This week, I wanted to write a more informative article about Brian Banks and second chances in the National Football League. For those of you who don’t know the story Linebacker Brian Banks, he was a young football star in southern California with extraordinary potential whose career was brought to a sudden halt by a kidnap-rape conviction that landed him in prison. High-school acquaintance—Wanetta Gibson accused Banks of rape following an encounter at Long Beach Polytechnic High School, his attorneys encouraged him to plead no contest instead of going to trial before a jury and risking 41 years in prison.
Banks was exonerated May 24th after his accuser contacted him on Facebook and recanted her story. Guilt finally got the best of Gibson who almost ten years later finally changed her story and told the truth. She now claims that they were just playing around, being curious about sexuality, and that the adults got involved and blew it all out of proportion,” according to legal documents. “She said the adults ‘put stuff in [her] head.’” The problem was that Gibson did not want to tell prosecutors the truth because she feared she would lose the $1.5 million she and her family won in a civil suit against Long Beach schools after the incident. The California Innocence Project, a law school clinical program at California Western School of Law dedicated to releasing wrongfully convicted inmates, took on Banks’ case and won his exoneration.
Banks, now 26, was 17 in 2002 and “by all accounts, a rising football star,” Many scouts believed the 6-foot-4, 225 pound athlete was bound for the NFL. The University of Southern California, a Division 1 school, had offered him a full-ride scholarship and a slew of other schools—including Michigan State University and University of Kansas—were pursuing the middle linebacker.
“Tragically, Banks would never realize his dream of going to college and playing college football,” his attorneys wrote in court documents. “A high-school acquaintance—Wanetta Gibson—shattered that dream one fateful day after she accused Banks of rape and kidnapping following a consensual sexual encounter.”
Now, Banks is more than happy to get back to his life with a clean slate and has not given up his NFL dreams.
“I’ve been training since October of last year in hopes of giving football another shot,” Banks said. “I’m hoping to possibly receive a try out from a team.”
Banks latest tryout was in Seattle on June 14th. Banks wasn’t signed by the Seahawks on Thursday, and Head Coach Pete Carroll made no such promises that will happen. The coach did speak positively about the workout, however. “He exceeded my expectations,” Carroll said Thursday, via The Associated Press. “He looked much more comfortable than I thought he would. He’s not in good shape yet and he’s a ways from that, but I was really surprised that he fit in as well as he did.” Carroll said Banks looks the part of an NFL linebacker.
“Size-wise, strength-wise and all that kind of stuff he’s in the right kind of profile so he did a good job,” he said. “We’ve got to look at the film and see what’s going on with that, but I was really proud of him today.”
Banks next stop is San Francisco, where he’ll take part in the 49ers’ minicamp. The 49ers workout will be Banks’ fourth. He previously tried out for the Chiefs, Chargers, and Seahawks. The Vikings and Redskins are also said to have some interest.
Which leads me to my point of this whole article, why are teams praising Banks ability and effort but not giving him a legitimate 2nd chance. This is a league that has given multiple chances to players with checked pasts like Terrell Owens, Ray Lewis, and Pac-Man Jones to name a few. Let’s stop the publicity stunt NFL and someone sign Banks to a free agent contract so he gets the real second chance that he truly deserves. If signed, Banks can benefit from using a team’s luxury weight room, film room, and the knowledge of defensive coaches and other teammates to improve his play and shake off the “rustiness”. Someone needs to step up and make a move, I know for the first time ever, I will be rooting for a 49er player this week, and I hope Brian Banks gets rewarded for trying to turn around his life that was unjustly stolen from him, and prove it is never too late to claim what is rightfully yours.