It’s July 4th and while many in America are planning to celebrate freedom today, it’s unlikely ex-Cowboy C.J. Spillman who was found guilty of sexual assault and sentenced to five years in prison, is one of them.  Claude Norman “C.J.” Spillman, Jr. was an American football safety, as well as, Special teamer. Is C.J. Spillman guilty of the crime he was charged with and convicted of? Apparently so, at least according to a Dallas Fort-Worth jury, but it’s not as though juries have not been wrong before.

A few weeks ago I traveled to Texas to interview a former NFL player who happens to have written an autobiography about his journey from his childhood through his NFL days, and he invited me to spend time with him. What does this have to do with C.J. Spillman? Well, let’s just say that the man I interviewed, according to some, had two strikes against him as far as the odds that I might be safe. Those two strikes happen to be his color and his former career. Why he played in the NFL, and he’s a man of color, so surely I was subjecting myself to danger when I agreed to visit him in his natural setting to conduct the interview, right?

Are professional athletes targeted? Or are they just a bunch of egotistical jerks that take advantage of women and have no regard for the law? Was the Dallas Fort-Worth jury that convicted Spillman of sexual assault able to see beyond his color, his career of choice, and his lack of stellar record with the Dallas Cowboys?   Why did C.J. Spillman take the stand in his own defense, and why did he not take the plea of being guilty to a misdemeanor charge? According to all I’ve read, the man wanted to proclaim his innocence and share with the jury.

What if when I went to do my interview of this former NFL player one thing lead to another and we ended up having sex, and then I decided I wanted to make a quick buck, and claim rape or sexual assault? Would he be found guilty and sentenced to years in prison? The trust this man placed in me by allowing me to get to know him in his natural environment was somewhat of a chance don’t you think?   Of course, I took a chance, too because after all I was allowing myself to be in an environment that many would have deemed was risky based merely on certain variables that might, in fact, include profiling. Dare we do that?

As we celebrate this 4th of July, I’m wondering just what it was that caused a jury to convict C.J. Spillman, and what the NFL investigation after the charges were made might have revealed. I’m wondering about players like Kobe Bryant, Darren Sharper, Ben Roethisberger, Jameis Winston, Greg Hardy, and others who never made it to the NFL, such as the young men who recently got convicted of several charges involving sexual assault, Brandon Vandenburg, and Corey Batey. Why do these cases all end so differently? What are we doing to learn more and actually prevent sexual assault and/or professional athletes from being targeted?

What’s bothersome to me about the case against C.J. Spillman is that I am, at least so far, unable to find out more about the actual trial in the media. So far, the reports I’ve read in the Dallas papers and USA Today seem to have a somewhat vague account of the trial. I’ve learned that Spillman took the stand in his own defense, claimed to have been targeted and was found guilty after two hours of jury deliberation. Only thing I’ve not been able to find out is why.