SB Nation has had a bad year of having to delete blogs written by its various team sites for their insensitivity. Less than two weeks ago, the company fired the editor of its Utah Jazz site for making homophobic jokes.

Now, the network has hit a new low, as the company’s Dallas Cowboys site, Bloggin’ The Boys, posted an awful article that claims NFL players will be easy targets for blackmail if Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott is suspended due to a domestic violence allegation.

The post was deleted early Monday morning, but a cached version remains. The lowlights are very bad:

Which means that suspending Elliott based solely on an unprovable accusation sets a dangerous precedent that would set up every single NFL player as a blackmail target.

Even if the league suspends Elliott without pay for just one game, it effectively sets the market price for an unprovable accusation: at least one NFL game check.

[…]

You may think the threat of blackmail is far-fetched, but it is not.

  • In 2015, Patriots wide receiver Julian Edelman found himself photographed in a rather compromising position when a woman, identified only as Sabrina, posted a selfie on Tinder in bed with a sleeping Edelman (Deadspin has a screengrab). What if instead of bragging about the night with Edelman, she had made a DV-type accusation?
  • That same year, a 19-year old bragged on Tinder about having had sex with Odell Beckham. What if she had been looking for a big payday?
  • But NFL players aren’t just at risk from former bedmates. In 2012, Robert Griffin was blackmailed by Richard Hurd, the ex-boyfriend of Griffin’s fiancee. At the time, Hurd demanded $1 million or he would provide the media with information that would damage Griffin’s reputation. Griffin contacted the authorities, and Hurd was eventually arrested and sentenced to jail. If another player was faced with a similar situation today, and the blackmail threat included allegations of domestic violence, would that player still contact the authorities, or simply pay up?

Effectively, any acquaintance with a grudge – or with a need for cash – will be handed a weapon by the league in case of an Elliott suspension based on the DV allegation.

The article is entirely based on the idea that Elliott shouldn’t be suspended because the police never pressed charges. However, it ignores the fact that prosecutors often have their own interests in deciding not to pursue a case—like not wanting to take a case they feel is difficult to prove and would likely lose—and the fact that the burden of proof is, and should be, different for a criminal investigation and deciding whether to suspend someone from football games.

The story goes on to make absurd claims that it even says “you might think … [are] far-fetched.” It lists stories of players having publicized sexual encounters and then says “but what if those people wanted to get back at the players!?”

This is a common argument by men who are terrified of women, even though false claims of domestic violence and rape are extremely rare. You know how to not walk around terrified that someone’s going to try to use your relationship against you? Be responsible in your relationship and it won’t be an issue.

The article also offers an example of potential blackmail, against Robert Griffin III, that … didn’t work.

Unsurprisingly, “Bitches Be Crazy” isn’t a logical argument.

Even stranger is that the article wasn’t pulled until almost a day later, when it was discovered by prominent journalist Jessica Luther.

As Luther notes, there are ways to write responsibly about the NFL’s domestic violence policy, like Deadspin’s Diana Moskovitz has done, but this article was clearly written by someone who has no idea how to write about domestic violence, and was just using their own, unsubstantiated pre-existing thoughts on the subject to put together an illogical piece.

The writer, One.Cool.Customer, is still listed on the site’s masthead as an editor.

SB Nation will likely release a statement, as it has in the past, saying that the writer is a contractor and that the article did not meet their editorial standards. That’s generally how the company handles conduct issues by writers at its team sites, who are often unpaid or paid very little and have wide autonomy in editorial decisions.

However, as much as SB Nation tries to separate itself from these team sites, they’re still very much part of the company and making it a lot of money. That’s a problem, as sports media veteran Tomas Rios noted.

As these incidents pile up, SB Nation will need to rethink its editorial strategy. The current setup is great for the company’s business, but it’s also an easy way for lots of bad, and even harmful, pieces to be published.

About Kevin Trahan

Kevin mostly covers college football and college basketball, with an emphasis on NCAA issues and other legal issues in sports. He is also an incoming law student. He's written for SB Nation, USA Today, VICE Sports, The Guardian and The Wall Street Journal, among others. He is a graduate of Northwestern University.

  • Al

    I’m sure they’ll take a hard line just like they did last spring when they posted a human interest story about a convicted serial rapist and their editorial director is still running the show over there. They’re the worst kind of hypocrites.

  • sportsfan365

    The NFL shouldn’t be in the business handing down criminal judgements. It simply doesn’t have the legal authority to properly investigate these things. If it wants to clean things up every penalty should be the same – a mandatory 1 year suspension.

  • Reasonable Doubt

    Sorry, but this article is absolute trash resulting from regressive, illogical and, frankly, childish thinking. Jessica Luther is a bum and ought to be ashamed of herself — as do you, Mr. Kevin Trahan, for perpetuating such anti-logic. “Just because the prosecutor didn’t press charges doesn’t mean it didn’t happen” — Really??? That’s your supreme argument? Good luck with that one in court! If the NFL suspends Elliott I GUARANTEE he fights it in court and wins HANDILY. For the exact reason the original article gave: You simply can’t take away someone’s livelihood based on zero-proof, zero-corroboration *allegations*. Ever heard that term before, Kevin? Obviously, Ms. Luther remains ignorant to the concept.

    If Zeke did what was alleged, then he’s a bad person and he should feel bad. That doesn’t mean the NFL has a justification or imperative to cause harm to him. Why? Because they don’t KNOW the FACTS. If they can do their own investigation and come up with more than just the word of 1 person, or something that corroborates the idea that he actually DID break the NFL’s rules on domestic violence, or anything else, then they have a case to suspend him. If all they have is what the police had or what’s publicly available, Sorry, but in no case should he be suspended, for EXACTLY the reasons given in the removed article.

    This coming from Not a Cowboys Fan, Not an Ezekial Elliott “owner”, oh and by the way, I personally think he probably DID do it — That doesn’t mean I get to be Judge, Jury and Executioner. We live in a nation of laws, which the NFL is subject to just like the rest of us.