Saban was right to give Jonathan Taylor a 2nd chance to play football

Mark Hammontree

Alabama defensive tackle Jonathan Taylor was dismissed from the football team Sunday afternoon after he was arrested Saturday night on domestic violence charges. If Taylor’s name sounds familiar, it’s because his signing with the Crimson Tide caused quite a bit of a stir. See, this is not the first time Jonathan Taylor has faced domestic violence charges, nor is it the first time he has been cut from a football team as 
a result.

Taylor was dismissed from Georgia’s football team last July after he was charged with felony aggravated assault and family violence for hitting and choking his girlfriend at the time. After being cut from the Bulldogs, Taylor spent a semester at a community college before signing with the Tide in January and enrolling in classes 
soon after.

At the time, many questioned the wisdom of signing a player with a 
history of domestic violence and arrest, but Nick Saban defended the decision to sign Taylor, emphasizing the need for second chances.

Now, less than a year after his arrest at Georgia, another young woman has become a victim and Taylor faces new charges. Many are pointing the blame for the incident to Saban. They say he took a foolish risk in signing a player with a history of domestic violence, and now Saban must shoulder the blame.

And Saban certainly should be held, in part, responsible for the actions of his players, especially those he defended so adamantly. But I do not think Saban was or is wrong about giving players 
second chances.

Some are arguing this was inevitable and should not be a shock. Here’s what one fan had to say on Twitter: “This is what happens when you allow women-beaters on your football team. They beat women.”

It’s a sentiment shared by many, and it doesn’t really have much patience for second chances. “Once a woman beater, always a woman beater” might be another way to phrase it.

Yet this idea that people who have committed violence against others cannot possibly become productive members of society, no matter how many chances they are given, is a toxic belief directly at odds with the spirit of the many movements going on across the country to end domestic violence.

After all, if a person with a history of domestic violence cannot change, cannot learn to respect others and control their aggression and violence, why would we think educating people about domestic violence would help in any way? Taken further, if violent people cannot change, then shouldn’t we just round them all up and lock them away for life?

The belief that people can change is fundamental to our notion of justice and of education in this country. We give people second chances not because they deserve them, not because we forgive the crimes they’ve committed, not to discount in any way the suffering of their victims, but because second chances signal the belief that people can change.

Jonathan Taylor did not make a 
“mistake” when he beat his girlfriend last July, and what he did then and what he did now is inexcusable. Taylor did not “deserve” a second chance. But that doesn’t mean he did not need one or that Saban was wrong to give him one.

Saban and the rest of the faculty and administrators that made the decision signed Taylor with the hope he would be able to change. They certainly should be held accountable for the effects of that decision. But rather than questioning the judgment they made, we should look at what steps Saban and the athletic department took to educate and counsel Taylor on his aggression and his violence and his treatment and view of women and others.

If these steps were not taken, the coaching staff truly should be ashamed. It’d be silly to think a person will change their behavior if not counseled and treated in a way that promotes growth. Likewise, it’s harmful to assume people never change, no matter the 
circumstances or resources.

Jonathan Taylor did not change, but that does not mean it was never even 
a possibility.

Mark Hammontree is a junior majoring in secondary education – language arts. His column runs weekly.