ESPN’s Monday Night Football had Philadelphia-Washington, and it was thus unavoidable that they’d have to address the Skins claiming Reuben Foster off waivers after he was arrested on allegations of domestic violence. There would be no easy way for them to handle it, but it was an especially tricky spot to do it in the fourth quarter of a competitive game (during which an interception happened) instead of, say, cutting into the Genesis Halftime Show. Furthermore, in the condensed format Jason Witten’s past commentary on former teammate Greg Hardy makes him look hypocritical.
After he was asked by Joe Tessitore if the Skins should’ve taken a chance on Foster, Witten replied, “100% no. I think the Washington Redskins used horrendous judgment in claiming this guy. And I understand that it’s an ongoing investigation. But, my family’s been affected by domestic violence. I understand the anguish that it causes. Young players just have to understand there is no tolerance for putting your hands on a woman.”
In contrast, when the Cowboys signed Greg Hardy in 2015, Witten spoke about how he condemned domestic violence but would accept Hardy as a teammate:
“I think more than anything I think everybody knows (I’m against) domestic violence,” Witten said. “That’s unwavering. That’s something that I lived, my family lived. But that guy is a teammate of mine, so I think you have to look at it from that standpoint. As coach (Jason) Garrett says, it’s our job to invite those guys in and create a standard of how we do things. I think he’s done a great job since he’s been here. It’s not my job to decide who comes in. I’m a tight end. But I’ve been really pleased how he’s approached it and how he goes to work and what kind of teammate he’s been. The day he got suspended, the next day he’s in there working out, so I think that’s kind of the mentality he has, what kind of work ethic (he has) and what he’s trying to prove in Dallas.” […]
“I think when you add the guy like that and then he gets suspended and you never know how it’s going to come out,” Witten said. “The guy works his tail off. Our job is to welcome him and show him the way we do things and embrace him as a teammate, and he’s done everything that you want. He’s a hard worker. Obviously he’s a talented player. I think he’s learned a lot from what he’s gone through in the last year. He’s had a good offseason.”
Nevertheless, it was a glaring omission that Witten did not address his previous support of Hardy as a teammate. Did his views evolve? Does he wish he handled that differently? If not, how and why does he view these situations as different? What, specifically, does “no tolerance” mean?
Condensing this sequence into a game while action was going on around it on the field was suboptimal, and the omission of the history with Hardy was avoidable. ESPN producers knew or should have known about this and been prepared to address it within the commentary so that Witten could avoid looking hypocritical.