Back in February, ESPN senior writer Howard Bryant was arrested on charges of domestic assault and battery. The details were ugly. There were witnesses who said they saw Bryant choking his wife outside of a Shelburne Falls, MA pizzeria. When the police arrived, Bryant reportedly resisted them. After his arrest, Bryant claimed that race was involved (he’s black, and his wife is white).
On ESPN’s posting of the story, commenters went to town on Bryant. One said his career was “toast.” Another said ESPN should “fire him right away.” Bryant got similar treatment from commenters on the Boston Herald and the Boston Globe. Howard Bryant, the ESPN personality who choked his wife, appeared to indeed be toast.
Except that Howard Bryant didn’t choke his wife. He never physically assaulted her. She never felt the threat of violence. They merely had a fight in public. Howard Bryant, for all intents and purposes, was innocent of the charges against him. This we learned today, as MassLive.com reported on the quiet conclusion to Bryant’s trial.
An agreement signed by Eisenberg and prosecutor Jeremy C. Bucci states that a review of the evidence does not support the witness allegations that Bryant struck and choked his wife or inflicted violence on her, although Bryant admits police had probable cause to arrest him. The agreement also expressed Bryant’s regrets that a private matter became public and offired his support for measures to combat domestic violence.
This is good for Bryant: he’s innocent, and after a six month probationary period, the charges will be wiped from his record. But, as Glenn Stout, an author (and friend of Bryant) noted, the damage had been done.
As of earlier this morning, before the disposition of his case was made public, there were no less than 167,000 references to “Howard Bryant” “ESPN” and “assault” on Google – 55,000 from “News” sources alone. This does not include the thousands of reader comments that attacked Bryant’s character that were posted on news stories that reported on the incident in sources such as the Boston Herald, Boston Globe, Masslive.com, ESPN.com and others, or the hours of despicable, vitriol leveled at Bryant from certain Massachusetts-based sports broadcast outlets that were disseminated nationwide through the Internet and cable and satellite television. In combination, this has caused harm to his personal reputation that might well be irreparable.
Hopefully, this story will have a happy ending. Hopefully ESPN, which, Stout notes, has commendably stood by Bryant through this whole thing, will continue to do so. Hopefully Bryant will get back to where he was before he had a regrettable public argument with his wife in the parking lot of a pizzeria. Hopefully.