BY Art Thiel 06:00AM 08/22/2020

Thiel: Dunbar’s saga gets no help to put it to rest

Seahawks new CB Quinton Dunbar says his “name is cleared” of armed robbery charges. Maybe so, but he could have done better in the court of public opinion.

CB Quinton Dunbar says “the truth will come out.” / Rod Mar, Seattle Seahawks

It’s probably a bit unfair to ask Quinton Dunbar to give a full version of the strangest non-pandemic event in the Seattle sports year — two months after being acquired by via trade, the Seahawks conerback was arrested on four counts of felony robbery near his Miami hometown. Three months later, the prosecutors declined to press charges against Dunbar, even though the case continues.

But, hey, life is unfair. What’s up with that episode, Q?

“I can’t really comment on that situation, with the case still going on,” he said Friday on a Zoom call with local reporters. “So I can’t really speak on what happened.

“But the truth will eventually come out.”

C’mon, man. At least explain who those four dudes were that claimed you and Giants CB DeAndre Baker shook them down at gunpoint at a house party for cash and jewelry worth about $73,000. Were they friends, relatives, strangers, crooked cops, what?

“Honestly, I don’t know those guys,” he said. “Never met those guys the day before I encounter(ed) them,” he said Friday. “I pretty much don’t know nothin’ about these guys.

“At the end of the day, I’m good. My name’s cleared. That’s all that matters.”

Well, actually, no. That isn’t all that matters. And until there’s an explanation, your name in the court of public opinion isn’t cleared, for whatever that’s worth to a professional athlete, which I think counts for something.

It’s true that if Baker goes to trial in Broward County, Dunbar likely will be called as a witness. It’s also true that the NFL is looking into the case and could render a suspension even in the absence of official charges, per agreement with the players union.

“I mean, that’s definitely a possibility,” Dunbar said.

So yes, the fifth day of practice with the team is not yet a good time to fully explain the saga, rich with plot twists such as Dunbar’s first lawyer ending up being investigated by the Florida bar.

But he, and/or the people who care about him, like the Seahawks, needed to have provided something that mad him sound less like he’s hiding something. The story made national headlines for weeks, especially in New York, the NFL headquarters and the home of Baker’s team.

A better response doesn’t have to sound like lawyer-speak, just something a little more direct and humble than the awkwardness Friday, which brought little clarity for anyone.

It could have gone something like this:

Because the case is still on, I can’t speak to what happened May 13. Since the NFL is looking into it, a suspension is still possible. I  don’t feel like I should apologize because I didn’t do anything wrong. The charges were dropped.

Having said that, I regret having allowed myself to be put into a position to embarrass myself and my new team. I understand it’s a strange story and I hope someday to be able to tell it. Meantime, I’d like to ask my teammates, coaches and Seahawks fans to extend to me the benefit of the doubt, and allow me to prove I’m the person I say I am.

Asking for the benefit of the doubt after taking a bit of responsibility and expressing regret is a way to give himself room to do his job and his audience room to cut him some slack.

For most fans, that expression wouldn’t be hard to accept. A missed opportunity.

Meanwhile, it was plain from his description of the personal, not just legal, ordeal, that he had been scared spitless.

“I mean, a few months, when you are facing armed robbery, man, that carries (a) life (sentence) in Florida. I mean, really, that’s self-explanatory,” he said. “It’s just a hard pill to swallow.”

He grew up in Overtown, a hard place in Miami, played college ball at Florida in Gainesville, and was an undrafted free agent wide receiver who spent his first four NFL years mostly as a reserve learning to play defense in Washington before a breakout 2019 with 11 starts.

Until the Seahawks traded for SS Jamal Adams, Dunbar, 28, was considered the team’s top off-season acquisition. He was penciled in as a starter opposite CB Shaquill Griffin.

The arrest crushed him.

“I wasn’t even really worried about football at the time,” he said. “I was just worried about clearing my name . . . I was depressed. I didn’t really do anything, couldn’t eat.

“Growing up where I come from, man, it wasn’t nice . . . I felt like before that situation, (my life) spoke for itself. Never been to jail, never been in trouble, never (had an) encounter with the police from doing anything illegal. Now all of a sudden, when I make it this far, where everything I grew up wanting, and I just put it out there on the line for something silly like that?

“People going to believe what they want. I know who I am and what I stand for. That’s all that matters to me.”

That’s a good foundation, but the NFL is a place of intense scrutiny. To flourish, players have to play a game outside the game, which includes trusting few taking responsibility. He seems to get that now.

“I’ve just got to learn to protect my energy and protect my space,” he said. “You can’t be around to save or be around everybody, or try to make everybody happy. You’ve got to understand who you are and what you’ve worked hard for, and you’ve got to protect that.

“Because everybody don’t have great intentions.”

Especially in Florida.

One of my favorite writers, longtime columnist and novelist Carl Hiaasen, once said of his home state, “The Florida in my novels is not as seedy as the real Florida. It’s hard to stay ahead of the curve. Every time I write a scene that I think is the sickest thing I have ever dreamed up, it is surpassed by something that happens in real life.”

Perhaps Dunbar can meet up with Hiaasen. There’s somebody who could tell this story, adding a stripper, a trailer park and alligators. Unless that’s already part of things.

 


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YourThoughts

  • Alan Harrison

    Carl Hiaasen is one of my favorites as well. And if it weren’t for the ridiculousness of Florida, we wouldn’t have games like “Florida Man,” in which you speak an outlandish news story that begins with those two words and the group votes whether you’re telling the truth. As for Dunbar, he absolutely was in the wrong place at the wrong time, but he did put himself there. Interesting to see, if the league doles out a suspension and the season isn’t finished due to Covid-19, whether the suspension is re-doled in 2021.

    • art thiel

      I wonder whether the NFL will put in the investigative effort to independently unpack this bizarre tale. I don’t believe we’ll know whether the prosecutors quit on Dunbar’s role because of contradictory testimony, or because they are overwhelmed.

      Since there was no physical violence, just the threat, the NFL could get away with a shrug.

  • jafabian

    Dunbar doesn’t come across as very contrite and I imagine he’s been advised to say very little about what happened at this point. But he never should have put himself in this position in the first place. This is where having Tre Flowers is good. Dunbar can’t take his situation with the Hawks for granted.

    • art thiel

      I would guess that the lack of contrition comes from a genuine belief in his innocence, which is not the same as having made a mistake in judgment. Which is why I asked the question of him.

  • Bruce McDermott

    Art, Dunbar did exactly what he should have done–shut up on the facts until such time as he is called upon by the criminal system to testify under oath. Whatever “duty” some might think he owes to the “court of public opinion” is dwarfed by his personal interest in keeping his ass out of trouble. I remain puzzled why this is a difficult concept to grasp for journalists. I am not at all puzzled about why they WANT Dunbar to talk offhand in a video press conference about the details of his involvement in this case, nor am I puzzled by their disappointment when he doesn’t. But asking that question of him was an open invitation to a legally unsophisticated athlete to re-entangle himself further in a matter with serious criminal implications if he inadvertently incriminated himself again. I winced when he actually started answering it, then felt relief when he declined to go further.

    • art thiel

      We obviously come from different professional perspectives, Bruce. As an attorney, it’s your job to protect the client’s interests. It’s my job to inform. Our objectives typically clash. But not always. There is a third rail.

      That’s why I offered the example of a way for a high profile figure to address a complicated legal situation in a way that reflects well on him without further legal jeopardy. Nothing in the example creates a problem for him, and it’s simple enough for nearly every athlete to express without a problem.

      To tell a client to shut up is the easiest course, and it’s not wrong. For an agent/attorney/club to coach a small presentation for improved PR takes a little work. In my view, it’s a small portion of a billable hour that produces value.

      For high-profile people, the legal outcome is not the sole stakes.

      • Bruce McDermott

        Yes, Art. But the questions you asked him were very clearly designed to get him to talk about the facts, not to elicit a mea culpa of the sort you suggest. You didn’t ask him “do you have regrets about putting yourself in a dubious position that could hurt not only your reputation but also the Seahawks?” Instead, you asked him to relay his version of the facts, which if he had continued to answer it could certainly have involved legal risk to himself.

  • Husky73

    Your life is the result of your decisions, not your circumstances.

    • Bruce McDermott

      And yet your circumstances can profoundly affect your decisions. The line is not bright.

    • tor5

      Fundamental attribution error. Textbook definition.

      • art thiel

        I agree. So much of our lives are shaped by circumstances before we reach the age of intellectual discretion.

        • Husky73

          If that was the case, then people would not rise above their circumstances. We would have never heard of (or benefited from) Helen Keller, Jackie Robinson or the millions of college graduates who grew up in poverty, violence and discrimination. Life is choices.

          • BD

            Circumstances can drive decisions. And when you are young and don’t have much say in the circumstances you are subjected to, and don’t have much life experience, then there should be some forgiveness for the decisions you felt you had to make. But when you are a fully grown man and a multi-millionaire and you have agents and lawyers and an entire team at your disposal to help you make good decisions and you choose to put yourself in less than ideal circumstances (like gamble illegally in a Florida mansion with cheats, crooks and grifters)…then it becomes all about the choice because you created the circumstance.

          • Husky73

            Truth well told. You must take responsibility for your choices.

          • tor5

            Of course we should. But when it’s ME who does something wrong, all I see are the circumstances that led up to it. When YOU do the exact same thing, all I see is a personal failure. We all make this attribution error. It’s fundamental and should get more recognition as a primary component of human psychology.

          • BD

            I believe you are touching on the concept of perspective. The movie classic “Rashomon” covers this pretty good (if you don’t like subtitles, there’s an American made remake with a young Paul Newman playing the bandit role…I can’t remember the name… Rashomon is better). And I agree with you. Perspective is fundamental and a primary component of human psychology and if we all understood it better and grasped perspective’s pitfalls we would probably all get along better. Empathy is the act of trying to understand another human beings perspective. But if you can only see things through the lens of your own perspective and blame others for the choices you make, you are doomed to live a life in constant victimhood.

            Current case in football point, Earl Thomas.

          • Bruce McDermott

            Of course. But those choices can be much, much harder to make depending on the circumstances in which they are made. This should not be controversial. The fact that some people can make good choices even in the face of bad circumstances does not disrupt the obvious connection between circumstances and choices. In Dunbar’s case, though, we could reasonably have hoped for or even expected better choices, that’s for sure.

          • BD

            (warning*…a bit of pomposity coming…)

            The concept of making good choices under difficult circumstances has been around for some time. John Steinbeck wrote about it in 1952 in his allegorical “East Of Eden”. As Steinbeck tells it, when God cast Cain East of Eden for killing his brother Abel, he marked him and left him with the word “timshel”. Apparently a Hebrew word meaning, “thou mayest”…giving all of humanity the free will to make choices for themselves, with the understanding that choices have consequences, both good and bad. Like, if you decide to kill your brother, you can’t live in Eden anymore and you get a big tattoo on your forehead so everybody knows what you did.

            Knowledge, integrity and courage drive the choice, not the circumstance. All of us face difficult circumstances somewhere along our path and it’s understanding the moment and the active integrity that dictates what we choose to do in that moment and the courage to act accordingly. We learn and grow into better people by acknowledging our poor choices, taking ownership of them, asking for forgiveness from ourselves and others and trying to be stronger and wiser at the next opportunity. Life is about growth and there will always be a next time. The choices we make under those circumstances tend to dictate how painful the growth along our traveled path.

            Timshel

          • Husky73

            Some things are not grey. Some things do not require a dissertation. Some things are black and white. Some things are simply right or wrong. In truth, successfully navigating life is complex only because we often create the complexities.

      • Husky73

        Textbook definition of choice making— Bruce Irvin then and Bruce Irvin now.

  • tor5

    I too am very curious and want Dunbar to say more, though I enjoy a good mystery. The circumstances of the event are shady for sure, but don’t see any basis to make any judgment about Dunbar at this point. He could still emerge as a perpetrator or victim. Either are plausible. But you’re right, Art, only in Florida…

    • art thiel

      I’m certainly willing to hold off judgment until we learn more. As I wrote, it was an opportunity lost.

  • Art, I am rather certain the second graph of your deftly crafted “statement” on behalf of Dunbar will be lifted/plagiarized at least once in the next year by an attorney, agent or flak. Perhaps as part of another report involving police with a headline that includes “Florida man …”

    • art thiel

      If we can introduce more candor and integrity into the discussion of athletes’ behaviors, I’m happy to be ripped off.

      • Tman

        No need to be ripped off. Make sure you get royalties when they use it in the remake of “Durham Bulls”

  • Stephen Pitell

    Your life is a result of your decisions and circumstances, many of which are out of your control.

    He is not out of jeopardy, so total silence is his only smart choice. Facing life in prison is no joke. Especially not when the prosecutor in this case has already demonstrated his unprofessional zeal.

    • art thiel

      See my response to Bruce below.

  • Tman

    and Florida decides our elections.
    Did all this happen in Broward County?

    • art thiel

      Yes. America’s House of Slytherin.

  • 1coolguy

    HOLY SMOKES!!! BIG NEWS!!!

    11:37am: The Ravens have released Thomas, the team announced. The wording of the announcement suggests that Baltimore will indeed attempt to void his $10MM guaranteed salary for 2020 for conduct detrimental to the team.

    So ET the LIP did himself in all by himself. Good riddance to a remarkably talented football player. Dallas has said they are not interested. As he made the Pro Bowl last year, he was playing well, so his mouth must have gotten him out over his skiis, yet again.
    ART: What say you?

    https://www.espn.com/nfl/story/_/id/29723620/sources-ravens-cut-trade-earl-thomas-dispute