BY Art Thiel 06:02PM 09/14/2018

Thiel: Threat of 0-2 is a poor reason to hire felon

Despite the fact that he just pleaded guilty in federal court to making $1.2 million from illegal insider trading, the Seahawks signed LB Mychal Kendricks. Bad idea.

Mychal Kendricks is a Seahawk, at least for a game. / bleedinggreennation.com

It’s rarely a good sign when an NFL team’s latest acquisition is addressed by a statement from the league office: “The matter is under review. He is currently permitted to sign and participate in activities including games.”

That’s what happens when a team scavenges from the convicted-felons-awaiting-sentencing list for emergency hires.

A good football player with a bad record, LB Mychal Kendricks — taken one spot ahead of Bobby Wagner in the second round of the 2012 draft — was signed by the Seahawks Friday after Wagner (groin) joined K.J. Wright (knee) on the injury list for the Monday night game in Chicago.

Whether either or both play, the potential shorthandedness was compounded by the fact that rookie Shaquem Griffin wasn’t ready to be a starter Sunday in Denver in place of Wright. When Griffin was pulled, his replacement, Austin Calitro, also is a rookie, an undrafted free agent who spent 2017 shuttling among five NFL practice squads.

The linebacker unit as thin as the Seahawks’ hide needs to be thick, for taking Kendricks.

A starter for the Eagles’ Super Bowl champions last year, Kendricks, 27, pleaded guilty in federal court Sept. 6 to one count of conspiracy to commit securities fraud and one count of securities fraud. The feds said he was an inside trader, giving a Goldman Sachs broker and friend some cash, $10,000 worth of Eagles tickets and access to lavish parties in exchange for non-public, market-shifting information.

The  charges said Kendricks made $1.2 million via four transactions over two years, along with co-defendant Damilare Sonoiki, 27, a Harvard grad who left Wall Street and is now a TV comedy writer.

In March, primarily for salary cap reasons, the Eagles let Kendricks, the Pac-12 defensive player of the year in 2011 at Cal, go into free agency, despite the fact that he played 62 percent of the snaps during the Eagles’ playoff run. He signed with the Cleveland Browns. But they dumped him Aug. 29 when news broke of the charges.

No such bashfulness was apparent for the Seahawks, who don’t mind taking a player that the Browns, the nuclear waste site for the NFL, found too radioactive.

The NFL has yet to rule on whether Kendricks has violated the league’s personal conduct policy, although reports have said a ruling, if any, won’t happen before Monday’s game. Then again, this is a white-collar crime, perhaps the sort of misdeed more familiar and acceptable to NFL policymakers.

Not saying they will let him skate, but since his sentencing isn’t until Jan. 24, the NFL could dawdle along through the regular season before sussing out a sanction for a misdeed that has no NFL precedent.

Kendricks may have helped himself with the NFL and the Seahawks because he volunteered the guilty plea and admitted his error in court. The judge asked him why he made his decision.

“Because I know I was wrong,” philly.com reported he said.  “I know that I made the decision to accept information, secret information, and it wasn’t the right thing to do.”

The federal judge said she wanted to be sure that Kendricks was not coerced into pleading guilty.

“I’m making the decision because it’s the right thing to do,” he said.

The Seahawks signed him to a one-year contract reportedly near the veterans’ minimum after the season’s first week, which means that if the NFL does suspend him for all or part of the season, the club is under no obligation to pay him for games he doesn’t play.

The maximum sentence is 25 years, but ESPN reported that federal sentencing guidelines say 30 to 37 months is typical for a first-time offender.

So as he awaits his fate, he’s a football bargain, especially considering that Pro Football Focus graded him for the 2017 season at 79.9, or 13th among 100 qualifying linebackers.

It’s possible that his inexpensive signing could be considered a steal. But given the circumstances, that expression doesn’t seem quite right, does it?

What it can be called is a bad idea.

It’s true that much of American civic life has deteriorated lately into a moral relativism, thanks in large part to a president who knows no bottom when it comes to ethical behavior.

Kendricks’ guilt is not in dispute. But his crime isn’t as visceral as domestic or sexual assault, so outrage likely will be competing with the everybody-does-it rationalization. In fact, everyone doesn’t do it. It’s a lame cop-out.

The crime is a fresh one for the NFL code, but laws against insider trading have been around a long time. Congress passed specific legislation against it in 1934 after the stock-market crash in 1929.

Cheating the stockholding public is part of a larger malaise of the normalization of corruption that is making civic life increasingly toxic. Is that the NFL’s fault? No. But there is an opportunity here to make a point.

The NFL hates being under the cultural microscope every time someone in its world does something dirty. But that’s part of the price to be paid for being the colossus astride the nation’s retail pop culture. The NFL is free to try to abdicate, but there was a belief this off-season that the NFL wanted to grow its fan base, not erode it.

Kendricks needs to be suspended for the season, then reviewed for a further suspension after sentencing. And the Seahawks should be embarrassed to have put the league in the position.

Apparently the threat of 0-2 is a more significant number than $1.2 million in ill-gotten gains.


YourThoughts

  • coug73

    Soon the Seahawks will be called ocean 11.

    • art thiel

      I’d rather see them crack the line of scrimmage rather than a casino safe.

    • antirepug3

      They used to have a Legion of Boom. Now I call the team the Three and Out Gang. It is going to be tough sledding this year. 27th in Offense, 13th in Defense doesn’t sound like a playoff team.

  • Kevin Lynch

    Thank you for speaking out.

    • art thiel

      Somebody has to clear his or her throat.

  • Ron

    If you’re not cheating, you’re not competing?

    • art thiel

      That means if they were winning titles, it would be OK?

      • Ron

        It means that there is nothing to save this season. A misguided wasted effort.

        • art thiel

          So that means since the season is worthless and meaningless, you won’t be watching or reading about them. Good for you. Your gutters free of leaves all fall will thank you.

          • Ron

            Still need to be prepared for next season. Next season is where it’s at.

          • art thiel

            Please forgive some readers if they aren’t able to stand the heat on descent from high orbit to the ground of tanking.

  • Matt Kite

    The guy pleaded guilty. It’s not like he could be exonerated. I really don’t understand this decision. Looks like the Seahawks’ front office has integrity issues.

    • art thiel

      Well, that’s what team sites do. They’re the house organs. I surprised you’re surprised.

      • Matt Kite

        Not surprised, I guess. Just disgusted. The whole thing looks bad…

  • Newbie1000

    Yawn…. I like your writing but this is off the mark. At least the player admitted his guilt and taken responsibility for his action. Now if you were only brave enough to write about the Liar-in-Chief who has really brought down the moral life of American society in general. You also have many in Congress committing insider trading which would send regular people to jail and these Congressman openly committing insider trading and rarely paying any penalty for it. You can probably go after almost anyone on Wall Street committing some kind of financial crime and this 1 player cannot be forgiven for his crime??

    • 1coolguy

      Liar-in-chief? Start with how Clinton and the DNC pimped Sanders, who got totally screwed. How he can still side with the Dems is remarkable.

      • art thiel

        Again. Whataboutism.

        A point in the column I should have made moire clear is the issue of respect for law. Trump has none — not the first, won’t be the last — and is so flagrant that it’s poisoning the culture.

        • rosetta_stoned

          And when Trump is gone, who are you going to blame then? The next Nazi Republican?

          It’s tedious beyond words.

      • Archangelo Spumoni

        “Start with how Clinton”. . .
        1. She received far more votes than Sanders.
        2. She won her party’s nomination by a wide margin.
        3. Whatabout whatabout whatabout, while popular as of late, is a feeble, vacuous, worthless, inapplicable, losing, impotent method especially considering . . . she lost.
        3a. Got that?
        The existing guy is up to somewhere between 3,500 and 5,000 from mildly mistaken or plain ignorant all the way to pants on fire.
        Not a strong method with such a world record lack of moral high ground.

        • rosetta_stoned

          The ‘existing guy’ beat your precious drunk like a rented mule … which not coincidentally ….

          • Bruce McDermott

            Hmmm. Thought she got 2.9 million more votes than he did, actually. He got bailed out by the electoral college. Unless you’re one of those “3-5 million illegals voting for Hillary” truthers, like your hero…

    • Husky73

      Here’s how the Trumpsters think: How dare you call the President a liar. He didn’t say that. Even if he did say that, you don’t understand. OK, he said it, but he didn’t mean it. OK, he meant it, but it’s no big deal. Alright, it’s a big deal. BUT….Hillary’s emails!

      • rosetta_stoned

        Trump’s ‘lies’ didn’t break the freakin’ law countless times.

        Why can’t you people get that through your skulls?

        • art thiel

          Perhaps we should wait until Mueller rolls out the obstruction of justice charges. His tweets alone will get him a suite in the Graybar Hotel.

  • Hunterand Rene

    Been a die hard seahawks fan for 31 years and never felt compelled to comment on sea. Times articles since the internet broke. But let’s get off the high horse here. Half of the population condone this behavior and vote them into office. The kavanaugh hearing is prime example. This guy was told what to invest in, Brett kavanaugh is told to decide what woman can do with their bodies and if two loving people can get married oh and who to torture. Maybe the whistleblowers should take a real hard look at what morals they stand for and merge that into their political decisions because your chastising one young man who admitted his guilt and boycotting a company and a man standing for racial injustice all the while supporting the rampant dishonesty and criminal acts in our political system all because of your political financial gains. Sound familiar?

    • 1coolguy

      Don’t quite know where you ended up with this……

      • art thiel

        i agree. coolguy.

    • rosetta_stoned

      You need to up your meds.

  • 1coolguy

    Let’s leave Trump out of the column Art – Believe it or not, there are Clinton’s deplorables out there, even in Hillary loving Seattle, which given Sawant and Murray, is a city that doesn’t exactly have anything to be proud of.
    As to this guy, he screwed up and hopefully his guilty plea is sincere – if nothing else, you may be able to get a worthwhile column out of the guy, who knows?

    • art thiel

      Clinton isn’t the president. Trump is my president too, and fair game. Let’s leave out whataboutism.

      Regarding Kendricks’ legal resolution, I’m open to restitution and whatever a prosecutor/judge thinks is just, whether probation or jail time. But financial grifting is a serious law violation. I would have no issue for a second chance after he served his time.

      • DB

        Calling it ‘whataboutism’ is a nice way to deflect. The fact is, the Clintons are just as fair game as the Pres. So is Obama. They certainly haven’t dropped out of the news cycle. Please explain to us how inserting shots at Trump adds to the quality of your (superb) sports analysis and commentary? It’s not like we lack for columnists who are doing ‘Trump hate’, and we got that you are politically left of center long ago. No need to keep reminding us.

        • art thiel

          My analogy came about because we are becoming desensitized to violations of law and ethics by this administration. It’s corrosive to the culture. The “fine people on both sides” remark after Charlottesville is a vivid but hardly lonely example normalizing destructive behavior.

          Best example of normalization? Calling Russian interference in the election “meddling” instead of an act of war.

          • DB

            I would have given you the same feedback if you were hard on the right and spearing Hillary all the time. I just want to listen to the beautiful prose without hearing all the noise and racket from the street. We already get plenty of that.

            I agree with your analogy, but not the source you point to. It’s hard to to think of a lower point in the ethics of our country than when our President did an intern half his age in the Oval Office, lied about it on network TV to our faces, suffered no marital consequences, and lately has been running around the country collecting six-figure fees for giving speeches.

            As for ‘meddling’, see: https://www.lawfareblog.com/what-election-meddling-and-when-did-everyone-start-using-term It started during the Obama administration.

    • ReebHerb

      My president kicked Hillary, the world class thief, to the curb just as Pres. Obama did in 2008. note: just commenting on an excerpt from the column

      • Archangelo Spumoni

        Not a strong point when “whatabout” reaches back a few more years than the current more-than-peccadillo-committing Oval Office person.

        Just for funsies, please instantly research the fetid history of said current Oval Office first dude.

        • rosetta_stoned

          Rent-free. In your head.

          • Archangelo Spumoni

            Easy there, tiger. Safe space time needed? Your discovery that the President lives there “rent-free” is a good one and it’s good that you are learning! But it really doesn’t address the point about the skunky occupant. And the tried-and-failed “whatabout,” while easy when facts are missing, doesn’t really get counted on the ol’ rhetorical scorecard.
            But I’m glad you feel better.

  • jafabian

    I’m a bit surprised that after entering a guilty plea the NFL will allow Kendricks to play this season. What’s more that Paul Allen would allow his team to make such a move. Especially with the specter of a prison sentence hanging over Kendricks for insider trading. Paul is continuously making moves to diversify his portfolio. All the Seahawks players will be hounded with questions about it during the season assuming Kendricks is with the team through December. I’m not saying Kendricks is an evil person and I applaud his admission but from the Seahawks position this was a knee jerk reaction for a quick fix. I find it hard to believe that there aren’t any reasonably comparable options on the waiver wire or a worthwhile player on a practice squad.

    It’s almost like the message being sent is that this season is lost.

    • art thiel

      I think the Seahawks are sending the message that they will do anything

      to keep the season from being lost. Not a good message.

  • DJ

    Thanks Art. I appreciate you pushing this subject to the forefront. But, while the Seahawks are willing to ignore player off field transgressions (of course fully vetted by conversations with the player, and convinced he’s better now), the NFL is reactionary at best to what the public considers deviations outside of the ethical norm. Bottom line is that I don’t believe that the NFL has much at stake as far as an ethical high ground goes when the Seahawks sign soon-to-be convicts.

    • art thiel

      The NFL may well be waiting for public reaction before passing a judgment on a suspension. Which is gutless.

  • Tian Biao

    I don’t know, Art: it sounds like you’re saying the man can’t earn a living pending sentencing. What if he were in another line of work: would he likewise be prevented from working? I’m not excusing his crime, just defending his right to earn a living. also: I know it’s not exactly comparable, but in my mind, I keep re-seeing the video of Joe Mixon punching that woman in the face, really decking her, and yet there he was, happily playing away last Sunday, while the announcers gushed, as if nothing had happened.

    • Husky73

      Tian, you make a good point. I have often wondered why people seemingly hold the position that professional athletes hold fewer rights in our society than the rest of us? If Kendricks was a drywaller or a bus driver, he would be working until sentenced or incarceration. But, he is a highly paid football player, so he shouldn’t be able to make a living. Cassius Clay/Muhammad Ali wasn’t allowed to fight. Professional athletes, represented by a player’s association, shouldn’t be allowed to strike. Free agents should be allowed to change teams- they should gratefully accept what their current team is offering and be quiet. “They make too much money. They shouldn’t be allowed to make that much.” “Where does he come off making political statements? Shut up and dribble.” “Fire the sons of bitches.”

    • art thiel

      It’s easy to condemn an act of violence against a woman. White collar crime doesn’t generate a visceral response. That breeds an atmosphere of disregard for laws around money, which guys like Bernie Madoff and Paul Manafort exploit. We have settled law that says insider trading is a serious federal crime. But I guess if therre’s no bruise visible, it doesn’t count.

      • Tian Biao

        you are correct, of course. violence is more visceral, but white collar crime is still crime. I muddied the waters by mentioning Joe Mixon. but I do struggle with the concept of holding NFL players to higher standards than society at large. I don’t know where the line is. I don’t think the NFL knows where it is either.

  • Howard Wells

    as long as he doesn’t take a knee during the anthem, our “fans” will love him!

  • Matt712

    The problem the NFL has with suspending Kendricks for the season is that it will have very quickly found itself neck-deep in the raw PR sewage of its lessor suspensions for players like Jameis Winston and Jimmy Smith – players whose transgressions are viewed by many as far more egregious.

    The NFL’s willingness to jump ahead of public due process is now curiously at play against the Seahawks’ willingness to pretty much ignore it. Both strategies seem misguided. But certainly we’re no longer surprised by the NFL’s ability to keep clogging its own toilets. Nor should we be at Pete Carroll’s willingness to strap on hip waders.

    • art thiel

      As long as there is a personal conduct policy collectively bargained between the league and union, there will always be raw PR sewage. It’s player behavior that stretches rulings to new frontiers.

      The NFL is not choosing to respond, it HAS to respond by terms of the agreement. How it does so will be the subject of debate.

  • Paul Sherman

    It’s a travesty and shows what kind of morality the Seahawks subscribe to. I kind of like the idea of a big fine

  • WestCoastBias79

    Meh… If I can stomach Frank Clark, I can stomach a white collar criminal. It’s not like he’s Gregg Hardy or knocked his wife out in an elevator, and call me cynical, but half of our elected officials have probably done worse. Low bar? Sure.

    Also, I remember the last regime that put a premium on character. They had a lot of good guys losing games and a coach pining for dirtbags.

    • art thiel

      That’s a first — crediting Jim Mora for having high standards for pro player conduct.

  • rosetta_stoned

    It’s true that much of American civic life has deteriorated lately into a
    moral relativism, thanks in large part to a president who knows no
    bottom when it comes to ethical behavior.

    You just can’t help yourself, can you?

    Why it was all puppy dogs, rainbows and unicorn farts until that guy Trump brought us all down to his level.

    Weak sauce. Even for you.

    • art thiel

      I’ve been writing columns since Reagan’s second term. All presidents have been fair game for commentary, analogies, metaphors and jokes, by me and other sportswriters who understand sports and politics are part of pop culture, inseparable. The difference is Trump is the only one whose goal is debasement of the institution and the Constitution.

      • Bruce McDermott

        Bingo.

  • woofer

    Securities fraud is just white collar crime. Most NFL owners can surely empathize with this minor frailty, allowing the sweet milk of human forgiveness to gush forth. It’s not like the guy did something really horrible like kneel for the national anthem.