I don’t know how many Seahawks fans not located in California, more specifically Southern California, have heard, but a man by the name of Brian Banks has been exonerated of a kidnapping and rape conviction he received about ten years ago when he was football recruit at Long Beach Polytechnic. Long Beach Poly is a premier football prep program of the same ilk as De La Salle and some might say even Bellevue (though I probably wouldn’t).
While in high school, Mr. Banks had received a scholarship offer from USC to play linebacker when a classmate, Wanetta Gibson, accused him of raping her in 2002. At 16, Mr. Banks ultimately accepted a plea bargain after receiving somewhat dubious legal advice. “You can go into that courtroom in front of a jury. You’re a big black teenager, they’re going to automatically assume you as guilty,” Mr. Banks’ lawyer told him. Consequently, he spent over five years in prison and upon probation had to register as a sex offender.
In 2011, after already having served several years in prison, Ms. Gibson contacted Mr. Banks via facebook to seek forgiveness and “let bygones be bygones.” Mr. Banks agreed to meet with Ms. Gibson. In the meeting, Ms. Banks confessed to making the whole story up. With the help of a private investigator, the meeting and statement were videotaped and then given to the Innocence Project which used it to get Mr. Banks exonerated of all charges.
After Mr. Banks was convicted, Ms. Gibson sued the school district and won $750,000. That money has since been spent, and Ms. Gibson has retracted her statement that she made the charges up, so any chance of the school district getting it back is virtually zero. Mr. Banks is now suing the state for $100 a day for each day he spent in prison. He is not suing Ms. Gibson.
That brings us to today, where Mr. Banks is scheduled to have a tryout with Pete Carroll and the Seattle Seahawks on June 7. Mr. Banks is also scheduled to tryout with the Redskins and Chiefs. This is already a great story because an innocent man has been given his freedom, but also because Mr. Banks has a chance to find redemption by earning a roster spot somewhere. He has been training for the last year or so in hopes of doing just that.
It is also great to see Pete Carroll giving him a second chance. He was the coach that initially offered Mr. Banks a scholarship to play at USC and now he is giving Mr. Banks his first pro tryout. Pete Carroll’s willingness to give players second chances is not new. After being all but written out of the NFL, Pete Carroll signed Mike Williams in 2010 and gave him a second chance with the Seahawks. Williams took advantage of this and had a great season.
Whether or not Brian Banks ends up earning a spot with the Seahawks, this is a story that I think is worth repeating. I think it tells a lot about the Seahawks as an organization and it makes me happy to be a fan. It’s easy to not give someone a second chance. A cynic would say that Pete Carroll is offering Mr. Banks a tryout for publicity or media hype, but I don’t believe that to be the case. Along with a willingness to cut and trade just about anybody, Pete Carroll, and John Schneider, have shown that they understand the human side to business and truly do care on some level about their players’ personal lives beyond how it affects them on the field. I don’t know anything about Mr. Banks’ abilities, but just the fact that Carroll has offered Brian Banks a second chance to play for him makes me proud of the organization that I root for.