Nothing incites hot takes and debates quite like an NFL offseason incident.
Ekeziel Elliott provided the latest column fodder last weekend, when TMZ Sports published footage of the Dallas Cowboys running back pulling down a woman’s shirt to expose her breast during a St. Patrick’s Day Parade.
Elliott, who’s currently under investigation for domestic violence allegations, was (rightfully) criticized for doing a very dumb thing in a very public setting. And that could have been that. But Orlando Sentinel columnist David Whitley decided to bring New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski into the mix.
In a column posted Tuesday, Whitley posed a critical question: What if Gronk, not Elliott, was on that parade float and caught exposing a woman’s breast? Would we react with the same indignation?
You probably can see where Whitley is going with this: We’d laugh off a similar incident if Gronkowski, “America’s favorite tight end/party animal,” had been the perpetrator, dismissing it as harmless fun instead of questioning his character like we have with Elliott.
“Hundreds of fans boarded Gronk’s Party Ship last year, a three-day debauchery cruise to Gronk’s Island in the Bahamas,” Whitley wrote. “Gronkowski always steals the show at Super Bowl parades, chugging beers and spiking the cans off the floats.
“Everything is justified by, ‘It’s just Gronk being Gronk.’ … This begs the question: What standard is Gronkowski held to?”
Whitley does make an important distinction: Gronkowski never has been accused of domestic violence or another crime, while Elliott has. But that’s a pretty good indicator of why Elliott might be viewed differently in the public eye: Gronk has managed to keep his nose (relatively) clean and maintain a public image that isn’t perfect but still can’t be labeled dangerous or destructive.
In Whitley’s view, that’s a little unfair to Elliott.
“I wouldn’t blame Elliott for imagining that if he were Gronkowski, we’d all be yukking this off as just another stop on the Gronk Party Tour,” Whitley concluded.
Thumbnail photo via Jasen Vinlove/USA TODAY Sports Images