The NFL has a new domestic violence issue drawing attention, and it has to do with its assistant coaches.
While the league has touted its improved efforts to vet players for their pasts when it comes to domestic violence, a USA Today story by Rachel Axon brought up issues with the league and its background checks for assistant coaches.
Axon’s story cited four accusations of violence against women among current and former NFL assistant coaches. The response from teams involved was mostly silence, as USA Today said multiple requests for interviews and answers to written questions were not granted.
An NFL spokesman said the league does not get involved in vetting coaches, because that happens on the team level.
USA Today cites examples of accusations
Axon wrote that cursory background checks of about 700 coaches listed by teams found four examples of coaches who had domestic allegations against them. Three were accused before they were hired:
• Former Tampa Bay Buccaneers offensive assistant Skyler Fulton, who is now the receivers coach at Portland State, had “an arrest for domestic violence and multiple women alleging threatening behavior” before he was hired by the Bucs, according to USA Today. Former Buccaneers coach Dirk Koetter, who was Tampa Bay’s coach when Fulton was hired, and Bucs officials did not contact Fulton’s employer at Citrus College in California about the accusations according to USA Today.
• Raiders assistant strength and conditioning coach Rick Slate had “at least five orders of protection and was arrested three times for domestic disputes, though charges were later dropped,” USA Today said. Those happened during his 25-year career as a strength coach in Major League Baseball, before he joined the Raiders last year. An anonymous MLB official told Axon that nobody from the Raiders reached out to baseball’s investigative division before hiring Slate.
• Former Buccaneers assistant and Jaguars player Paul Spicer, now the defensive line coach at South Florida, “twice faced petitions for orders of protection in 2005 and 2008” while he was playing for the Jaguars according to USA Today. One petition was granted temporarily, the other was not and the woman dismissed them both, Axon said. Axon wrote the woman made an accusation that Spicer “wrapped her shirt around her neck and choked her with it.” Spicer told USA Today the petitions never came up when he was interviewed and hired by the Buccaneers in 2015. Spicer said he thought the Buccaneers “likely determined that the allegations had no merit because the petitions were dropped,” Axon wrote.
• Jaguars linebackers coach Mark Collins was accused of making a female team contractor “fear for her safety as he continued to call her and visit her home and work as their relationship was ending,” USA Today said, citing a 2018 petition for an order of protection. The woman withdrew the petition before a hearing. USA Today said the Jaguars declined comment and the NFL wouldn’t say if the team had reported the incident to the league.
NFL doesn’t vet coaching hires
The teams involved and the NFL had little to say to USA Today. Most declined to comment. NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy said the league doesn’t get involved in vetting coaches but teams can consult with league officials.
“The hiring of personnel is the lone responsibility of individual clubs,” McCarthy told USA Today. “Clubs do extensive background checks (and) make every effort to understand the background of people who will be associated with their franchise."
USA Today said the Raiders, Jaguars and Buccaneers declined to comment or answer written questions. Koetter, who is now the offensive coordinator of the Atlanta Falcons, declined an interview request. NFL commissioner Roger Goodell declined an interview request from USA Today as well.
The NFL has worked on more diligent background checks for players. A draft prospect with a domestic violence or sexual assault conviction can’t be invited to the NFL scouting combine, for example.
The league doesn’t get involved in the background checks of coaching hires, but there will be increased scrutiny about that after USA Today’s report.
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