More than a week ago, 67,000 people witnessed, in person, a growing problem in this country - workplace violence.
In this case it was a member of the Cleveland Browns professional football club intentionally striking a co-worker, a member of the Pittsburgh Steelers football club, on the head with an object capable of causing serious bodily injury.
The object was a football helmet weighing between 4 and 6 pounds, swung with considerable force by a man standing 6-foot-4 and weighing 272 pounds.
In Ohio the legislature has defined assault as an act that “recklessly (or) knowingly cause(s) or attempt(s) to cause physical harm to another.”
As of this writing, Myles Garrett, the Cleveland Brown who assaulted Pittsburgh Steeler quarterback Mason Rudolph, has not been charged.
Garrett and Rudolph are professional athletes. Playing football is their job. They get paychecks, fringe benefits and time off. They go to lunch, they take breaks and they go home to their families every night - just like working men and women do every day nationwide.
They also, at times, face violence from co-workers in the workplace. In 2017, workplace assaults resulted in 18,400 injuries and 458 fatalities. Assaults include obvious violence like shootings, stabbings and bludgeoning as well as hitting, kicking, shoving and beating.
According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), “The best protection employers can offer is to establish a zero-tolerance policy toward workplace violence against or by their employees.” To that end, the NFL did suspend Garrett indefinitely. However, the Cleveland police and the Cuyahoga County prosecutor have done nothing.
Workplace violence, co-worker assault, is commonly prosecuted - even when there are few witnesses and conflicting versions of the event. Recently, on a single day in suburban Philadelphia a 22-year-old man was arrested for hitting a co-worker in the head with a 12-inch metal bar at a construction site. After speaking with all the parties involved, police determined that a verbal altercation turned into a physical altercation.
The same day, Philadelphia police were told that employees of a lawn care business were cutting grass at a home when one of the employees stopped working. The employee was fired. Police said the fired employee hit his supervisor in the back of the head and then four more times in the face. He then kicked him in the face and fled.
This past week, an employee at a Domino’s Pizza in Friendswood, Texas assaulted a co-worker who revealed the plot of a recently released movie. The employee was charged with assault after police were called to the shop and interviewed the victim and other employees.
Yet, in this case where a stadium full of people, and millions more witnessed the assault in real-time with many millions more having watched a video of the assault, law enforcement officials have shrugged shoulders.
Prosecutor Michael O’Malley told the Cleveland Plain Dealer that his office was not involved in the incident. Apparently, O’Malley doesn’t have a television, computer, iPad or cellphone. He added that he would conduct a review for potential felony charges if the city police or prosecutors ask him to do so.
“If there were to be an investigation, it would be initiated at the city level,” O’Malley said in a statement.
Football is a violent game. Every game, enormous men run into one another with great speed and force. Players assume the risk of serious injury every time they step on the field.
However, a quarterback, or any other person at work for that matter, does not assume the risk of being intentionally hit on the head with a dangerous object and ignoring such conduct sends the wrong message.
Matthew T. Mangino is of counsel with Luxenberg, Garbett, Kelly & George P.C. His book “The Executioner’s Toll, 2010” was released by McFarland Publishing. You can reach him at www.mattmangino.com and follow him on Twitter at @MatthewTMangino.