Richard Sherman is innocent: Process over results

Christian Petersen

Do you think Richard Sherman is still guilty of being a PED user because he beat the NFL on a "technicality?" Robert Wheel explains why Richard Sherman deserves a clear name.

Back in November many people were shocked when they found out that the NCAA was telling University of Miami players that they were guilty until proven innocent, and I pointed out that resulted from a culture that denied players due process. I also pointed out that, unlike the NCAA, the NFL had a collective bargaining agreement with its players that allowed them to appeal heavy-handed decisions.

And if there's a heavy hand whose decisions need appealing, it's Roger Goodell's. His predecessor's rebuke of his botching of the Saints bounty scandal shows just how reckless with the truth Goodell can be in his pursuit of defending the league's image. Goodell doesn't care about the individual rights of players when they stand in the way of the owners' objectives (usually, avoiding litigation). If Goodell were Mark Emmert and didn't have a pesky CBA to deal with there's no telling how far he would go.

Thankfully players do have a CBA and a powerful players union headed by DeMaurice Smith. And that CBA provides for a process in appealing heavy-handed decisions by the league's front office. So when Richard Sherman won his appeal of a threatened PED suspension it was a victory for the NFLPA because it evinced that the procedures that they advocated for are effective. Slapdash handling of a urine test that could jeopardize a player's season shouldn't be taken lightly.

This is also a victory for anyone who values process over results. For those unfamiliar with this line of reasoning, you should value the procedures taken to arrive at a decision more than the actual outcome of the decision itself, as the procedures can be replicated over time but the outcome is subject to outside forces and chance. Valuing process means you will be right more often in the long run. Valuing results means you're more likely to fall on your face.

The NCAA is an example of an organization that values results over procedures; if it wants to make the a perceived enemy look bad then it will stoop to any low, no matter what the negative consequences may be. The NFL PED testing regime is the opposite; it seeks to ensure that outcomes are fair so there are strict guidelines in place for the program. Nobody's rights are prejudiced and the program catches offenders most of the time.

So it's idiotic to complain that Sherman got off on a "technicality." He was found innocent because the NFL did not adhere to the appropriately rigorous procedures that it implemented. If you think that improper handling of evidence shouldn't taint the outcome of an adjudication then I invite you to peruse the files of the Innocence Project for counterexamples (under much weightier circumstances).

Instead of being angry that Richard Sherman can play for the Seahawks in the postseason, be glad that there's a process that checks Roger Goodell's power. After all, do we really want the NFL to resemble the NCAA?

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