The Detroit Lions bungled Matt Patricia’s history from the start, and now both they and their new head coach are paying a justifiable price.
In 1996, a woman reported a sexual assault by two men. One of the alleged perpetrators was Matt Patricia, a man introduced in February as the latest head coach of the Detroit Lions.
A grand jury indicted Patricia on one count of aggravated sexual assault, with the charge later dropped when the woman chose not to testify on the grounds she did not feel she could face the pressure of a trial. Now, the story has resurfaced, and it couldn’t have been handled more poorly by the Lions.
In a statement put out on Wednesday night, Patricia maintained his innocence while reiterating his disappointment that the old case is a new storyline. Then the organization put out its statement, which included the following sentence:
Matt was 21 at the time and on spring break in Texas.
This is factually correct but wholly inappropriate. By including this, the Lions are implicitly stating that Patricia was a kid having a good time during his younger years, almost giving a built-in excuse for his alleged behavior.
With Patricia never having to stand trial in the case, there is no reason to go this route. The Lions ownership could have put out a simple statement that it stands behind its head coach and that the legal system shows no verdict of guilty. By introducing his young age and spring break into the equation, the Lions are undermining anybody who accuses a person of a sexual crime while on spring break at college.
It likely wasn’t the intended message, but it’s a lazy statement that potentially becomes dangerous when further examined.
When Patricia took to the podium to defend himself on Thursday, he spoke for all of seven minutes. He made clear that this portion of his history never came up in his interview with the Lions, something of an odd revelation.
Did Detroit not do the proper background? When the New England Patriots had him in their employ, were they aware of the previous charge? If so, did they disclose that to the Lions?
Regardless, the situation should have been handled with more care and clarity than both Patricia or the Lions gave it.