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Johnny Manziel Isn’t A Joke To The Woman He’s Accused Of Beating Up

Football fans have had their fun with the struggling quarterback, but it’s time for the conversation to shift.

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Cleveland Browns quarterback Johnny Manziel talks with the media at the NFL football team's training camp, Monday, Dec. 29, 2014, in Berea, Ohio. Along with key injuries and late-game collapses, the Browns' seventh straight losing season was undermined by the antics of wide receiver Josh Gordon, Manziel and cornerback Justin Gilbert. Owner Jimmy Haslam promised the organization will weed out any problem players. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak)

Johnny Manziel hasn’t been taken seriously in a long time. He’s arrogant, he doesn’t appear to work hard, he still goes by his college nickname, and he wears silly disguises on trips to Vegas. He couldn’t beat out Josh McCown for the starting job in Cleveland, and his first start—yow! If you’re into schadenfreude, watching him slide down the boards of seemingly every NFL team during the draft was hilarious. He got picked by the Browns because a homeless guy told the owner to draft him! All of this has made him an easy punchline over his brief NFL career. Even when he checked himself into rehab, the reaction was mostly jokes.

It’s time to stop laughing about Johnny Manziel now, though. Because the fact that we’ve all agreed to treat him like a joke also means that we haven’t been taking it seriously when he’s been accused of serious crimes.

When Manziel was stopped by police in October, the officer at the scene wrote in his report that Manziel’s girlfriend, Colleen Crowley, told him Manziel “hit me a couple times” and slammed her head into the window of the car they were in. Crowley later recanted the statements, and commenters online jumped to defend the quarterback, blame the girlfriend, and toss it up to more Johnny Football hijinks.

That was a strange response to accusations of domestic violence considering how the public reacted to Ray Rice, Greg Hardy, and Adrian Peterson. There are mitigating circumstances in each of those cases, of course: There was video of Rice’s assault on his then-fiancée; Peterson was convicted of hitting his child; Hardy’s victim, though she didn’t show up in court to testify, never spoke to press to claim that everything was all right. But the incidents involving Manziel didn’t reflect a league or a fan base that took the accusations particularly seriously. Instead, they reflected a league that didn’t care much, and a fan base that was at least as committed to making jokes about what a mess Johnny Football was as it was considering the accusations against him.

When he was accused of assaulting Crowley again, this time in Fort Worth, the reaction was similar. ABC News described the allegations against him as “antics,” framing the domestic violence accusations alongside his “rampant partying” and his “general lack of commitment.”

Crowley, meanwhile, described them more seriously. In applying for a restraining order (which she was granted), she told the court that Manziel was “likely to commit family violence against me if a protective order is not granted.”

It’s not uncommon for victims of domestic violence to recant their statements. Although we don’t know all of the details about what happened between Manziel and Crowley in Fort Worth, her statements since then haven’t indicated that she intended to walk anything back this time.

The full police affidavit was released this week, and it paints an ugly and frightening picture of Manziel that has no place alongside jokes about him wearing a fake mustache in Las Vegas. As Deadspin reports:

After the two got back to Crowley’s Fort Worth apartment, Crowley said, the fight continued but was “more verbal than physical.” Manziel smashed Crowley’s phone on the tile, so she grabbed her computer to try and FaceTime her parents. Manziel, who had been pacing outside, returned and asked if she had tried to FaceTime. She said no, but he went over and saw her computer.

“I was in my kitchen so out of fear for my life, I pulled a knife out of my knife block and advanced toward him,” Crowley said. “He ran out of the apartment. I threw the knife down and followed behind him to make sure he had gone.”

Manziel was still in the parking lot, so she banged on her neighbor’s door. When an upstairs neighbor asked if she needed help, she screamed, “Yes!” That’s when Manziel ran away.

The report is full of details that depict Manziel as someone who Crowley clearly felt unsafe around. She describes being forced into her car by Manziel, and jumping out as he parked to hide in bushes—only to be grabbed by the hair and struck in the ear, which she says ruptured her eardrum.

Those aren’t “antics,” and the charges against Manziel don’t belong in the same context as his partying and on-field struggles. It’s possible that we’ll learn more about the incident that changes our understanding of the events that occurred, but when the accusations are as serious as they are right now, the idea that this is all just part of a pattern of poor decision-making or immaturity lets Manziel off the hook too easily.

That all ties into the frame we use to talk about him. When Manziel’s father goes to ESPN to say that he’s worried that his son will be dead by 24 if he doesn’t get help, he’s also helping him avoid responsibility for his actions—the perpetrator isn’t Manziel, it’s his addiction; and the victim isn’t Crowley, it’s Manziel himself. It’s worth acknowledging that addiction isn’t always in a person’s control, but it’s also important that we don’t talk about Manziel like he was forced to act against his will when the alleged incident with Crowley occurred.

Ultimately, there are plenty of reasons why it’s easy to frame the accusations against Manziel to make them seem less serious than the ones against Rice, Hardy, or Peterson. Manziel’s play in the NFL suggests that he’s unlikely to have a particularly long career, and the “antics” he’s been up to make it easy to treat behavior as terrifying as Crowley describes it as part of a pattern of immaturity. And not to put too fine a point on it, but he’s a white quarterback who’s relatively small in stature, which makes him seem inherently less threatening to a culture that considers black men built like Hardy or Peterson to be menacing just by virtue of their existence. But taking the accusations against Manziel as seriously as the accusations against those men—or any other domestic abuser—needs to be considered the next stage in getting him help: You can’t expect someone to take responsibility if you won’t hold him accountable.

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  • Dirty_Martini

    OK, girls, you know who to avoid now!

    • Anonymous Account

      “He can’t harm women in the future, he has too much at stake”? This is kind of a funny way of putting it. I think the women have more at stake than he does.

  • Kay Kimbrough McKinney

    It’s not a joke when a person is an alcoholic and is out of control. He had been this way for a long time but people let it slide because,he was somI e kind of football phenom. Now he is an adult and he can do what he pleases and he continues to make bad choices. He was too young to go into pro ball and he can’t handle it or himself. Very predictable. And it’s a real shame.

  • Bren

    I hate hate hate this. Johnny, stop letting Satan win. You are allowing him to destroy you through alcohol and violence. Get him out of your head and get some serious rehab. We love you and want you back.

  • What I find amazing is how people jump to conclusions when it comes to Manziel. In this instance, everyone seems to assume he was drinking when it was actually Crowley who had been to a restaurant and at least four clubs by the time she arrived at his hotel room at almost 2 AM. In her statement she says that he was not with them but they had been texting back and forth. She also says they got into an argument. She does not say he beat her up. She says he threw her back into her car by her hair after she ran out of the car and hid. She doesn’t mention it in her statement, but she told Fort Worth police that he didn’t want her to drive home because she was intoxicated. (In their report, they said she was intoxicated.) Did she actually get a protective order? Remember that someone (her attorney) has been feeding info to the media. The Texas code is clear that protective orders may only be issued after a hearing at which the respondent is allowed to dispute the claim. Judges may grant a temporary order good for 20 days. If she got an order, it was a temporary order unless there has been a private hearing or Manziel agreed to it. Does she have a ruptured eardrum? Once again, this came from her and her attorney. No medical report has been made public. For that matter, ear drums can be ruptured by loud noices and a number of other things, including a slap. She says he slapped her left ear “with his open hand.” She also says it was after he got her back in the car. Compare her statement to the FWPD informational release – they don’t jive. She did not tell the FWPD about the knife (I wonder why.) Her account doesn’t square exactly with the 911 call either. Remember that an investigation has already been conducted and the case closed. It was reopened not because of new evidence but because she got a lawyer and went to the Dallas DA’s domestic violence office and filed a complaint. Unless the DPD uncovers some kind of evidence to support her allegations, they’re not going to file charges. Remember that allegations are just that, and that there are two sides for every story. (Why is the author quoting Deadspin? Talk to people in Dallas, not some pseudo-news Internet site!)

    • After I posted this, I came up with the protective order. Apparently Manziel (or his attorney) appeared along with Crowley and agreed to the order, which says it is in the best interest of both parties. It’s possible that only his lawyer was there. The signatures are on two different pieces of paper. There’s no doubt that violence occurred, including Crowley threatening Manziel with a knife and hitting him repeatedly while he was driving her to her home.

  • TxGal85

    None of know all of the facts about what has happened between JM and Ms Crowley, but it’s obvious that this is a very TOXIC relationship and one that cannot continue. As an old Ag it is really sad to see JM self-destruct and torpedo his NFL career. Whatever the reasons for his erratic behavior, there are NO excuses. JM is in denial of his real problems, and he is taking his frustration out on others as well as himself.
    I have to say that Ms. Crowley appears to be a heavy party animal herself. She seems to like all the attention, with or without JM, no shortage of all kinds of selfies of her on the web.
    I have also read conflicting accounts of her statements. Too bad that JM didn’t find a different girlfriend after he went into rehab, someone who likes to stay sober and isn’t into blatant self-promotion. Coming out of rehab and staying on the straight and narrow is hard for any addict, much less with a binge-drinking, hard-partying sorority girlfriend. What is she majoring in ??? I think we’ll hear more facts soon re. events between this party couple.
    Hope that JM can somehow get his head on straight and realize before it’s too late that he’s throwing away NFL football for a bottle, and a bleach-blonde party girl !!!