The NFL has suspended Cleveland Browns star Myles Garrett without pay indefinitely for ripping the helmet off a Pittsburgh Steelers’ player and hitting him in the head with it during last week’s game during the Steelers.
Although the NFL has suspended Garrett indefinitely, it looks the Browns’ defensive end could also face criminal charges for his outburst.
In order to establish criminal assault in Ohio, where the confrontation occurred, you need to show: (1) an infliction of physical harm or contact, and (2) that the victim didn’t consent to the physical harm or contact. The same elements establish a cause of action for civil assault.
It is important to note that in football, when players step onto the field, they consent (or “assume the risk”) to some form of bodily contact and harm, as well as the risk of injury that flows from that. However, players only consent to contact that is part of the game. For example, if you are playing football, you assume the risk that you may be tackled or sacked and that this may result in a concussion. Such a risk is “incidental” to the game.
But let’s be clear about one thing: players do not consent to acts that are outside the scope of what is acceptable in a game. For instance, a football player does not assume the risk that a fan is going to run onto the field and attack him.
So, just because the incident occurred on a football field does not mean that Garrett is automatically immune from criminal prosecution or civil liability.
Here, Garrett ripped off Rudolph’s helmet, “converted it into a weapon and struck him with it.” That cannot be properly characterized as incidental contact that can be an expected part of the game. Rather, Garrett’s conduct seems to arise to the crime of assault.
Still, many believe that the chances that Garrett will be prosecuted in a criminal court are minimal.
Tammi Gaw, an attorney and athletic trainer based in Washington, told CBS News: “If we’re going to be very technical, every single thing that takes place on a football field is assault . . . contact sports exist thanks to a doctrine of assumption of risk.”
Anthony Caruso, a sports and entertainment attorney, explained that “even if charges are filed, courts generally prefer for athletic leagues to be the ones handling offenses that happen on the field.” “Many times, judges aren’t close enough to the game itself to be a fair tribunal,” he added. “The courts defer to the leagues to regulate their own players and participants with suspensions.” However, even Caruso said that Garrett’s egregious attack could be a “tipping point for criminal prosecutors who want to get involved in football cases.”
In the end, Garrett may not be charged with assault, but he should be.
Image Credit: Twitter & CBS News