The real issue isn’t whether Adam Jones, the notorious Pacman, should have been ejected from the game and suspended by the NFL. The real issue is whether he should be wearing a much longer number in jail, a place he has visited before in his troubled life. First, he tore the helmet off the head of Raiders rookie Amari Cooper, who was flat on his back Sunday in the Coliseum grass. Then, he used force to slam Cooper’s head against the helmet.
This was assault with a weapon. This was street violence on a football field. This was the in-game version of the behaviorial turmoil that continues to be the league’s biggest crisis. This also could have caused a serious head injury, a direct affront to the league’s anti-concussion crusade. On so many levels, Jones’ actions were so very wrong. And yet shockingly, unforgivingly, the three officials who stood only a few feet away, watching the entire incident, did not point him to the locker room. Rather, they flagged him for a mere personal foul, setting the tone for an under-adjudicated case in the league office.
All Pacman got for his public mugging was a $35,000 fine, with no suspension. Naturally, he will appeal. “It’s way too much — $35,000 is a lot of money for a guy out playing football,” Jones said Wednesday. “I’ll appeal, and if it gets appealed, hey, [good]. If it doesn’t, I guess I donated to somebody’s college fund this year.”
He also said he won’t be changing his style of play, though it has led to a long trail of suspensions during a career that somehow continues with the Cincinnati Bengals. “Everybody is trying to make something way bigger than what it is, but it’s always going to be magnified when I do it, too,” Jones whined. “I’m prepared for it. I’ve got thick skin. I’ll be through this.
“I can’t promise it won’t happen again. I’m an emotional player.”
His callous reaction alone should prompt NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, who is gun-shy about suspensions early this season as he deals with a five-case losing streak as a judicial doofus, to reverse field and ban Jones. If Goodell can’t see what’s disturbing and disgraceful about ramming Cooper’s skull against a hard object, then why have a commissioner — a question we’ve been asking for, what, two years now? The Raiders, who once participated in this hooliganism on a weekly basis, were incensed. “It was clearly way over the line,” coach Jack Del Rio said. “I really don’t know how that was missed. There seemed to be enough eyes on the situation.”
When we watch professional football, we know what we’re signing up for: A savage game of men beating up one another. But when the line is crossed into goonery, and the episode is replayed day and night on television and in social media, it becomes the commissioner’s responsibility to punish accordingly to make sure players, coaches and everyone else knows why it’s horrible for an already barbarous sport. That includes fans who watch these violent scenes, notice that the referee doesn’t eject Jones, see a few days later that the league doesn’t suspend Jones — and might conclude that it’s OK to engage in their own brutality if they so choose.
Say, in a parking lot outside Levi’s Stadium.
Violence begets more violence, which is why no one should be shocked when vicious brawls break out among fans immersed in the NFL’s brand of savagery for three-hour windows. A night after I watched Pacman thump Cooper in Oakland, I was in Santa Clara when a man in a Minnesota Vikings jersey was pummeled by at least three male 49ers fans. If you haven’t seen the video, I wouldn’t urge you to watch it with a full stomach. There are kicks to the head and wicked punches to the face as the Vikings fan, who may or may not have instigated matters with his mouth, is squirming on the cement, unable to crawl to his feet because another guy in another 49ers jersey is wailing on him as a woman shrieks.
It’s sickening that goons like these are allowed outside the house, much less admitted entry into a large public facility. I don’t care what the Vikings fan might have said, just as I don’t care what Giants-fan-turned-wheelchair-victim Bryan Stow said to the parking-lot thugs that day at Dodger Stadium four years ago. No sane, sober human being turns violent over some words after a football game — which the Niners won, by the way, with relative ease.
So much else is wrong in the video. Where are the Santa Clara police? With Super Bowl 50 coming in February, every 49ers home game should be viewed as an important dress rehearsal for the most important entertainment event in Bay Area history. But the cops were nowhere at a time when they should have been everywhere, as thousands of fans were filing out of Jed York’s $1.3 billion palace. There was only one yellow-jacketed security guard in the vicinity, and she was more interested in moving everyone toward the exits than investigating the melee. As the female fan continued to scream, a male 49ers fan appeared to shove her.
And why were so many people standing around and watching, including the guy shooting the video on his phone? No one wanted to help the poor guy.
Such foul scenes happen at stadiums and arenas throughout sports, in all parts of the world, so I won’t insult you by scolding the socio-psycho condition of Bay Area fans. But I will issue a reminder that a Dodgers fan was stabbed to death in 2013 just blocks from AT&T Park, after an argument between groups of people on Third Street. And I will issue a reminder that on a night in 2011, at Candlestick Park during a 49ers-Raiders exhibition game, a 26-year-old was beaten and left unconscious in a restroom minutes before two men were shot in the parking lot. The Bay is supposed to carry the right perspective about sports.
Where are we, Chicago?
“We are aware of the disturbing incident following last night’s game and are working in collaboration with the Santa Clara Police Department to investigate,” the 49ers said in a statement. “The 49ers and our public safety partners have a steadfast commitment to ensuring a safe and enjoyable experience for all visitors to Levi’s Stadium and unacceptable behavior such as this will not be tolerated.”
Police are investigating.
They should be investigating themselves.
The only solution, one might conclude, is to stop watching football. I say the onus is on Goodell, the steward of a $15-billion-a-year empire, to do everything in his power to make the fan experience safer. If part of his duty is cracking down on Pacman Jones, that’s a start.
“My line, you can’t walk with the line. When the line is crossed, you either click on or you click off,” Jones said. “So I don’t know about the line. As far as in life you have to walk like that, but on the field, I’m just one of those guys who plays with no seat belt.”
As he enables warped fans to do the same.
Jay Mariotti is sports director and lead sports columnist at the San Francisco Examiner. He can be reached at email@example.com. Read his website at jaymariotti.com.Adam JonesAmari CooperOakland RaidersSan Francisco 49ers