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Chase Claypool’s bar scuffle is a red flag, but not a deal breaker

Chase Claypool’s career with the Steelers shouldn’t be ruined because of a bar fight in California—even if some of his actions were uncalled for and downright dumb.

NFL: Pittsburgh Steelers at Cleveland Browns Scott Galvin-USA TODAY Sports

On Wednesday morning, TMZ released a video of Steelers’ receiver Chase Claypool participating in a fight outside a bar in California. The incident reportedly took place on March 13. During the fight that involved several people, Claypool can be seen kicking at a man who is on the ground and pretty much defenseless.

Did Claypool make contact with the man’s head or any other part of his body?

Whether Claypool did or not doesn’t change the fact that it was a horrible move on his part and looked bad.

Besides, in an era where cameras are everywhere and the public’s need to be outraged is insatiable, Claypool could have simply been an onlooker during this short brawl, and it still would have been a mark against him.

Claypool was much more than an onlooker, however, and he deserves every ounce of scrutiny that has come his way since the video was published on Wednesday. Yes, he’s 22. Yes, most people do stupid things at that age, but Claypool is a known athlete in the modern era; if people can make strong arguments against JuJu Smith-Schuster dancing on opposing logos, you damn-well better believe they have a right to judge Claypool for an action that could have seriously injured another person.

Should Claypool be suspended for a portion of the 2021 regular season, even if this incident occurred in March, and even if he connected with nothing but air with that kick? Absolutely. That might seem harsh, but, again, this is a different time we’re living in. Nobody cares about how childish and violent players acted years ago. You can bring up Bobby Layne’s alcohol abuse and the time Ernie Holmes used a helicopter for target practice, but neither is admissible in the court of public opinion in 2021.

Having said all of that, should the Steelers cut ties with Claypool over this fight? Absolutely not. You have to look at this incident in the proper context, and when you factor in Claypool’s age and the fact that, yes, 22-year old males frequently get into fights, I think it’s fair to chalk this incident up as a red flag.

Is the flag a brighter shade of red than we’d like? Maybe. But it’s not the kind that should ruin his career with the Steelers.

For now, Claypool’s transgression is just something to keep an eye on.

It’s funny, a year ago at this time, when he was still a prospect and new draft crush for lots of Steelers fans, I wrote a whimsical and romance-themed article about Claypool. In terms of his physical attributes and production while at Notre Dame, Claypool was damn attractive. As for his personality? He seemed like your typical guy next door.

But none of us really know a person until we start dating them, do we? Today, that attractive and charming person that you’ve had a crush on for years could one day be the date that raises her voice at you moments after your first kiss because you asked her why someone so fit would need to attend Weight Watchers meetings on a weekly basis (true story). Is this alarming, this response that would seem a bit more appropriate if it occurred after you’ve been dating this woman for six months and not two weeks? A little, but we all have bad days and, besides, maybe I could have been a bit more sensitive in that particular moment. Instead of quickly breaking things off, you look past this little red flag and ultimately date this lovely woman for several months (also a true story).

Anyway, to keep the dating metaphor going, the longer you’re with a person, the more likely they are to reveal their true self.

Maybe one red flag eventually turns into so many that you have no choice but to get out of that relationship.

Is Claypool’s bar fight concerning? Sure, especially when you include his petty public disdain for the Browns and rumors of diva-like behavior during the 2020 regular season.

However, there are red flags and then there are bright-red flashing lights, complete with sirens that are impossible to ignore (to keep the relationship theme going, I recommend the movie Fatal Attraction for some examples). But I don’t believe Chase Claypool’s behavior has reached that point just yet.

It might be 2021, but that doesn’t mean that every transgression committed by a professional athlete should be punished to the point that it could cause permanent damage to his career.