly conduct, which carried a $250 fine and no jail time. In 2012, Clark pleaded guilty to a felony charge of second-degree home invasion, but his record was wiped clean under the terms of a Michigan program for first-time offenders under the age of 21.
Frank Clark’s mugshot, taken after he was arrested on domestic violence charges.
The Seattle Times got its hands on the police report—a public document that would have been exceptionally easy for the Seahawks to obtain a copy of. You can read it yourself right here. (Note: the report contains photos of Hurt’s injuries.)
On November 15, police were called to an Ohio hotel room that Clark and Hurt were staying in to investigate an alleged domestic disturbance. Multiple witnesses, including Hurt’s younger brothers, who were in the room with Clark and Hurt, told police what they saw. From the Seattle Times:
In Clark’s case, the initial police report states that Hurt told police Clark “punched her in the face” and that she fell backward, breaking a lamp. Hurt’s younger brother, then 15, told police he’d been showering when the altercation began, then came out and “observed Frank (Clark) punching Diamond (Hurt).’’
Her brother told police his sister was trying to fight back when Clark “grabbed her by the throat, picked her up off the ground and slammed her to the ground while also landing on top of her.’’
According to the report, a much younger brother had been in the room when the incident began and told police “he saw Frank hitting his sister.’’
Two women who were staying in an adjacent room and witnessed the aftermath of the incident also gave statements to police. One of them knocked on Clark’s door after hearing what sounded like screaming and fighting, and saw Hurt lying on the floor, seemingly unconscious, when Clark opened the door. Both women spoke to the Seattle Times, and described what they saw:
[One witness] said the woman on the floor inside the room “was definitely beat up” and initially didn’t move.
“She looked unconscious,’’ [the witness] said. “She looked like she was knocked out, and then she started to move slowly.’’
The police report also contains photos of Hurt, showing bruises/abrasions on her cheek, neck, and hip.
How exactly did the Seahawks come to the conclusion that Clark had not hit his girlfriend?
The team issued a statement to the Seattle Times after being pressed to explain:
Told later Monday of what Babson and Colie had said in their interviews with the Times, the Seahawks issued a statement saying the team conducted “confidential interviews with people directly involved with the case.’’
But other than Clark, the statement added, the team did not “speak directly to any witnesses from that night.’’
The team’s investigation “provided our organization with an in-depth understanding of the situation and background,’’ the statement said.
Either the Seahawks were fully aware of what happened that night and are now just playing dumb, or their “investigation” really did just consist of them interviewing Clark and no one else. It doesn’t really matter which scenario is true, though. What matters is that, either way, the Seahawks were never the least bit concerned about whether Clark beat up his girlfriend, and were only ever worried about giving the impression that they cared.
This is the unintended consequence of the NFL’s new zero-tolerance approach to domestic violence: teams have incentive not to dig too deeply into their players’ criminal histories, just in case they might find something.
Without even realizing it, Schneider laid bare the team’s true priorities on Clark during his ESPN radio appearance:
Like I said, talking to the other teams, and making sure that everybody’s had the same research from all the attorneys and the counselors and the D.A. and everybody involved. We knew there weren’t going to be any pass-rushers left, and we needed to grab one as soon as we could.
That second sentence is perhaps the only one Schenider’s spoken on this issue that isn’t bullshit.