Matthew Coller is a published author and football writer who covers the Vikings. He also writes a weekly Vikings column for Bring Me The News, in addition to hosting a livestream on the Bring Me The News YouTube and Facebook pages every Tuesday. You can find more of his work at Purple Insider.
Siri, please mute all tweets regarding Dalvin Cook. Thank you.
Let’s start here: The universe in 2021 is not built for what’s happening with Dalvin Cook’s situation.
Back in the day… not actually that long ago… journalism schools taught patience, tact, detail. They never would have dreamed things would end up like today’s hellscape. In the olden days, you would rather have it second than have it wrong. It was better to do all possible diligence in fact gathering than it was to rush something out there that was misleading. I’m not saying it was perfect before Twitter and Facebook, the standards were generally just higher for what you publish or say.
Before Twitter, Adam Schefter was just a beat reporter cutting his teeth, not a vessel in which any mildly powerful person in or around the NFL can connect into and get out whatever message they want to a massive audience instantly. And those messages get taken by football fans with credibility because… how the heck is the public supposed to know that the lead ESPN NFL reporter is really a press release publisher for agents and NFL executives?
Most of the time that’s all cool and fine. If Big NFL Reporter Guy says that the Jaguars were in trade talks for a new strong safety, whatever. Sure that’s coming from the GM who wants fans to know they’re trying to improve but who cares, it’s exciting football stuff. But we crossed a line on Tuesday night when Schefter fired out two lines directly from Cook’s agent regarding allegations that were about to come down from a former girlfriend.
Schefter’s vague tweet painted Cook completely as the victim of abuse and extortion. Instantly people started sharing the story with their thoughts and prayers for Dalvin.
Within a few hours, the story developed. Low and behold, there was a lot more — A LOT MORE — going on than what was presented. Cook’s former girlfriend accuses him of slamming her into a coffee table, pointing a gun at her and beating her with a broomstick. Oh, and there’s pictures and a screen shot of a text message from a lawsuit in which the woman is seeking damages for the alleged abuse.
Now if your brain already told you to quote tweet what I just wrote and fire it off as a tweet saying LOOK AT THIS GUY SAYING DALVIN IS GUILTY, take a second and think about what you’ve become and what social media has done to you.
I got tweets this week from reasonable seeming folks, not wacky @VIKINGZBOT16654 bots, who instantly wanted to “stand with Dalvin” or be on “Team Dalvin,” without taking one solitary moment to think about how messed up that is.
What we have in the Cook case is two sides to a very disturbing story. We have a football league that got very teary-eyed after Ray Rice but now wants to throw up its hands and say, “civil suit, not our problem!” And we have powerful people trying to push one side of the story to garner public opinion.
They are well aware that you won’t take your time, look at the details and wait for months and months to see what other facts of the case emerge and how the legal system ultimately views this lawsuit when it’s presented in court. Who’s got time for that when you can get retweets and a 4LOKO like burst of energy from fighting with another guy online to defend your favorite player.
The Vikings are in the center of an extremely uncomfortable place as well. Do they play him? They’re allowed to play him but is it right to play him? Does that make them look like they don’t care about these accusations? They cut Jeff Gladney earlier this year for similar incident but waited until a jury indicted him. If you know anything about domestic violence that’s a very high bar to set for doing anything about it. But what if his side is right and you’re taking an innocent man away from his job?
There’s more. If he runs for 200 yards against the Chargers, does the NFL name him the Offensive Player of the Week? Does that seem a little callous? Does the media go back to asking Cook football questions after a press conference in which he refused to offer any insight into this very disturbing allegation?
It’s almost like this situation is incredibly nuanced and deserves a delicate approach to covering and forming conclusions or opinions.
Fine, that’s not the world we live in. But TV Insiders don’t have to be so egotistical and desperate to lead the way that they carry an ocean’s worth of water and you, the Vikings fan, don’t have to let the raging internet turn you into a barbaric fool.
You’re not a monster for wondering if there’s truth in the middle or trying to play Law and Order at home and sifting through the details to land on some semblance of an opinion. However, if you allow yourself to get caught up in the flurry of vile social media speculation, you are giving reason for women not to come forward when abused and giving power to those who see you as a pawn.