Not 20 minutes after Dorial Green-Beckham, the former No. 1 overall recruit in the country, was dismissed from Missouri's football team last Friday, a friend who is also a sportswriter and Missouri graduate sent me an email. Mizzou had just released a statement quoting coach Gary Pinkel as saying: "Dorial's priority going forward needs to be focusing on getting the help he needs." My friend took issue with the language, specifically the word "help." So did I.
Help? What Green-Beckham needs most is discipline. Before being dismissed, the star wide receiver had been indefinitely suspended from the Tigers four days earlier because of an alleged burglary. According to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, a 19-page police report on the incident revealed that Green-Beckham showed up at a woman's apartment looking for his girlfriend and then pushed the woman down the stairs. Later, Green-Beckham's girlfriend sent text messages to the woman, revealing that her boyfriend had dragged her out of the apartment by her neck. She also pleaded with her friend to not press charges.
The friend heeded the text messages, and Green-Beckham was not prosecuted.
Does Green-Beckham need help? Certainly. But that shouldn't be the first thought.
His girlfriend and the other woman in the most recent incident -- they need help. Pinkel should have chosen his words more carefully, because they're a sign of much of what is wrong with the underbelly of college athletics. Women are scared to press charges. Players face few repercussions. Instead, they "get help" or "find God" or "mature."
Sorry, but I don't buy it.
Yes, Missouri took the right step in dismissing Green-Beckham, but it erred in painting him as anything but a young man who has made a bunch of serious mistakes and may have broken the law in a big way. On Saturday, when Pinkel addressed local reporters at the team's spring scrimmage, his message was the same: Dorial needs help. In that conversation, Pinkel also referenced the rest of Green-Beckham's rap sheet, which includes two drug-related arrests and perhaps another incident, the coach suggested vaguely. It wasn't a pretty picture, and yet Pinkel talked of fresh starts, of Green-Beckham going to another school, starting over and reaching his ultimate goal -- the NFL.
Missouri, though, seems to have learned something from a similar situation that transpired with former basketball player Michael Dixon in 2010. There was an alleged sexual assault, charges weren't pressed and Dixon remained on the team -- only to find himself in similar hot water in '12. Missouri should have acted after the first incident, but it didn't and paid for it in the end.
"Getting help" is language used to describe alcoholism or drug addiction or depression, and though one or more of those factors may have had a hand in this incident, at its core, this is about abuse.
So, yes, good on my alma mater for taking the first step and dismissing the star receiver. It's just a shame the language had to be what it was and that, subtly, Green-Beckham looks like a victim of his own behavior, like someone who should receive counseling for his struggles and be redeemed.
Counseling may help, but counseling is not the solution to something that looks a lot like a crime in that police report. Counseling is for victims, and so why aren't we talking about Green-Beckham's girlfriend and her friend, two young women so cowed by college athletics and campus celebrity that they may have let a crime go unpunished? They aren't the problem. They're just the outgrowths on a campus that has seen Dixon's departure, basketball player Zach Price's dismissal for domestic assault arrests (authorities are still determining whether to file charges in both cases) and former running back Derrick Washington's arrest for sexual assault (he was convicted of felony deviant assault) in the past five years. In that time, there was also another sexual assault, this one that the university failed to report in a timely manner, which led to a suicide. The alleged perpetrators? Football players. The victim? A swimmer.
This is about something bigger than Missouri, something bigger than Green-Beckham. It's about fear and status, about the hierarchies and language that create them. The only way women will ever come forward in these situations is if more schools start responding like Missouri did this week -- after plenty of its own past foibles -- and taking action, even if the language surrounding that action has not been ideal.
Green-Beckham has had a tough life, and for the most part, he's made the best of it. Even so, he isn't a victim, not in this. If he gets help, well, that's great. I'm more concerned with why he didn't get the level of discipline he so desperately needed.