Lately, the Buffalo Bills have epitomized the exact opposite, by attracting attention that has damaged their reputation and embarrassed the entire organization.
Star running back, Marshawn Lynch, was recently suspended three games by NFL Commissioner, Roger Goodell, for his second run-in with the law in less than a year. Lynch was arrested in mid February on felony charges for possession of a concealed firearm. He pleaded guilty to one count of misdemeanor charges and sentenced to three years’ probation and 80 hours of community service.
On New Year’s Day, safety Ko Simpson was arrested for disorderly conduct outside a bar in his hometown of Rock Hill, S.C.
Just this past weekend, the Bills received more troubling news; Star safety and captain, Donte Whitner was arrested early Saturday morning in his hometown of Cleveland, Ohio and later charged with aggravated disorderly conduct and resisting arrest during an incident outside of the House of Blues.
Whitner was at a birthday party, for former Ohio State Buckeye and current Miami Dolphins’ wide receiver, Ted Ginn Jr., when a “near riot” broke out. Whitner was being restrained by police when he began to “swing his arms violently and when he broke free, he took a fighting stance.” That is when police decided to subdue Whitner with a taser and place him under arrest.
This comes as a total shock—no pun intended—to the Bills and their fans, who looked at Whitner as a player with high character, and as a leader on and off the field. Whitner also plays an active role in the community, working with charitable organizations such as the United Way, teaching Western New York kids life lessons, fitness and nutrition.
Whitner was supposedly trying to help a cousin, who he thought was in danger. But even though all the facts haven’t been released, this is a huge blow to his reputation. Players should be responsible for making sure they’re not putting themselves in a position that is detrimental to their team, but that is exactly what Whitner did Saturday morning.
The Bills used to be a staple of high character for the league when guys like Jim Kelly, Mark Kelso and Darryl Talley led the Bills to four-straight AFC Championships. Hall of Fame coach, Marv Levy, was committed to building teams around these types of players.
At age 80, Levy returned in 2006 to act as General Manager and Vice President of football operations for the Bills. Again, he told the Bills’ community that he was committed to building a team around “character and intelligence.”
Levy’s first move as general manager was hiring Dick Jauron as the Bills new head coach—a coach that exemplifies high character and intelligence. That same year in 2006, Levy chose Whitner as the Bills first-round pick at eighth overall and the following year he chose Lynch at twelfth overall.
Now recent incidents have made both players the poster boys for a team who cannot seem to stay out of the negative spotlight.
And to think multiple media outlets went crazy when the Bills signed Terrell Owens last month—“Owens’ on the field antics and locker room distractions are going to tear this team apart!”—Bills fans would probably welcome that sort of distraction since off the field issues have continued to mount. Though Owens may still be the Bills most troublesome player on the field, he has never had trouble complying with the law.
It is rather disheartening for Bills fans to continue to watch their team’s reputation crumble right before their eyes. The only thing that they can hope for is that these incidents never occur again, but at this rate, it doesn’t appear to be the case.
Whitner’s actions are currently under review by the league. It is unknown whether or not he will be suspended. Whitner said he regrets the incidents.