Arizona Cardinals run game coordinator and offensive line coach Sean Kugler was let go from the team on Sunday night after Mexican authorities informed the team that Kugler had allegedly sexually assaulted a woman that same day, according to ESPN’s Josh Weinfuss.
Kugler flew home Monday morning before the Cardinals’ game against the 49ers, the final game of the NFL’s international series, meant to showcase the NFL to an international viewing audience.
The Cardinals Need to Confront Their History After Sean Kugler Firing
This is the second Cardinals coach accused of assaulting a woman this year, with former running backs coach James Saxon sentenced to one year in jail (later reduced to one year of probation) after turning himself in for assaulting a woman in Indianapolis.
Kugler was let go and sent home immediately, which stands in stark contrast to how the Cardinals handled the Saxon situation. The Cardinals claimed they knew of the charges in May but didn’t take action until August, when the charges became public. They never let go of Saxon, either – he resigned in October when he was sentenced.
The swifter action that the Cardinals took with Kugler is preferable to the delayed action with Saxon, but there’s still something disturbing about how the situation was handled.
After letting go of Kugler but before the news broke publicly, Cardinals head coach Kliff Kingsbury was asked if any changes had been made to the coaching staff before the game. He said there hadn’t been, per Weinfuss.
This was an opportunity for Kingsbury, who had already made a decision on Kugler and had just recently dealt with the fallout of another coach accused of harming a woman. Instead of taking a strong stance on all types of violence against women, Kingsbury lied to media and punted on his platform, refusing to use his position within the organization for good. He let leaks and transaction reports speak for him instead.
Even as the Cardinals compose an official response vetted by their PR staff, it will only be that – public relations. The Cardinals’ actions, perhaps motivated in part by the distinct possibility of an international incident brewing more than a strong moral core, come off as damage control.
And now, the Cardinals will have difficulty shedding the reputation of being a team out of control.
This comes as the NFL is about to relitigate another famous case of misconduct against women. Cleveland Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson will be eligible to come off of suspension in Week 13, setting him up to have his first start since he was accused by over 20 women of sexual misconduct – and that start comes against his former team.
Again, this has public relations implications for the league. But the bigger concern is the impact the league has on the public conversation surrounding violence against women. The mishandling of the Saxon, Kugler, and Watson cases are all examples of how the NFL is more concerned about damage control than about their ethical responsibility to the public.