BY Art Thiel 06:30AM 05/06/2015

Thiel: Back-to-back WTF moments for Seahawks

As with Ryan Leaf, Aaron Hernandez, Percy Harvin, and maybe with Jameis Winston, football teams are sometimes incapable of altering player behavior. Why risk so much?

John Schneider and Pete Carroll: In happier times. / Drew McKenzie, Sportspress Northwest

After committing the most stupendous WTF moment in the history of American team sports in front of largest audience in the history of American television, the Seahawks, in the next big moment on the NFL calendar, committed a more stupendous WTF moment.

The typography industry has yet to make an exclamation point of sufficient size for the occasion.

News that the Seahawks never bothered to talk to the eyewitnesses in top draftee Frank Clark’s violent encounter with his then-girlfriend in November, after assuring reporters Friday that they did a very thorough investigation, is the most significant blow to the credibility of the Pete Carroll regime — far more odious than the bollixed play at the goal line that cost a second consecutive Super Bowl triumph.

Clark was thrown off the University of Michigan team following his arrest for domestic violence. But the victim, Diamond Hurt, declined to press charges, and Clark’s case was pleaded down to disorderly conduct, leaving open to speculation about what really happened.

But there is no dispute of these facts:

Neither the desk clerk at the Sandusky, OH., hotel where the incident occurred, nor the two women in the next-door room who heard the commotion and saw the victim semi-conscious on the floor, were contacted about what they saw by the Seahawks — an admission the club offered in a Tuesday statement.

“He beat the living crap out of her,” Stephanie Burkhart, a hotel clerk on duty at the Maui Sands that night, told KING5 Tuesday, speaking of Clark and Hurt.

“She looked unconscious,’’  Kristie Colie, one of the two hotel guests who responded, told the Seattle Times Tuesday. “She looked like she was knocked out, and then she started to move slowly.’’

Her friend, Lis Babson, told the Times Hurt “was just laying there. She looked like she was unconscious to me.

“The kids were saying, ‘He killed my sister!’ ’’ (two young children in the room were identified as Hurt’s brothers).

None of the three witnesses were contacted by authorities investigating the case nor the Seahawks, who issued a statement Tuesday afternoon:

“We conducted an extensive independent investigation that included confidential interviews with people directly involved with the case. That investigation provided our organization with an in-depth understanding of the situation and background. With the exception of Frank, we did not directly speak to any witnesses from that night.”

Burkhart was reported to be startled by the media call from Seattle, and the two hotel guests said they gave written statements to police the next day, but never heard back.

“I would have remembered (a call from the Seahawks),” Burkhart told KING5 by phone. “No message. Nothing.

“He shouldn’t be playing, period.”

Additionally, Greg Mattison, a Michigan defensive assistant coach, told KJR Tuesday that he never was contacted by the Seahawks about Clark.

“I don’t think I talked with anybody from the Seahawks but I had a lot of calls from a lot of organizations,” Mattison told host Dave Mahler. Mattison didn’t reveal the other teams; Clark was taken in the second round with the 63rd pick.

Knowing how significant the issue of domestic violence has become around the NFL,  knowing that GM John Schneider was, before the 2012 NFL draft, strident about avoiding players involved with DV — “We would never take a player that struck a female or had a domestic violence dispute like that,’’ he said — and knowing Schneider was scouting in Ann Arbor at the time Clark was thrown off the team and had access to people and information, it stretches credulity to say the Seahawks’ investigation was thorough on the matter.

But that’s what he said Friday night.

“Our organization has an in-depth understanding of Frank Clark’s situation and background — we have done a ton of research on this young man,” said Schneider, reading nervously from handwritten notes. “There’s hasn’t been one player in this draft that we have spent more time researching and scrutinizing more than Frank. That is why we have provided Frank with this opportunity, and we look forward to him succeeding in our culture here in Seattle.”

If the Clark assessment is the result of Schneider’s best research, there is a silver lining in this debacle — the nation is grateful Schneider did not choose a career in counter-terrorism.

At work here is plain old foobaw — a desperate urgency to win at almost any cost. Schneider, as with many of his contemporaries and predecessors, sees what he wants to see in difference-making talents.

Bobby Beathard was general manager of the San Diego Chargers in 1998 when, failing to acquire via trade the No. 1 pick that became QB Peyton Manning, traded up to get the No. 2 pick — QB Ryan Leaf of Washington State. It was one of the greatest mistakes in NFL personnel history.

“We had concerns about Ryan and we thought we could work through it, and it backfired,” Beathard, retired at 78, told ESPN.com this week. “We just made a big mistake . . . Sometimes you see a guy with so much ability that you think, ‘We can’t pass this guy up. We can change his character.’ But boy, changing someone’s character is a really hard thing to do.”

Beathard’s quote was part of a story about another high draft pick in the draft — the No. 1 choice, QB Jameis Winston of Florida State, taken by Tampa Bay. Writer Ian O’Connor’s premise: Winston, subject of multiple transgressions including a rape charge, represents the biggest gamble in modern draft history.

Beathard’s quote was revealing because of his use of the term “character,” which is a meaningless euphemism that reduces any number of human pathologies into some sort of correctable moment: As in, “Don’t hit women. Don’t take drugs,” as if it were a lesson forgotten or unlearned, and thus teachable.

Many spend decades learning right from wrong, even lifetimes, and some never figure it out. But it has nothing to with character, which is the aggregate of features and traits that form individual nature. Behavior, constructive or destructive, is the sum of genetics and environment whose mix, benign or volatile, is usually beyond the reach of the average football team to influence.

Behavior modification was certainly beyond the reach of the best team in NFL, otherwise a couple of weeks ago, we may have seen Aaron Hernandez in the White House instead of the jailhouse, convicted of murder.

That does not mean that every kid who was a bully, thug or otherwise a reprobate can’t become a productive adult citizen. We all know many examples.

But when it comes to choosing employees for perhaps the most scrutinized jobs outside of the presidency, why hire a person to a publicly adored organization who was thrown off one of the nation’s most high-profile college teams for an episode that only six months earlier produced evidence via publicly available photos and eyewitness testimony that he did a really bad thing? And inflaming nationally a debate that could not be more socially provocative?

There wasn’t another pass rusher in the draft?

If the Seahawks needed more help in the decision, maybe they could have called the hotel desk clerk.

Unless, of course, they were afraid they would have been told again they should have run the ball.


YourThoughts

  • Jeff Shope

    Expecting the nfl to be the moral police is getting beyond stupid. All the sensi poo msnbc watching morons need to shut up

    • poulsbogary

      If someone did that to your sister, you would give him a bonus? Seriously?

    • dingle

      This may be a first. I don’t recall ever seeing a post here implicitly supporting domestic violence.

      Not really sure what the award should be.

  • mindful

    You do know men also can be abused , and that a women ways sometime to pay back is to kill the kids around a man. Siblings or there own,

    So did the seahawks talk to here parents? to find out.

    I know a guy that was beat up all the time from his former wife , and one day he feared for his kids life and thought she would grab a knife at the kitchen , so he did not hit her , but she charged him and he had his 6 year call the police ,but they were afraid like dad going kill mom. yet he had to grab his wive by the neck to protect his , kids So she not get into the kitchen..

    cops showed up he went to jail but he look liked hell bloody and hell . but he pleaded and cried, and lucky the one female officer listen and he just ask to have the kids go to his wife parents house to be safe. Because at that point he felt she was going do something stupid.

    No charges were press because her parents stuck up for him and his former wife got the help she needed

    NO man should ever hit or deck a women . Though. Even to protect those around you. .

  • ReebHerb

    Let’s hope Frank Clark has his ‘come to Jesus moment’ with the adverse scrutiny of his behavior. Research of the incident boils down to he wasn’t in jail. Not only should he keep his nose clean, but he’ll have pressure to perform as a targeted, special, must have, difference maker for this team.

    Carroll and Schneider have created a championship team and the rest of Seattle has created a myth that may or may not be true.

  • coug73

    Mr. Clark may become a super star SeaHawk becoming a productive civil citizen in his new community is important too.

  • ollie swensen

    Frank Clarks’ stats during his time at Michigan are 116 tackles, 35 tackles for loss and 11 sacks. As far as a football player he will need to compete against a higher level of talent than he has been exposed to before. There is no guarantee that he will play any significant roll in the D-line rotation soon.
    Perhaps his talent will be too great to ignore, perhaps he will be a practice squad mainstay, maybe he gets cut in camp

    Right now the Seahawks are showing a roster with 12 players listed at DE and not everyone is going to make the team

  • David Freiboth

    Great reporting Arthur. A longer in depth study would chronicle a pattern of these judgement flaws in Pete Carroll’s “character” as detailed in revealing Vanity Fair piece while he was at So. Cal.

    This situation should be no surprise to anyone familiar Coach Carroll’s “get it done” coaching style. He’s a “Seattle Nice” version of Belichick who’s questionable ethics we will rationalize as well intentioned risk taking so long as he continues to win.

    • poulsbogary

      It’s all becoming crystal clear now. No wonder he sold his Hunts Point house.

      • David Freiboth

        Smell?

  • poulsbogary

    Schneider gets in front of the tv cameras and says “i have 4 sisters.” Dirtbag. Instead of offering clark a contract, he should sign that 43 year old mother. She’ll clean things up.

  • RadioGuy

    As long as Clark plays well, it won’t matter to some fans what he’s done…ahhh, hell, why do I even bother? In sports, as in politics, it doesn’t matter if you’re supporting a proven slimeball because he/she is YOUR slimeball.

    • notaboomer

      go milton bradley!

  • Bryan

    The thing that really gets me about it is this isn’t a dominant football player. For the record, I would not be a fan of drafting a player with a history of violent behavior no matter how good they are. So I am disappointed in that.

  • notaboomer

    the nation is grateful Schneider did not choose a career in counter-terrorism.

    au contraire, schneider would have been just as able to not find wmds and then tell the public he’d done a thorough investigation that supported invasion of iraq. lies and rationalization are the new american gold standard.

    • rosetta_stoned

      WMDs were found. Lots of them. But, don’t let that ruin your political rant on a sports board.

      • Bruce McDermott

        Yup. They were hidden in black helicopters owned by the illuminati as part of their scheme to install a one world government through the UN.

      • notaboomer

        rumsfeld’s smiling when he reads this.

  • Kirkland

    If the Seahawks slide to mediocrity in the next few years, I fear Clark will be the turning point when the community’s love affair with the team dropped. Whether his actual play (assuming he makes the team) has anything to do with it or not.

    They damned well better have Russell Wilson sit down and have a chat with Clark about conduct and behavior.

    • poulsbogary

      I am beginning to wonder that maybe they are buffoons running the team and just lucked into that super bowl win.

      • eYeDEF

        Sounds like you’re a poor judge of talent.

  • Matt712

    Clark was quoted as saying, “I simply put myself in a position where I shouldn’t have been in… I shouldn’t have been in the situation in the first place.”

    Ironically, Schneider could’ve really used this advice.

  • Bruce McDermott

    So this is a little hysterical, Art. You already knew, from the press conference, that the Hawks didn’t talk directly to the victim. So their failure to talk to the clerk, for example, somehow puts this over the top, when the clerk by his own admission did not see a thing while whatever happened happened? Sometimes, your articles smack of someone asking questions to which he has decided he already knows the answer, and this is one such article–your meme’ is that the Hawks averted their eyes to allow themselves to select Clark, and by golly that’s what you are going to see from the “facts”, come hell or high water.

    The prosecutor’s statements today, or late yesterday, establish what at least some of us believed was inherent in the plea deal–she spoke extensively to the victim, things were not as they first appeared, Clark is not a batterer, etc.–so she reduced the charges to disorderly conduct, which requires no proof of violence against a person. This is the sum and substance of what Schneider said in the conference. Yet now this a WTF on the level, or higher, than the Super Bowl play call? Hardly.

    • 1coolguy

      Wow – a true fanatic speaks.

      • Bruce McDermott

        Wow. A stunning refutation of the points made.

    • art thiel

      The police chief disagrees with her and you, which is possible among reasonable people.

      http://www.sanduskyregister.com/news/legal/8058381

      • Bruce McDermott

        Weak sauce, Art. The police chief is backing his officers who arrived at the scene and wrote the report. They took statements, that’s it. The state is represented by the prosecutor, and what she has said speaks volumes.

        But in any event, I’m sorry, but it was not even close to appropriate to write what you did. It was premature at best, certainly could have been dead wrong on the facts as the prosecutor has now stated, which you did not acknowledge, therefore unfair to Clark, and in any event sensationalistic and slanted.

        You can do much better.

        • mtd9904

          So those photos were doctored or something?

  • Joe Fan

    I really just don’t understand why everyone gets their panties in an uproar over this. People make mistakes – sometimes VERY BIG mistakes – but that doesn’t mean that deep down they aren’t good people and can learn from and overcome whatever it is they’ve done. Clark was “punished” by sliding from the first round to the second, and thus his financial reward from the NFL will suffer a bit until he proves himself and gains the team’s and the fans’ trust. He also was kicked off the Michigan team and has been publicly disgraced. That all being said, he will be given a second chance by me (and the Seahawks). If he ends up not being able to change and control himself appropriately, then we will need to move on, but not before.

    • 1coolguy

      Denial is not a river in Africa pal.

      • Joe Fan

        Who is “denying” anything? You holier than thou folks crack me up. Everybody does things they are not proud of. Clark deserves a second chance and I sincerely hope that he is a model citizen and man for the rest of his life. Why is this “bad act” so much more reprehensible than others? Where were you when Holmgren drafted Jeremy Stevens, who I consider to be a major slime ball (date rape anyone?)? A football player who is accused of drugging and raping a college student is not high on my list, but somehow he was given a second chance as well, as are countless others every day.

    • RadioGuy

      Assaulting a woman isn’t a “mistake.” What kind of home did you people grow up in?

      • Joe Fan

        Whatever RadioGuy. The point is that we all deserve a second chance. I tend to side on moving forward and striving to be better. It’s up to Clark to prove to everyone that he can be a model citizen that we can all look up to. I will give him the benefit of the doubt until he proves otherwise. Everyone is so unbelievably quick to judge and denigrate.

  • Cameric

    Can Of Worms:
    Without either defending or convicting Clark, I think that the Seahawks (end eventually the NFL) have to come up with a standardized response to domestic violence and other negative actions by their players. They seem to be reactive rather than proactive.

    I am inclined to let the legal process play out, and punish players financially or by firing them, when they are finally found guilty of either criminal or civil proceedings. That is a consistent and measured response. That, of course, lets them play until the issue is settled, which may mean that a soon-to-be-guilty player gets to play for a while.

    On the other hand, if you suspend a player at the merest whiff of controversy, you do them a disservice, since they are being convicted in the eyes of public opinion before being able to defend themselves.

    I don’t know if there is a happy medium. Accusations don’t seem substantial enough. What about accusations coupled with social media? It is more illuminative, but biased and inconsistent. do we fire them if they are indicted for a crime? They are still innocent at that point….

  • John M

    Art, you do know how to stir up a posse. What hasn’t been chewed on is the fact the girl recanted. Did she do it for something promised in the future or because she felt guilty for inciting the event? That’s what hasn’t come out.

    I still say we’ll know if there’s an attitude change after a few checks and he’s tooling a fancy ride. But I agree with your bottom line: Was it really worth the risk? Were there no other pass rushers in the draft? . . .

  • Larry

    Art, I’ve been following you since your PI days. I’m very disappointed in you. In this case, you cherry-pick a few statements that make Frank Clark look monstrous while omitting to mention that those statements — along with the case in its entirety — were turned over to the review of a female prosecuting attorney working for a Domestic Violence unit who ended up lessening the charge significantly, saying “this is not what it appears.” In the absence of knowing exactly what happened, Art, I’m going to go ahead and trust that the outcome arranged by the PA — the one person who investigated this most thoroughly– happened for good reason: that, in fact, this wasn’t as bad as it looked. All readers should be able to to decide for themselves what that means. Sadly, people getting their sports information exclusively from sports-press won’t have that chance. 95% of persons following this story in Seattle probably are convinced Frank Clark beats women thanks to your shameless article.

    • dingle

      The bottom line is that the Seahawks didn’t really do their due diligence. This is inexcusable when you’re thinking of drafting someone like Clark. In light of the issue the NFL is having with DV, the ‘chickens front office looks very, very bad.

      I’d like to be amused by the 12s being up in arms about about the results of independent journalism, but mostly I’m just disturbed.

      Based on track record alone, I’ll trust Art over you clowns 7 days a week and twice on Sunday.

      • Bruce McDermott

        Art’s article, with selective quotations purposefully stripped of context for effect, was an atypical hack job. Trust him all you want. On this one, that trust is not warranted.

      • whoKarez

        Wasn’t Art the one who wanted us to root for the 49er’s over the Ravens a few years ago because of his personal dislike of Ray Lewis and the murder charge? If you continue to read more about the incident and read it without prejudice a different picture can be painted. Getting all your information from sports pages, I can see why you’re so willing to hump Art’s leg. This hero worshiping cult atmosphere you guys subscribe to here at Art’s personal playground makes me sick. Art was a decent writer a few years ago and on occasion still manages to write some good stuff, but lately not so.

        • Its onlySports(DavidWakefield)

          This is the title of an article on field gulls this morning….

          Frank Clark prosecutor: “I do not believe he punched her or slapped her”.
          One thing that completely stands out is the prosecutor is in charge of throwing the book at people.She interviewed Clark,the GF and her mother after sifting through every shred of evidence.
          We do know inappropriate behavior took place on both sides.It was a shoutfest alarming people who were simply trying to enjoy a nights stay at a motel.
          The Prosecutor made Clark take a 25 week course in DV prevention and Relationship strengthening.She said in the article in no way was his GF willing to go forward because she felt it was an unfortunate incident that got out of hand fueled by both parties.
          This single incident should be life changing for any good person of which multiple sources quote Clark as one.He could have dashed every dream he had in one single night.He himself knows a future incident of similar consequences will be met by a hangmans noose

        • art thiel

          I thought my legs were being kicked here, not humped. Make up your minds, folks.

          Or maybe we have conflicting accounts that are both close ?

    • 1coolguy

      You are a sad zealot that apparently is blinded by your being a “fan”. Presuming the next door women and the hotel clerk are only HALF right (and I believe them) the Hawks should not even have had them on their board.
      Disgusting.

      • Joe Fan

        1coolguy I’m afraid you are the one who appears to be “blinded”. Jumping to conclusions about people without having all the facts is shameful. Definitely not “cool”.

        • mtd9904

          Says the guy who is jumping to the conclusion that Clark didn’t do anything wrong.

    • art thiel

      I wrote in a previous column about the prosecutor’s decision to accept a lesser plea. While I don’t disagree with trusting the judgment of the prosecutor who talked to both parties, one who doesn’t agree is the Sandusky police chief, who in a story in the Sandusky paper Friday disputed her decision:

      http://www.sanduskyregister.com/news/legal/8058381

      My focus in the column was about the Seahawks judgment and actions. I fail to see the shamelessness.

    • mtd9904

      I’m sorry Larry, were you there or working on the case? You sound like Frank Clark’s agent.

  • 1coolguy

    Paul Allen must be apoplectic. I would not want to be in the Seahawks offices for awhile.
    This is truly “dumb and dumber” and I agree Art, 2 consecutive WTF decisions by the Hawks is not doing them or their followers any favors. Stunning.

  • coug73

    Mr Clark’s story is a sad state of affairs. Instead of discussing the draft or other SeaHawk personnel stories we have a police blotter response from fans.

    Why did U of M drop Mr. Clark from the team?

    Why did the Hawks draft him?

    Is Mr. Clark worth a #2 draft pick? Is he more than a pass rusher? What about the other draft choices? What’s the story with Bruce and Russ?

    Sadly, for Mr. Clark, what is done is done. Move forward and know Mr. Clark you are under a microscope.

  • Larry

    Thanks for reinforcing my point, cool guy. A fuller reading of this case shows that Art’s characterization of Mr. Clark was about 50% right (not very good in journalism, by the way). Was the half that was wrong the part about Mr. Clark hitting his girl friend? Seems like the PA might have thought so. I can be a passionate fan AND believe it’s wrong to re-try a person in the newspaper through an article filled with half truths. People should form their opinions based on full knowledge of the issue. Sounds like you’ve formed yours. I happen to think it’s a little harsh given all that we don’t know. And, BTW, name-calling isn’t cool.

  • Green Caribou

    Those arguing “did he or didn’t he” missed the point of the article. The point is that Schneider and Carroll claimed to have done a “thorough” investigation before rolling the dice on what they clearly knew would be a controversial decision. But it appears they didn’t even talk to this kid’s coach on the team he was kicked off of; they contacted the accused, but no witnesses. If they consulted with the PA, why didn’t they say so? Perhaps Diamond didn’t want to talk, and that’s her right, but they haven’t even claimed that they even tried to talk to her or anyone else for that matter. In what universe is that considered thorough?

    It is about credibility. This will reopen the problems the Seahaks have with PEDs in the same way deflategate reopened the Patriots spygate problem. If the Patriots and Seahawks have a rematch in the Super Bowl next year, what are the dominant story lines going to be? The ‘Hawks certainly can’t claim any kind of moral high ground anymore.

    • Green Caribou

      This would have been a completely different conversation if Schneider could say, “After consulting with the prosecutor, coaches, representatives of the victim, the counselors in his 25 week dv program, and Clark himself…”

  • Green Caribou

    By being so opaque it brings up all kinds of other questions: Who are the mysterious “people directly involved with the case”? Given who they didn’t talk to it seems likely that it’s code for the victim or her family or representatives. Maybe there is a legitimate desire for privacy on their part. But if I were Schneider and knew I was going to be taken apart over this, I would not have taken him without the ability to clearly explain my investigation. The most cynical thought is that the interviews were so secret because they involved some form of payout.

  • woofer

    Why is this a surprise? Pete Carroll left LA just before the NCAA cops arrived. He is the Bill Clinton of football coaching — smart, charming, hard-working, but willing to wink at cutting corners. The fact he and Schneider are kindred souls indicates that Schneider must be cut from similar cloth. Or at least trying to learn the trade from the master. Schneider’s lies were blatantly stupid and apparently delivered in a sheepish manner, suggesting an element of inexperience. Next time he’ll do a better job of covering his tracks.

  • John K

    We have a Super Bowl champion and 2 appearances in a row without any major legal transgressions. They spoke to someone who has a professional reputation on the line (the prosecutor) vs someone who have nothing on the line (desk clerk). At some point isn’t the benefit of the doubt something worth giving Carroll / Schneider? Apparently not. I’ll speculate that Frank Clark turns out just fine and that Diamond Hurt is the one we see being booked on some other charge in the next 12 months.

  • mtd9904

    I love all the 12′s defending Frank Clark. No wonder these NFL players don’t think this stuff is a big deal. Fans, coaches, agents, teammates, always making excuses for them. I guess at this point I shouldn’t even blame players for feeling like rules don’t apply to them. As for the 12′s, I’m totally sure you’d be defending him if he was the Eagle’s second round pick.

    • Bruce McDermott

      You weren’t there any more than any of the rest of us. That you disbelieve the prosecutor is fine, but it’s no more fine than others choosing to believe her. If she wanted to get a conviction for DV out of those particular witnesses, she would have had a real challenge on the burden of “beyond a reasonable doubt,” which is the burden on which all criminal defendants are judged, and rightly so. That isn’t about “excuses”, it’s about the constitutional rights of criminal defendants.

      • mtd9904

        Yes, you are defending him and you’re quite frankly only defending him because he’s on your team. Let me ask you this: if you have a daughter, would you let her go out with this player?

        • Bruce McDermott

          You “quite frankly” have no clue what you are talking about. You can read minds now? I’m a lawyer. The presumption of innocence means something to me. The burden of proof is high for crimes, and it should be, because the penalty for many crimes is the deprivation of freedom. So you can flap all you want about my motives, and convict Clark in your own mind. Luckily for all of us, not least Clark, your mind is entirely unrelated to the state of the law.

          The stuff about my hypothetical daughter is flat-out absurd. There are lots of people I wouldn’t want dating my daughter, including those who have no clue of, or respect for, our legal system. Like I said, character assassination is easy. Proving a case sufficiently to allow for a label of criminal to be fairly placed on someone is much more difficult. But why bother with silly little concepts like sufficient proof under the law when you can flap your gums from afar and declare that all those who point out that the state decided Clark wasn’t a batterer are just fanboys? Put the pitchfork away and read a couple of books on the criminal justice system of this country. Might make you think, which you clearly need to do more of.

          • mtd9904

            The fact you avoided answering the question tells me all I need to know about you.