NFL

In the Midst of Its New Problem, the Pittsburgh Steelers Revive an Old Scourge of the NFL

The NFL cannot get out of its own way in 2020. First, the league was caught up in the Black Lives Matter and social justice issue before the season and COVID-19 outbreaks during it. Now, the NFL faces the glare of the domestic violence spotlight again following the arrest of Pittsburgh Steelers player Jarron Jones.

Police arrested Pittsburgh Steelers lineman Jarron Jones

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Police arrested offensive lineman Jarron Jones on Oct. 3 following an alleged domestic violence incident involving his girlfriend, who said the Pittsburgh Steelers practice squad player “smashed his Xbox console over her face, picked her up and threw her outside” at approximately 2 a.m., the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported.

The paper reported police found Jones’ girlfriend with bruises and abrasions. She was taken to a hospital for treatment, and Jones, 26, was taken to Allegheny County Jail on aggravated assault, simple assault, and strangulation charges, according to police records. Aggravated assault and strangulation are felonies.

The woman told police she lost consciousness at one point, according to the complaint. 

Jones, who was released without bail, told police the woman started “smashing objects” after a night out, prompting him to pick her up and put her outside.

“We are gathering all of the details of these disturbing allegations, but we will not comment any further at this time,” the Pittsburgh Steelers said in a statement.

Jones was a starting defensive lineman at Notre Dame who went undrafted and has bounced across the league on multiple practice squads the past four seasons after being converted to the offensive line. Jones, who also spent time in the XFL, has yet to make an NFL gameday roster. He joined the Steelers in April.

The NFL’s police blotter includes many domestic violence cases

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If it isn’t the league’s No. 1 public relations issue, then players showing up on police blotters across the country must rank near the top of ongoing NFL problems. The list of disorderly conduct and drug charges is lengthy, but domestic violence has been front and center in the eyes of the public since Feb. 15, 2014.

That was the day that Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice was arrested on a charge of knocking his wife unconscious at an Atlantic City, New Jersey, hotel. The initial league discipline – a two-game suspension – drew heavy criticism after video of the incident, which the league said was not made available, was leaked. Rice was subsequently hit with an indefinite suspension and then cut by the Ravens.

USA Today maintains a database of arrests of NFL players. Most recently, it shows five domestic violence arrests in 2017, four in 2018, and then six a year ago. There had been only one such arrest this year – Washington Football Team running back Derrius Guice – until the arrest this weekend of Pittsburgh Steelers lineman Jarron Jones.

However, the accusations against Jones come when the league is already dealing with additional substantial problems.

COVID-19 and Black Lives Matter have posed problems for the NFL

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The Washington Football Team dragged the NFL into a pair of messes this summer, including owner Daniel Snyder’s continued refusal to change the team nickname and mascot from the Redskins until the threat of losing corporate sponsorships became overwhelming. Meanwhile, the team continues to investigate allegations of sexual harassment and mistreatment of female employees and the team’s cheerleaders.

The death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police officers on May 25 brought social justice issues to the forefront in late spring and revived the controversy of NFL boycotts over player protests during the national anthem, an issue that the league first faced in 2017 and had hoped was in its rear-view mirror.

Before that, critics chastised the NFL for conducting business as usual in March and April by handing out hundreds of millions of dollars in new player contracts and holding its draft as scheduled while much of the country was heavily affected by shutdowns related to the coronavirus.

The league had to postpone two of its Week 4 games due to COVID-19 outbreaks hitting the Tennessee Titans, New England Patriots, and Kansas City Chiefs. The Titans’ situation threatens to disrupt future schedules as well.

NFL executives have to be hoping that the arrest of Pittsburgh Steelers lineman Jarron Jones on domestic violence charges is an outlier rather than the start of a new cycle of unacceptable developments.