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An Alternate Response towards Matt Patricia

Earlier this month, news outlets in Detroit uncovered that newly hired Lion’s head coach Matt Patricia was arrested for sexual assault back in 1996. Patricia never stood trail as the charges were dropped. But there was enough evidence for a grand jury to indict Patricia and a friend for the assault.

USAToday commentary ripped Patricia apart, saying he was either foolish to presume this allegation would never come to light, or arrogant for not disclosing it. In the light of the #MeToo movement and the downfall of so many due to their choices and subsequent uses of power to cover up their actions, or silence their victims, this attitude might not seem out of line or even cavalier.

But what if there is a third option: it doesn’t matter anymore?

Let me insert the mandatory: I am a staunch supporter of women and women’s rights and feel there needs to be more space for those victimized to come forward. I also think we need to believe victims based on their word without the corroboration of a second (or sixth) victim or letting our perception of the accused get in our way.

I am also not a Patriots fan (in case you want to say I’m giving Patricia extra leeway in my mind). Not. At. All.

The allegations against Patricia were uncovered by the Detroit press. The woman he allegedly assaulted didn’t come forward to share her story. In fact, as far as I know, her identity has not been made known and should not be without her consent. 

At a press conference, on May 10th Patricia said:

“I lived with the mental torture of the situation where facts can be completely ignored or misrepresented with disregard to the consequence and pain that it would create for another person. I find it unfair and upsetting that someone would bring this claim up over two decades later for the sole purpose of hurting my family, my friends and this organization with the intention of trying to damage my character and credibility.”

22 years after the incident – this might not be that far from accurate.

One aspect of the #MeToo movement that I have been uncomfortable with is putting all these men under one umbrella. To me, there is a difference between someone who did something stupid as a young man and has seemingly learned from it, and someone who is a serial perpetrator or who has continued to harass and hurt his victims and does not seem at all remorseful for what he did.

As of this posting, there have been no further allegations levied against Patricia. Patricia continues to deny the charges. Former coach Bill Belichick said Patricia was a man of integrity. Patricia served with the Patriots for 14 years without the incident coming to light. And even if it had, is it really a reason to fire him?

How long are we supposed to pay for the sins of our past? How does true contrition and growth from our mistakes play into a situation? Why would one night during college define someone’s entire life?

Let me take a moment to say that I don’t think those who are serial harassers, or who have used their gender or position to protect their secrets should be allowed back into the limelight or positions of power without some serious accountability and visible heart-change around their actions.

But I do not think people are above changing and being given a second chance. And at some point, people have paid their penance, or the wheels of justice have played out, and the court of public opinion needs to get over it.

  • That does not mean we let a serial pedophile serve around children again.
  • That does not mean we reward someone who has several sexual harassment allegations against them back into million dollar TV or endorsement deals.
  • That does not mean we let someone who has been accused of rape and assault by multiple women continue to record albums or find representation.

But none of those statements fit Patricia. At this point all we have is one bad choice. A bad choice the person he hurt was fine not bringing up. We don’t know why that is. It could be forgiveness. It could be it doesn’t matter anymore. Or she also could never have processes what happened and chose not to testify out of fear or shame. Or maybe nothing happened.

We just don’t know. But the idea that one night should define a man’s life is illogical when it seems as though Patricia has chosen to live his life differently from that time. Maybe being arrested was the wake-up call he needed. Maybe it was the line in the sand and he has walked as far from it as he can.

I write all of this cautiously and with a very fine brush. I am looking at one incident. At oneman. At one life. I am fully cosignant of the woman and how that night shaped her life. I am fully aware that for her one night changed her life and I write all of this with that in mind.

But I also believe in redemption and second chances and that we know people by the impact of their lives. To say that Patricia should be fired for a 22 year old choice, when his life has seemingly pointed in the other direction, is absurd. He is not Harvey Weinstein and that has to count for something.

Also, how comfortable are you with every choice you have ever made? Is there anything you’ve done that you are so grateful to be done with and only hope people will see you are not that person anymore?

I do not want my mistakes haunting my future. I have spent my life atoning for them and striving to life differently. I really hope they don’t hang me at the moment of my greatest achievement. I really hope some noisy reporter (remember we still don’t have a statement from the victim) and some entitled columnist don’t have enough power to undo what I have spent my career striving to achieve.

Do our actions and choices sometime derail all we have worked for? Yes.

Does that need to happen here? No.

And it is vital that as this movement towards accountability moves forward that this very fine line is brought into clearer focus.

(I fully welcome comments and dialogue on this topic. I am still wrestling with the nuances myself. But keep it respectful and not directed at me – there are proper ways to share your opinion.)

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