Just days before Super Bowl 50, domestic violence is once again in the NFL spotlight due to another round of disturbing allegations against lame-duck Cleveland quarterback Johnny Manziel.
Manziel’s ex-girlfriend Colleen Crowley told police that Manziel “told her ‘shut up or I’ll kill us both’ after forcing her into a car, hitting her, and dragging her by the hair,” according to a report by WFAA in Dallas on Thursday. Initial reports of the incident, which occurred last Friday, surfaced on Saturday.
Dallas and Fort Worth police have both declined to press charges, citing a lack of cooperation by Crowley as one of the reasons, but according to WFAA, she is “afraid for her safety and has drafted an order of protection to be presented to a Tarrant County district court judge.” Manziel has denied the claims to TMZ. However, the reported details paint a horrifying picture:
Sources say while in his hotel room, the two of them argued over another girl. Crowley told police she tried to leave the room, but that Manziel wouldn’t let her.
Crowley told police Manziel “restrained” in some manner and “led” her down a back stairway to the valet area.
“I was crying and begged the valet, ‘Please don’t let him take me. I’m scared for my life!'” she told police. The valet reportedly told her, “I don’t know what to do” and let Manziel leave with her.
Sources say Manziel then drove her about a half-mile to her car, which was parked near the Concrete Cowboy bar off Cedar Springs Road. She claims she jumped out of the car and tried to hide from Manziel, but he found her in some nearby bushes.
“He grabbed me by my hair and threw me back into the car and got back in himself,” she reportedly told police. “He hit me with his open hand on my left ear for jumping out of the car. I realized immediately that I could not hear out of that ear, and I still cannot today, two days later.”
If this sounds familiar, well, that’s because it is. Last October in Ohio, the police were called to the scene of a roadside fight between Manziel and Crowley. In that case, Crowley told officers that Manziel “pushed her head against the glass of the car” and “hit her a couple of times in the car.” She could also be overheard on dash-cam footage saying she was “in fear for my life.” There were photos of fresh abrasions on Crowley’s arm, but police said it couldn’t be determined whether Manziel did this to “knowingly cause physical harm to her” or if it was Manziel trying to keep her “safe from exiting the vehicle.” Police closed the investigation at the scene and Crowley left with Manziel.
The NFL investigated the incident in October and cleared Manziel because there was “insufficient basis on which to take disciplinary action.”
In the fall of 2014, after the video of Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice knocking out his fiance in the Atlantic City casino elevator was released to the public, the NFL revamped its domestic violence policies and committed millions of dollars to helping victims and raising awareness of the issue. Among the revamped policies, the league established a protocol for independent investigations of domestic violence and sexual assault allegations, since law enforcement does not always do an adequate job handling these issues.
READ MORE: After Ray Rice, The NFL Pledged Millions To Fight Domestic Violence. Here’s How The Money Was Spent.
Over the past two years, the league has continuously touted initiatives to educate players and teams about domestic violence, but the rhetoric used to describe Manziel’s alleged abusive behavior by some associated with the league is concerning. Last October in Cleveland, there were reports that the Browns were concerned about the “sometimes turbulent nature” of the relationship between Manziel and Crowley, and were hoping they would break up.
This week, Hall of Famer Deion Sanders, who is employed by the league-owned NFL Network, echoed that victim-blaming conceit when he told reporters that Crowley was Manziel’s biggest problem.
“Because he feels as though this game don’t love him, the people in this game don’t love him, so the only thing that he associates with love is that thing that’s really inflicting a lot of pain on him and that’s his girlfriend,” Sanders said. “His last two issues have been with her. Take away that and what you got?”
Spreading the message that a woman is responsible for the domestic violence she provokes is dangerous and down-right inexcusable. Plus, it’s clear that Manziel has issues that go far beyond Crowley. On Friday, his long-time agent announced that he had dropped Manziel as a client, stating that “it has become painfully obvious that his future rests solely in his own hands.”
Manziel’s father told reporters in Dallas on Friday that his son had declined to enter rehab twice in the past two weeks. “I truly believe if they can’t get him help, he won’t live to see his 24th birthday,” he said.
This Sunday, right before the start of the third quarter, the NFL will air a PSA from No More, a public awareness campaign designed to engage bystanders around ending domestic violence and sexual assault. This particular ad is about how to recognize when a friend might be in danger. “Jake is in one of his moods. I should prob not go out,” one girl texts. “Again?” her friend asks. According to Finn Partners, the PR firm behind No More, the NFL donated the air time and paid for production costs — a continuation of a partnership that began after the Ray Rice video.
Unfortunately, up until this point at least, nobody in the NFL has said “no more” to Manziel, and the former Texas A&M star has continued to harm both himself and Crowley.
After the incident last October, the Browns actually promoted Manziel to starting quarterback. He but was then benched weeks later when pictures emerged of the 23-year-old partying during his bye weekend. Manziel went to rehab last year for what was reportedly a substance abuse issue. He was caught partying a few other times during the season, but only sat out a few games before being named starter once again.
However, it’s now being reported that Cleveland will release him from his contract in March, when the new NFL year officially begins. But there are rumors that the Dallas Cowboys, an organization that gave alleged domestic abuser Greg Hardy a second chance, are interested in the 2013 first-round draft pick. The NFL has stated that it is aware of the most recent allegations, and is conducting its own investigation.
On Friday, a Texas judge ordered a protective order requiring Manziel to stay at least 500 feet away from Crowley's home and workplace for the next two years. The judge said "there's reason to believe family violence occurred."
WFAA is reporting that Crowley has now given a statement to the Dallas PD and wants the district attorney to press charges.
The Dallas PD subsequently announced that it is opening an investigation into the incident last weekend.