Justice for Tom Lewand?

>> 6.30.2010

justice_nolene_flickr By now I’m sure most of you have seen the video of Tom Lewand’s traffic stop, and subsequent arrest.

In college, I pursued an unusual major: Political Theory and Constitutional Democracy.  The theme of the curriculum was justice; the study of what it is, what it means, the nature of a just government, and lots of other boring stuff like that.  As a side effect, it developed my inner Scales of Justice—my sense of what is right and what is wrong, what is fair and what is unfair, what is just and what is unjust.

Usually, when I hear a news story, I have a swift and strong opinion on it.  Sometimes, though, there’s no easy answer . . . and it stresses me out.  I have to learn more, to know more.  I read.  I have to read.  I have to keep researching, keep digging, learn more, know more.  I talk.  I talk to my wife, to my friends, to my family, to myself in the car, over and over and over nobody wants anything to do with me.  I have to bounce everything off everyone until I know what is right. After several days of this, several mental fuses blown, and several false starts on this post, I’m still not sure what is right in this situation.

First, and possibly foremost, Lewand admitted he is a recovering alcoholic.  Everything I think, every angle I take, every “take” I come up with, keeps coming back to this.  He has a problem, he’s seeking treatment—and not because he was ordered to, but because either he, or those who love him, realized it.  Watching the video, I wonder if his inexplicable, ridiculous denial that he’d had a drop to drink wasn’t a symptom of his addiction.

Second, what he did was extremely dangerous—not just to himself, but to others.  The current series of PSAs with the tagline “buzzed driving is drunk driving” have a point—but .21 BAC is not “buzzed driving” or “drunk driving,” it’s completely tanked driving.  He, and those who shared the road with him that night, are incredibly fortunate that no one was hurt . . . or killed.

Third, this episode is incredibly embarrassing for him, his loved ones, and—yes—the organization.  Not only is this a personal tragedy for Lewand, it’s a professional failure, too; it’s a black eye for the business of which he is President.  Lewand’s primary task is to set a tone of class and professionalism for the organization—and instead, the Lions are again a national punchline.

Given his previously clean record and reputation, his incredible work in getting Ford Field built, and the exemplary way in which he’s handled contracts and salaries, it’s no surprise that both his employees, and his employer, gave him immediate votes of confidence.  Apparently, his problem was known within the organization; to them this was a setback, not a shock.

When the headlines said he’d been arrested for suspicion of DUI in Roscommon County, my first thought was “Up north, the weekend after minicamp?  Drinking all day at a lake, or while golfing, I bet.”  Sure enough, he was at a charity golf outing.  In my experience, these events are thinly veiled, or not veiled, excuses for everybody to get lubricated and goof around.  I can’t speak to what happened that day by Houghton Lake, but if someone with a drinking problem was in an environment like most golf outings I’ve seen . . . well, the temptation would be extreme.

Of course, he’ll be prosecuted under the law, and will face discipline from the league under the Personal Conduct Policy.  There are those who’ve called for Lewand to be fired, but, right now, I don’t think that’s the right thing for him, or for the Lions.  He’s clearly been performing the duties of his job at a high level—he’s continued to ink draft picks left and right since the incident—so one mistake shouldn’t spell the end for him.

At the end of the day, that’s what this was—a mistake.  A terrible, dangerous mistake, but a mistake.  I hope Tom Lewand continues to seek help, and be supported.  With that, plus strength and dedication on his part, this mistake ought to be his last.  I’ve been searching my heart to see if I’m just giving Lewand a pass because he’s affiliated with the Lions, but I don’t believe I am.  Were it I who made the mistake, I’d pray for a second chance, and I’d like to think I’d deserve one.  Could I ask for that grace for myself, without extending it to everyone else?  I don’t think so.

We, the Lions-watching public, aren’t “owed” an explanation, or Lewand’s head on a platter, or anything else.  But for his sake, his family’s sake, and for the sake of the organization, I hope he makes the most of this second chance, which I believe he deserves.

. . . I think.  Ask me again tomorrow.



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12 comments:

A Lion in ViQueen territory,  July 2, 2010 at 12:03 PM  

Bro,

Grace and mercy are things long-forgotten on our society, especially one someone realizes they made a mistake. Justice should still be meted out, but I think in our attitudes towards this situation, a little grace and mercy are due.

Good post.

flaco July 2, 2010 at 1:07 PM  

Big ups to James Madison College. I got the same degree in aught six.

Louis Hunt is my homeboy.

Mike,  July 2, 2010 at 1:59 PM  

Ty good article i had a dui when i was 23 and am glad my job gave me a 2nd chance. The other day i was listing to huge and he was calling for lewands job which to me would be the wrong thing to do someone that is trying to get help and slips needs a helping hand not to be shunned and ridiculed by the fans. or an article on mlive sorry if i am calling these people out but the lack of compassion for a man with a problem and calling for an explanation or a job when he slips possibly putting him in a worse situation is not the way to go!!! i believe your article is right on and never lose sight of who you are cause heaven help that none of us get put into that situation were we need hand and our peers cast us off like a plague instead of supporting us along the way...

Ty July 2, 2010 at 3:38 PM  

ALiVQT--

Very, very, very well said. Thank you.

Peace
Ty

Ty July 2, 2010 at 5:28 PM  

flaco--

Lemme tell you a Louis Hunt story. I took his section MC201, and was very much into it.

One day, I was talking with my friends in the hall after class, discussing the material, etc.; I was holding court as I often did. Professor Hunt walked past us. He stopped, turned around, and said "Oh, what is this, a little Socratic philosophy group?" My buddy gestured grandly at me and said, "Yup, and this our Socrates!"

Professor Hunt looked at me, looked at us, and went, "You guys are in deep shit."

Peace
Ty

SomeChoi July 2, 2010 at 5:55 PM  

Maybe I did fall off the rocker this morning, but... In California, if you DUI and cause a child to be motherless, maybe perhaps maybe you'll get two years in prison. Typically, I believe you get a lot less than that. For the life of me I don't understand why no one I talk to shares my outrage. The argument "he didn't intend to kill" doesn't work with me because EVERYBODY knows a car is a deadly weapon when intoxicated. It's criminal negligence and should amount to similar culpability as intent to kill.

Yes, I believe in redemption from mistakes. But I also believe mistakes need to be paid for appropriately. I'm really not sure what punishment is suitable if you luckily don't kill anybody. Thus, I can't give an opinion on what should happen to Lewand.

Finally, as if this topic doesn't wire me up as it is... if you're a schmo who kills Nick Adenhart you do get charged with murder. But if you're Leonard Little and you kill someone, you get no prison time.

starfish12 July 3, 2010 at 9:52 AM  

SomeChoi, I feel similarly. I have a hard time with DUI in general because, as a mom who drives a van full of kids, it is always in the back of my mind what COULD have happened. Do I think the guy should lose his job? I don't know. But I agree with your statement that mistakes need to be paid for appropriately.

I understand that addiction is terrible, but the addiction is to alcohol, not driving. I am sure he could afford a cab.

I guess the hard part to me is what is a just punishment for intentionally putting many lives at risk, but being lucky enough to be arrested first.

minker July 3, 2010 at 3:23 PM  

Let the law take care of the punishment, that's its function.

The NFL will also take care of punishment based on its rules and regulations.

I do think it's a good idea for the Lions to give him a second chance with the understanding of a zero tolerance policy. They would need to exempt him from any mandatory appearances where alcohol is being served however, as he currently has no defense against that first drink and to place him in a situation where he is powerless, is to set him up to fail.

He has a disease, but he is still responsible for his actions. Finding the humility needed for sobriety in his line of work would be really difficult (I don't envy his path). His humility can only be found through gratitude, starting with gratitude for still being alive and gratitude for not killing anyone behind the wheel of his car (truly an act of terrorism).

I hope he finds his gratitude and is truely humbled by this experience.

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Ty July 4, 2010 at 5:27 PM  

SomeChoi--

I'm still wrestling with this. There's a part of me that thinks he should be "made an example of," especially given the way that irresponsible drinking seems to go hand-in-hand with how privileged business people have fun.

Still, there's a big difference, under the law, between murder and attempted murder. Even if the intent is the same, we punish people based on what they do, not what they intend to do.

And yes, you're right, the way that privilege seems to factor in to DUI punshiment is stomach-turning . . . but then, if we're talking about justice and fairness, why shouldn't Tom Lewand receive the same leeway that Little (and, arguably, Donte Stallworth) got?

Peace
Ty

Ty July 4, 2010 at 5:32 PM  

minker--

Well said, and I agree. If another incident like this occurs, he needs to be relieved of his duties (and perhaps seek institutionalization or some other form of full-time treatment). Until then, we can only hope and pray that he does stay on that difficult path to recovery and redemption.

Peace
Ty

Matt,  July 4, 2010 at 11:57 PM  

This is a tough one for me, too. I'm not generally a "throw the book at 'im"-type guy, but neither am I "everyone deserves another chance"-type guy. I particularly have issues with how opinions/judgements/punishments change when it's alcohol vs. another drug. If Lewand were on crack instead of beer, would anyone be saying "Oh, well, he's got a disease and needs help, support, and treatment, but he shouldn't lose his job over one slip-up. As long as he's been able to handle the job, continues to handle the job, and takes his treatment seriously, I think we can slap him on the wrist and give him a pass."? I highly doubt it. I know crack and alcohol aren't the same thing, but they're more similar than different. The way we treat alcohol compared to "hard drugs" both legally and in terms of public opinion doesn't reflect this similarity, though.

And the way privelege plays into alcohol violations is just wrong. If Mario Reyes had hit and killed Donte Stallworth, instead of the other way around, would Reyes be a free man today? If Tom Lewand's assistant had been busted for DUI, instead of the boss, would the assistant still be employed with the Lions?

Again, I'm not calling for Lewand's head and don't necessarily think he deserves to be fired. On the other hand, I wouldn't think it was unfair and feel too bad for him if he was fired. I think any punishment the team and/or the league hands down can only be too light (in the grand scheme of things). Whatever the punishment, I hope he gets the help he needs and comes out the other end a better human being.

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