Last night the stage was set for Ole Miss to be the darling of the 2016 NFL Draft. By the end of the night, it was anything but. Someone, with more hate and vile than I can even imagine, set out to destroy the one time top-rated player to go in the NFL Draft.
“I think he’s the best player in the draft.” Mel Kiper of ESPN on Laremy Tunsil
Tunsil, the anchor of the Ole Miss offensive line for the past three seasons, had been pegged as the top player to go to the reeling Tennessee Titans. Following a few pre-draft moves, the Titans traded away its pick in lieu of more draft choices to the now Los Angeles Rams.
Then the unthinkable.
Word began surfacing a video was tweeted from Tunsil’s official Twitter account of the Lake City, Fla native with a gas mask on, along with a long pipe (also referred to as a “bong”) 10-minutes before the NFL Draft began.
Tunsil told Deion Sanders of the NFL Network “It was a mistake,” he said of the video in an on-stage interview with Sanders following his selection by the Miami Dolphins. “It happened years ago… I did not know about [the video’s posting] at all. I don’t know who it was…my Twitter account got hacked.”
Tunsil, now the 13th pick in the NFL Draft, confirmed he that passed all drug tests leading up to the draft, per SI.com.
As of this morning, Deadspin reported the leaked video of Tunsil has been shopped around, as late as April 12th to the online news organization. It noted the information came from an apparent throwaway email address.
Jimmy Sexton told Suzy Kolber of ESPN, “The account was hacked. This video might be quite old, going back to high school,” per CBS Sports. Ian Rapaport tweeted this last night about the video.
Twitter blew up, as you can imagine.
The hacker wasn’t done. They hadn’t made their point and they we set out to destroy a man on the biggest night of his career. Not only costing him millions of dollars, they want to destroy his name.
Pure unadulterated hate.
Following an interview by ESPN after Tunsil was drafted, the social media witch hunt continued. A “supposed” conversation between Tunsil and Ole Miss staffers where Tunsil was requesting financial assistance in regards to domestic issues and the text was leaked. Tunsil admitted he had no idea this was posted, being the post happened as he was walking on the stage of his major press conference.
When asked by Dari Nowkhah of ESPN Radio as Tunsil learns about the Instagram post for the first time and allegedly receiving improper benefits, Tunsil responds, “That’s crazy man. Like I said, whoever hacked in my account, is crazy.”
Here are a few things of note.
Let’s say the Instagram screen shots of the alleged conversation are true, it still does not implicate Ole Miss in any wrongdoing. Chuck Rounsaville of the Ole Miss Spirit notes the conversation would be perfectly legal and common in an exclusive to Ole Hotty Toddy and the Ole Miss Spirit.
“There is something known as an “opportunity fund” to help players in financial need,” Rounsaville said. “There is also Pell Grant money and federal assistance funds players can apply for in times of need with coaches assistance,” he added.
Which would explain the alleged messages.
The most important aspect of this? It is approved through NCAA compliance, according to Rounsaville.
All of this if the messages are indeed authentic. With the advent of the smart phone and apps to do anything, I wouldn’t be surprised if all of the messages were fabricated, specifically with the timing of the leak and the report above citing Deadspin and the request to purchase the video noted above.
The final act of this wild play came as a reporter asked Tunsil “was there an exchange between you and your coach for money?” Tunsil answered, “I have to say yeah.” Tunsil went on to deny the statement, and state it again, obviously confused by the situation.
The key element here? Not once did Tunsil admit taking improper benefits from Ole Miss coaches. In this article, Hugh Kellenberger of the Clarion Ledger notes in an article the improper benefits from coaches were from Ole Miss coaches. In the interview below, via Parrish Alford of the NE Miss Daily Journal, the question posed from the reporter never cites Ole Miss in his question, nor does the answer from Tunsil, in regards to receiving improper benefits at the 2:43 mark.
At the end of the day, Ole Miss issued the following message, posted by The Rebel Walk.
Regardless of the circumstances, Ole Miss must act swiftly. It will be a wild day in the athletic office.