Professional sports is a precarious occupation, especially for those of unspectacular talent. Besides the ever-present risk of injury, players are constantly fighting to hold onto roster spots against those of equal or better abilities.
So, it might not have been the ultimately false accusation of shoplifting that solely made Lucky Whitehead expendable to the Dallas Cowboys. Still, the timing of the wide receiver’s recent release — and some of the comments made by head coach Jason Garrett at the time — would suggest that he got a raw deal.
Virginia authorities have since acknowledged that it wasn’t Whitehead, but an imposter using Whitehead’s identity, who allegedly stole $40 worth of food and drink from a convenience store. Before all the facts were in, though, the Cowboys cut Whitehead, committing a rush to judgment that occurs not just in sports but throughout society. Although our system of criminal justice says the accused are presumed innocent until proven guilty, the opposite is what often happens in real life.
Interestingly, the Cowboys have been slower to react to accusations of off-the-field misbehavior by their star running back, Ezekiel Elliott. Obviously, you receive more patience from your bosses in the NFL if you lead the league in rushing yards.
Whitehead is now with a new team, the New York Jets. A fresh start might be good for him, but it won’t absolve the Cowboys of treating him unfairly.