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A Critical Look at the Brandon Banks Stabbing

Washington Redskins’ return man Brandon Banks was released from the Virginia Hospital Center on Friday, February 18th after being stabbed during an altercation outside of a nightclub early Saturday, February 12th. Though Banks’ agent James Gould initially described the injury to his upper left abdomen as “a superficial wound,” reports of much more serious damage emerged throughout the week. On Wednesday, Gould issued another statement revealing that Banks had been moved from Howard University Hospital to the Virginia Hospital Center, where he would be cared for by team doctor Anthony Casolaro.

Gould said, “The knife nicked [Banks’] lung creating a pneumothorax condition.” Pneumothorax is the medical term for a collapsed lung.  According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, a collapsed lung results from “the collection of air in the space around the lungs. This buildup of air puts pressure on the lung, so it cannot expand as much as it normally does when you take a breath.” To treat the pneumothorax, doctors inserted a tube into Banks’ chest cavity to drain the fluid and air that prevented his lung from inflating. By Friday, doctors had removed the tube and the lung fully expanded on its own, allowing Banks to leave the hospital. The recovery process is expected to take 3 or 4 weeks, at which point he can safely return to offseason workouts.

Disturbing new information about the altercation emerged last week. Initial accounts described the perpetrator Jason Shorter as the knife wielding aggressor and cast Brandon Banks as an innocent bystander who intervened to save his childhood friend Christopher Nixon. On the Tuesday following the stabbing, local news outlet ABC7 reported that a cell phone video from that night shows Brandon Banks throwing the first punch. In response, the suspect pulled a knife and began slashing. Others then rushed to subdue the man. Review of surveillance footage confirms that Banks and Nixon physically engaged the assailant even after he drew the weapon.

Brandon Banks and Christopher Nixon did not deserve to be stabbed even if they did instigate the altercation; however, they seem to have put themselves in a situation that nearly cost them their lives. As a professional athlete, Banks should have known better than to start a fight with an unknown man outside a club in the middle of the night. He should have appreciated how much he stood to lose if the dispute became a major altercation, and he should have anticipated the amount of media attention even a minor scuffle would receive.

Weighing these risks, Brandon should have made the decision to disengage. He didn’t, but I can’t bring myself to fault him for it. As a 23-year-old kid who began the season on the practice squad and ended it as a star kick returner and fan favorite, Brandon Banks gained the success, recognition, and power in 6 months that many people will never achieve in their lifetimes. Handling the privileges and responsibilities that accompany success in the NFL takes maturity and wisdom that few 23-year-old men (and some 52-year-old men in the case of Lawrence Taylor) possess.

The question becomes what, if any, responsibility the NFL has to prepare its young players for the unique opportunities and pitfalls of life as a pro athlete. I’m not sure of the answer, but I am sure that the league can’t afford not to learn from Banks’ near tragedy.

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2 Responses to “A Critical Look at the Brandon Banks Stabbing”

  1. Thanks for the summary. The case is still under investigation, but I hear there is video evidence. If Banks was indeed the instigator, I hope he was not, there will be a price to pay.

    Your last statement wondered about the NFL’s responsibility. Responsibility for personal conduct rests with the player. The league has a deep business interest player conduct, so they require all rookies to sit through a seminar jointly conducted with the Player’s Association just to point out the dangers of the matter Banks was caught up in. Those seminars have taken place about 15 years now.

    Participation is mandatory so Banks presumably got the message. I’ll wait for the story to unfold to see whether he took it to heart or not.

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