Clark had spent the past two seasons trying to rebrand himself after facing a domestic-violence charge before being drafted — and was getting close to doing so. But with a couple of ill-advised tweets Tuesday, he likely sent his image back to square one.
Eighteen hours and 51 minutes passed before there was any sign he had a clue.
Eighteen hours and 51 minutes before a shred of decency appeared.
Yes, Seahawks defensive end Frank Clark issued an apology Wednesday for what might have been the most demeaning tweet of the year. But was he actually sorry?
Because there is plenty of room for doubt.
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At 5:52 p.m. on Tuesday, Clark set Twitter ablaze when he hurled a 137-character insult at Bleacher Report writer Natalie Weiner. Earlier in the month, Weiner had posted a feature on former NFL star Greg Hardy — who has been accused of domestic violence — and then shared a link to an article she had written about Clark two years earlier.
In that story, Weiner, a lifelong Seahawks fan, detailed the conflict she felt when her favorite team drafted Clark, who has faced his own domestic-violence charges. Clark’s tweet upon seeing her piece?
“People like you don’t have long careers in your field. I have a job for you cleaning my fish tank when that lil job is ova @natalieweiner”
Yikes. That’s a degrading response in any context. But it’s a damning one when spewed by a man with such a tenuous reputation.
Unfortunately, it wasn’t even Clark’s worst tweet of the night. That came two hours later.
“Apologize to anyone who felt offended by my tweet earlier. We gotta do better supporting these major issues we face in the world.”
What? How about mentioning Weiner, the woman he essentially said should be his maid? In fact, she didn’t even know about the “apology,” because Clark had blocked her from viewing his timeline.
Worse, Clark “liked” a series of tweets from tunnel-vision 12s who said he had nothing to be sorry about. The half-hearted mea culpa suddenly had no heart.
Perhaps this was unsurprising to people skeptical of Clark from the moment the Seahawks drafted him. According to police reports citing multiple witnesses, Clark punched his girlfriend in a hotel room in 2014.
And though the charge was later pleaded down to disorderly conduct, the arresting officers publicly disagreed with the prosecutor’s decision to do so, leading to heavy scrutiny from local and national media.
This is why Clark’s tweets Tuesday sparked such national uproar. People wondered if he had changed. Especially because it wasn’t until 12:43 p.m. Wednesday — 18 hours and 51 minutes after that initial jab at Weiner — that he sent Twitter Apology No. 2.
“I understand the seriousness of this subject. I want to apologize to Natalie Weiner for letting my emotions get the best of me about comments made toward my personal life and family. I have worked hard over the last two years to do right, not only for myself, but for my family as well. I will continue on this path, on and off the field.
— Frank Clark.”
Take note: That tweet was sent from Seahawks headquarters after Clark met with the team. Perhaps it was written with sincerity, but it was just as likely written out of necessity. This isn’t an issue that was going to dissolve with silence. A statement such as the one above was obligatory for damage control.
Now, to be fair to Clark, one can see why he’d want to react publicly to a story highlighting his past. He has spent the past two years playing well on the field and staying trouble-free off it.
It probably would have been smartest for him just to stay quiet, but had he initially tweeted something like “Domestic violence is a serious issue, but I wasn’t convicted and am trying to be the best man I can be,” there wouldn’t have been such outrage.
But he didn’t — so we got a host of reminders instead.
We got a reminder of the risk the Seahawks took when they drafted Clark. To the team’s credit, it expressed “extreme disappointment in his judgment” in a statement, but Clark’s tweets re-ignited scrutiny that had for the most part subsided.
We got a reminder of how difficult it is to shed a reputation, too. Clark had spent the past two seasons trying to rebrand himself — and was getting closer to doing so. But with a couple of ill-advised decisions, he likely sent his image back to square minus-one.
And lastly, we got a reminder of just how blinding fan goggles can be. One of the tweets Clark “liked” Tuesday came from a guy who defended Clark’s words because he was one of the 10 best defensive linemen in football. There were also a slew of trolls accusing Weiner of simply trying to get publicity.
Really? Come on.
I don’t think Clark deserves a suspension for what he tweeted. But I also don’t think he deserves the benefit of the doubt for a long time. He was held to a high standard when he entered the league, and he should be held to a Himalayan one now.
At 23, Clark still has time to show he can change. Here’s hoping he does.
But one more slip-up like this, and the Seahawks need to let him go.
No matter how good the apology.