As NFL draft approaches, excuses won’t cut it for QB Josh Allen and those racist tweets

Jarrett Bell
Wyoming Cowboys quarterback Josh Allen throws a pass during the 2018 NFL Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium.

ARLINGTON, Texas -- Being young and dumb is no excuse.

Not here, not now with Josh Allen poised to become the face of an NFL franchise.

The former Wyoming quarterback, with the most powerful arm in the NFL Draft that begins Thursday night, suddenly has a red flag attached to his name after Yahoo! Sports revealed  Allen used a racial slur repeatedly in a series of Twitter posts while he was in high school and spewed some other race-based nonsense that makes me wonder about his character.

If I’m running an NFL team, I’m wondering about locker room chemistry and whether Allen is the guy who can effectively lead teammates, many of whom happen to be African-Americans.

Yes, there’s something else to evaluate.

That Allen posted the racially insensitive comments as a teenager, rather than, say last week, might represent some growth. But he’s no victim here. He should have known better back then, like he should know better now.

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Allen was unavailable for comment, prior to heading to AT&T Stadium for the draft. His agent, Tom Condon, declined comment when reached by USA TODAY Sports. To this point, Allen’s public response consisted of a damage-control phone call to ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith.

On his popular TV show, Smith described Allen as “contrite.” Maybe that’s how Allen really feels. But it’s also typical for how people sound when they are trying to control damage while their draft stock and reputation suddenly is enveloped in some serious gray matter. Smith’s insistence that this episode shouldn’t affect Allen’s draft stock isn’t surprising, either.

Before this surfaced, my dominant impression of Allen began with his rocket arm, although questions included whether he will adapt well to the faster NFL game and sophisticated defensive schemes.

Now the first thing that pops into mind are the tweets and his cavalier use of the N-word that as a teenager I pledged never to use. And I’m wondering whether Allen the teenager in rural California was just stupid and insensitive, seemingly thinking he could write the racial slurs that undoubtedly are outlandishly promoted in our society by rappers, comedians and others, without regard to the manner in which his language is a representation of himself.

It’s a tough lesson for Allen: What you say and do – whenever that stuff was tapped put by your fingers -- affects your reputation. He’ll have to deal with the fact that it was exposed.

In the fishbowl environment of the NFL, there’s no end to the scrutiny, fair or not.

Remember, Colin Kaepernick, pursuing a collusion case against the NFL, still can’t get a job in the league after launching a movement protesting police brutality and societal inequalities.  

Sure, the leak of the tweets, deleted months ago, constitutes another draft hit job obviously designed to influence the rising draft stock of Allen, projected as a high first-round pick even reportedly being considered by the Cleveland Browns for the top pick overall.

Two years ago, footage was leaked just before the draft showing Laremy Tunsil smoking from a bong. Tunsil, the best tackle in his draft, was talked about as a potential No. 1 overall, too. He tumbled to the Miami Dolphins as the 13th pick in the draft.

Maybe a team leaked the Allen tweets, hoping that he slides to their spot?

That’s a theory. Yet the tweets were deleted in January. Whoever captured the posts acted before that time. How would a team even know it could benefit from a draft slide at that point, with the evaluation process in the preliminary stage? I’d suspect it’s more likely that someone with interests tied to one of the other highly rated quarterbacks would be more motivated to get so down and dirty.

If the Browns take Allen at No. 1, or whoever picks him, they’ll need to realize that this development comes with his package as an added layer of scrutiny. 

Allen will still get his chance to blossom into an NFL star. If he does that, this hit on his reputation could blow over. Bust or not, there’s suddenly something else for people to watch when it comes to Allen’s development on the NFL stage.