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Sometimes I get ScoreCenter alerts so unimportant they make me want to turn off push notifications, and other times they make me want to throw up. The notification I received on Saturday night about Jonathan Taylor was the latter. I like to think Outkick has made its stand against domestic violence and sexual assault pretty clear, if not with Clay’s recent articles on the disaster at Oklahoma, then with mine about the situation surrounding Jameis Winston. So why this January did I feel blindsided when my alma mater, Alabama, signed a JUCO transfer by the name of Jonathan Taylor?
It’s important to understand that Nick Saban’s track record of handling off-the-field issues has been pretty sterling. Why shouldn’t it be? He doesn’t need one particular athlete with Alabama’s talent reserves. However, at one of Saban’s infamous press conferences in January, he gave a lecture to the media about players deserving second chances and keeping them off of the streets, without directly naming Taylor. While his intentions are all well and good, when did it become Alabama’s job to rehabilitate known domestic abusers? It’s not, nor should it ever be.
Domestic violence and sexual assault are common and increasingly more visible issues in college football, but the consequences are clearly not severe enough. Players know they’ll be given “second chances” after “serving their time” for a year in JUCO. When will these programs draw a clear line between which incidents are worthy of a second chance and which ones are not? Choking a woman is not a “mistake” that I consider to be worthy of a second chance in the form of a scholarship to the best program in the country. Not only does this send the wrong message, but giving these athletes a second chance for this behavior endangers the women around them. If there’s anything I’ve learned from my personal experience, if they’ve done it before, they’ll most likely do it again.
Jonathan Taylor has an extensive rap sheet. He was first charged with theft by deception for double cashing school-issued financial aid checks, and then four months later, while still a part of the program at UGA, he was arrested for aggravated assault and family violence charges. He was immediately dismissed by Mark Richt, as he should have been. Taylor is 6’4″ and 340 pounds. The incident report said he struck his 5’10” 170-pound girlfriend with a closed fist. This is who Nick Saban thought he should bring into his program? You mean to tell me that the premier college football program in the country isn’t capable of finding a nose tackle who doesn’t have a rap sheet? Why did Alabama owe Jonathan Taylor a second chance? Why he was ever even considered? These questions need to be answered immediately.
At the time, there was plenty of speculation around Jonathan Taylor and the rumors of his transfer to Alabama. Many fans questioned if he would ever see a practice field at the University of Alabama. Would Athletic Director Bill Battle and University President Judy Bonner let a known woman-beater into their school? They did, and I was disgusted. Once the shock subsided this January, I decided that maybe he did deserve a second chance, that maybe those in charge had a perspective that I didn’t. Nobody wants to believe their University would value winning games over the safety of its female students, and that’s when the magnitude of the problem came full circle for me.
It doesn’t matter if Jonathan Taylor is convicted of choking his new girlfriend this Saturday in Tuscaloosa; the damage has been done. Nick Saban, Bill Battle, and Judy Bonner are just as guilty. They knew what this kid was capable of, and they brought him in and put him in the vicinity of thousands of potential new victims. When will winning football games mean less than a woman being raped or physically assaulted?
It took Jonathan Taylor just under three months to leave his unfortunate mark at the University of Alabama. Alabama fans should demand an explanation and a confirmation that players with domestic violence and sexual assault charges will not be offered second chances. They owe it to Saturday’s victim and all the female students, employees, and fans associated with the program. This is Alabama’s second chance to right a horrible wrong.