Patriots Blog

Media rushes to judge Patriots and shame Floyd

Wednesday, November 12, 2008
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — The ritual shaming of Michael Floyd consisted mostly of a single question spinning through a week’s worth of news cycles.
After the Patriots claimed the former first-round wide receiver — cut by the Cardinals on Dec. 14 following an arrest for drunk driving — Boston media spent a good, hard week peppering various members of the Patriots organization with modest variations on the same question: Did the Pats know Floyd had another DUI in college? Had they seen a TMZ video of Floyd’s arrest? Did they know his blood-alcohol level exceeded .20, which could expose Floyd to a 45-day jail sentence? And so on.
All of these questions were attempting to get at the same general idea: Is a history of drunk driving arrests an absolute entry barrier to joining the Patriots roster? Obviously, the questions had been answered before they were asked. Floyd was already on the roster. And as each new piece of information became available, Floyd remained on the roster.
The shaming continued on Thursday in the Patriots locker room when Floyd first made himself available to the press. Standing at his locker with an uncanny degree of comfort and poise, Floyd greeted a horde of reporters as they spun around to deal with his sudden and unexpected availability.
“Is this what it’s like to be a Patriot?” Floyd said with a smile.
His disarming statement and charming demeanor neither disarmed nor charmed anyone. Floyd’s comfort dwindled, though his poise remained admirable. He tried to give the media honest contrition without further incriminating himself. A brief summarization of the questions: Having made this “mistake” before, how can we be assured Floyd won’t make it again? Can Floyd promise he won’t do it again? Why would he drive in that condition?
If Floyd had the answers to any of these questions, he’d still be in Arizona. What he is accused of doing is dangerous, criminal and irresponsible. It is not what any right-thinking person would do in their right mind. He endangered the lives of himself and others. Floyd appeared like a person who is failing to understand the part of himself that allowed this to happen. He may as well have been asking the questions.
Drunk driving is an unmistakably, very bad, horrible thing and the media does have an obligation to inquire about the details of the circumstances that brought Floyd from Phoenix to Foxborough. That said, there has been a familiar implication to these questions and the opinion pieces that have grown out of them. It doesn’t seem to sit right with the media that Floyd’s arrest resulted in him moving from the Cardinals, a losing team, to the Patriots, a presumptive Super Bowl contender.
The media can’t quite reconcile the idea that Floyd is not suffering the interminable purgatory of unemployment or the interminable hell of playing for the Cleveland Browns. In their eyes, he does not deserve a shot at glory. Hence, Floyd has been held up for shame and ridicule. The Patriots have been portrayed as ruthless savages who would overlook any societal infraction to gain an edge. Meanwhile, the press has laid the groundwork for one of two eventual narratives: The narrative of Floyd’s redemption if he succeeds, and that of the Pats courting karmic justice if he fails.
It seems that the media want Floyd to suffer an extra-judicial punishment. He will, at some point, face the law in Arizona. He will also face league-mandated discipline from the NFL. His employment status exists as a wholly separate thing from the law and the league until those punishments are dolled out. But that’s somehow not good enough. The perception is that Floyd should also lose his livelihood until we all get sick of hating him.
Consider this: Non-public figures who are arrested for DUI, including those who are arrested multiple times, go back to work the next day and no one knows. A lot of them plead to a lesser charge, allowing them to avoid jail time and in some cases permitting them to drive to their jobs. Floyd is already a special case who will suffer public embarrassment and professional ramifications. But our cultural climate currently leads toward the idea that wrongdoing must be met with shaming and shunning.
There is no doubt that the Patriots claimed Floyd because they believe he can make this team better. He’s 6-foot-2, 220 pounds, and was drafted in the first round out of Notre Dame. The guy can play. But don’t get lost in the idea that the Pats’ selfishness harms society. Of course, Floyd could be in rehab right now, making himself better. He could also be stewing, alone and unemployed, making himself worse.
Instead, he’s here. He’s playing football. He’s trying to prove he’s a good person. We can’t yet know whether the Patriots did the right thing for Floyd. We’ll have to see what happens. Until then, judgment would best be reserved.
Dave Brown is a freelance correspondent who covers the Patriots for the Monitor. You can follow him on Twitter @ThatDaveBrown.