April 16, 2014

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NFL should show Pacman, posse the door permanently

Tim Dahlberg
Associated Press
You know you’re a big-time athlete when you’ve got a posse to do your dirty work for you. As posses go, Pacman Jones has a pretty good one, full of guys equally adept at picking up dollar bills showered on the strip club stage as they are trading shots with whoever gets in their way.
Pacman’s entourage was at it again the other night in Atlanta, where police say they were involved in a shooting after an altercation at, yes, a strip club. This is a posse that seems to travel well, mixing it up on both sides of the country in the name of their man.
The timing of the shooting was a bit awkward, coming less than a week after Jones pledged to NFL commissioner Roger Goodell that he was going to turn his life around and become a productive citizen so he could play in the league once again.
It could be Jones thought the best way to become that new person was to make sure Atlanta strippers had enough money for taxi fare home. Or maybe he just wanted to give the posse one last night out for old times sake.
It doesn’t much matter now, because Jones has far more serious problems. And there’s not a lot the posse can do about it, unless it includes a good criminal defense lawyer or two.
If Las Vegas prosecutors have their way, the next time you see Jones with a number on his uniform, it will be prison garb, not an NFL jersey.
They charged Jones with two felonies Wednesday stemming from a shooting over NBA All-Star weekend in February that left a strip club manager paralyzed. Jones faces a possible
12 years in prison on coercion charges for his role in the melee in the early morning hours of Feb. 19 at the Minxx Gentlemen’s Club just off the Las Vegas Strip.
The court, of course, presumes that Jones is innocent until proven guilty. That’s a basic tenet of the legal system that serves our country so well, and Jones will have his day to defend himself.
But the NFL is free to judge things by a different standard. The league doesn’t need proof beyond a reasonable doubt.
With that in mind, maybe it’s time for Goodell to begin rethinking the one-year suspension he handed down recently to Jones.
Maybe it’s time to make it a lifetime ban.
Goodell certainly has the power to do just that, and there couldn’t be a better candidate to remove from the game than Jones. He and his posse have wreaked havoc everywhere they’ve gone, and when he’s booked in Las Vegas it will be his sixth arrest since he was drafted by the Titans in April 2005.
NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said Wednesday the league would not speculate any further on Jones’ future at this time. One read of the Las Vegas police report, though, should be all Goodell needs to bounce Jones from the league forever.
In it, police detail the events of the morning, which began when Jones and a half dozen members of his posse went to the strip club to watch some of their favorite dancers. They sat in a private booth with a garbage bag full of money so they could “make it rain” by throwing money on the women.
A couple of the dancers began fighting over the money at one point, and witnesses said Jones grabbed one of them by the hair and punched her in the face several times. A melee broke out when club bouncers tried to break it up, and Jones and his entourage were finally escorted outside.
A cocktail waitress told police an angry Jones threatened to kill the bouncers before walking away with a man in a black T-shirt. A man in a similar shirt came back moments later with a semiautomatic handgun and began firing, hitting three people.
One of those shot was Tommy Urbanski, a former professional wrestler who worked as a real estate broker during the day and as the manager of the club at night to earn extra income to send his wife to law school.
Urbanski is paralyzed, a 9 mm bullet permanently lodged in his spine.
Urbanski told The Associated Press last month that he couldn’t believe it when Jones took out a full-page ad in a Nashville, Tenn., paper that said learning he would be suspended from the NFL “was one of the worst moments of my life.”
“That’s the worst moment in his life?” Urbanski asked. “Try being put in a wheelchair for the rest of your life. This changes everything.”
Police have yet to identify the man who shot Urbanski and two others. They haven’t gotten a great deal of help in solving the mystery from Jones or his posse.
They’re charging Jones with two counts of felony coercion, and also charging his bodyguard and a female posse member. The charges might be difficult to prove, but there’s also a chance they might loosen some tongues.
Jones, meanwhile, has already violated the conditions Goodell put on his one-year suspension just two months ago. He’s being questioned in Atlanta about one shooting, and faces arrest in Las Vegas in another.
He’s a thug who should be banned from the NFL for good.
Just make sure he takes the posse with him when he leaves.
Tim Dahlberg is a national sports columnist for The Associated Press. Write to him at tdahlberg@ap.org.