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Sorting through the Seahawks’ selection of Frank Clark isn’t easy

Seattle used its second-round pick on Frank Clark, who was accused of domestic violence last fall. (AP)

RENTON – You should be skeptical of Seattle’s selection of Frank Clark.

The Seahawks just drafted a player who was dismissed from his college team at Michigan after being arrested following a disturbance with a woman. Fight is actually a more accurate word, though Clark denied ever striking the victim, who was described as his girlfriend. The police report described a broken lamp in the room. He had a fresh scratch on his nose. Police observed marks on her face and near her neck.

Seahawks take Michigan DE Frank Clark with first pick

It’s not just fair to wonder if the Seahawks are looking past an instance of domestic violence so he could play football, it’s responsible.

But there’s also a difference between critically examining Seattle’s decision to hire Clark with its second-round pick and assuming the Seahawks chose to overlook an incident of domestic violence because Clark is ideally suited to sacking opposing quarterbacks.

The Seahawks took multiple players off their draft board this year because of incidents of violence upon women. The fact they didn’t take Clark off their board isn’t necessarily about his talent but about the conclusions the team drew in its investigation of both Clark and his arrest.

“We have done a ton of research on this young man,” Seahawks general manager John Schneider said. “There hasn’t been one player in this draft that we have spent more time researching and scrutinizing more than Frank. That’s why we have provided Frank with this opportunity and are looking forward to him succeeding in our culture here in Seattle.”

There is a heightened awareness of domestic violence in today’s NFL, which is good thing even if it’s incredibly sad that it took video evidence of Ray Rice knocking his fiancée unconscious in a casino elevator for the NFL to see the need for a comprehensive policy on the issue.

In light of the increased attention, the Seahawks’ selection of Clark should be examined. Closely.
They are vouching for him, not just that he didn’t hit his girlfriend as he was accused last November but that he won’t do anything similar in the future.

This is not a reclamation project. It is not a redemption story. Rather, it represents Seattle’s belief that Clark did not do what he was accused of – and initially charged with – after an altercation at an Ohio resort.

Clark denied hitting the victim when police responded, and while he apologized for the incident and said he was wrong after the Seahawks chose him on Friday, he also made it clear he was not saying or admitting he had struck a woman.

Schneider previously indicated the team would not draft a player it found to have struck a woman. He said that back in April 2012, and he was asked Friday about whether that remained his general policy.

“I can’t get into the specifics of Frank’s case,” Schneider said, “but that is still a deal-breaker for us, and will continue to be as we move forward.”

So how do you reconcile those statements with the police report from the arrest, which took place in November 2014?

The simple answer is that you can’t. Not when you read about the mark officers observed on the cheek of the alleged victim, the marks near her neck or the rug burn the officer reported seeing – and photographed – on her leg. There were two minors in the room, siblings of the victim who described the fighting involving Clark.

“There was more to this case than a police report,” Schneider said.

Clark was initially charged with two first-class misdemeanors, including one for domestic violence. He pleaded guilty to a lesser charge of disorderly conduct.

So how do you sort through this?

On the one hand, he was never convicted of domestic violence and both Clark and the team disputed the contention that he struck a woman. On the other, domestic-violence charges are incredibly difficult to prosecute, and as early as the night of the incident, the alleged victim did not want Clark arrested.

It’s naïve to look at the circumstances of Clark’s case and assume he was completely innocent. It’s equally unfair, however, to listen to Schneider’s assertions and assume the Seahawks are excusing an instance of domestic violence.

While you can scrutinize the Seahawks’ decision, it’s not fair to simply assume they’re lying.