In basic terms, an assault is an unwanted harmful or offensive touching. Of course, when you decide to play football (or box, or play hockey, etc.), you consent to the inherent “harmful” violent contact that the sport entails. No one’s catching a charge for making a hard tackle even if it results in paralysis. In-game tackling aside, you’re also signing up for some degree of post-play shoving and scuffling. Why? Because that’s an established part of football and you need to git yer candy ass off the field if you can’t handle it.
In the recent Steelers v. Browns game, Myles Garrett upped the ante on post-play scuffles worldwide. As W&K saw the footage, the following happened:
Garrett dickishly tackled QB Rudolph with an unnecessary hit.
The two ended up on the ground and had a fairly minor back and forth, during which QB Rudolph forcefully yanked twice at Garrett’s helmet.
Garrett retaliated by straight up yeeting Rudolph’s helmet off his head. It was a focused and forceful heated act. By this point a scuffle was clearly happening between the two players with Garrett getting the upper hand.
After the two were separated, while Garrett still had Rudolph’s helmet in hand, Rudolph rushed towards Garrett to talk that shit.
Garrett lunged over 2 of Rudolph’s players and whacked Rudolph pretty hard on the head with Rudolph’s own helmet.
So, should Garrett catch a criminal charge? In Virginia, the obvious potential charges are: (1) Assault and Battery; (2) Unlawful Wounding; or (3) Malicious Wounding.
Malicious wounding is basically a serious wounding done with the intent to maim, disfigure, disable or kill. Unlawful wounding is the same thing but done in the “heat of passion.” Assault is a misdemeanor while malicious and unlawful wounding are felonies.
Using my expertise as a lawyer-man, I’m taking the felonies off the table and leaving it as either no charge or an assault.
Taite and I typically agree in our legal analyses of a fact pattern. This particular one has driven a wedge through our law firm.
I don’t think there should be a charge for Garrett.
My reasoning is this: as intense as the interaction was, as intense as the whack was, and as accurate as Garrett was at hitting Rudolph in the head, the context clearly shows that it was part of a standard football scuffle. This wasn’t a guy just running up to another player, taking off his head protection and then beating him with it. If Rudolph hadn’t grabbed at Garrett’s helmet in the first place, the helmet component wouldn’t have even played a role. It’d simply be two men shoving each other, being separated, and exchanging some name-calling. Rudolph played enough of a role in the incident to keep it within the bounds of what you sign up for when you play football.
Taite says that yanking a guy’s helmet off and hitting him with it is so far outside the bounds of what typically happens in football that it’s a criminal-level act.
As an aside, the league has suspended Garrett for at least the rest of the season.
What do you think? Should Garrett be charged criminally?