Former NFL safety and NFL Network analyst Darren Sharper has turned himself in today in Los Angeles. He was wanted in New Orleans on two counts of alleged aggravated rape. These are not the only charges he is facing around the country he has faced similar charges in California, to which he pleaded not guilty last week, and is being for investigated in Nevada, Arizona and Florida. These acts were alleged to have been committed mostly since September of this year, with the exception of the investigation in Florida, which allegedly took place in 2012.
Spanning a 14-year career, Darren Sharper played for the Packers, Vikings and Saints winning a Super Bowl with the Saints and losing in the Super Bowl in his rookie year with the Packers. Over his career he amassed 63 interceptions ranking him sixth all-time, returning 11 of them for touchdowns making him third all-time, as well as being a 6-time All Pro and 5-time Pro Bowler. He is still the only player in NFL history to lead the league in interception return yards in three different seasons. Sharper retired from the NFL after not being offered a contract during summer workouts with various teams including the Broncos and Packers.
After two years of being retired from the NFL Darren Sharper worked briefly for a local TV station and quickly leaving that job to become an analyst for the NFL Network in August 2012 and has worked there since. However the NFL Network suspended Sharper indefinitely without pay the day after the first allegations surfaced. With him already pleading in California, being formally charged in Louisiana, and from the looks of it having more official charges to come in Arizona it would be hard to see him having a future with the NFL Network or as an analyst. Although in the eyes of the justice system it is innocent until proven guilty, the court of public opinion seems to have the opposite view that a person, especially a person in the public eye, is guilty until proven innocent. That is why it could be a smart move public relations wise for the NFL to cut ties with Darren Sharper now before he is charged in any more cases or is convicted of any of the charges already posed against him.
Over the past few years the NFL has definitely had its share of off the field incidents with players and past players. It would seem to the naked eye that the NFL might start to have a dip in popularity similar to the NBA in the early 2000’s because of this growing image problem. While in reality the NFL just keeps becoming more and more popular even with the recent legal issues of players such as Plaxico Burress, Josh Brent and Aaron Hernandez. Unlike the NBA who marketed their stars who helped to create the image problem such as Allen Iverson, the NFL has done an incredible job of marketing the good guys of the league like Peyton Manning, Drew Brees and Russell Wilson which has helped them retain the image of a league full of good people who just happen to play a very violent game.
As the impending legal battle play itself over the next couple of weeks it will be interesting to see how the NFL and its signature network handle the situation. The NFL has a pristine reputation for handling these matters but as Darren Sharper turns himself in facing new charges they have yet to respond further since the initial allegations were made.
Commentary By Max Petkevicius
Pro Football Talk