Saturday, Florida State football player Mario Pender was arrested and charged with domestic battery by strangulation, a third degree felony, and resisting an officer during the process of his arrest. He was immediately, permanently dismissed from the Florida State football team in a short statement from the Athletics Department.
Police officers were called to a residence just a half-mile south of Doak Campbell Stadium Saturday morning, and when they arrived they found Pender allegedly committing the act. Here are more details from the Tallahassee Democrat:
A 911 caller told dispatchers about 9:50 a.m. that a man had hit a woman and dragged her by her hair into a house. The caller said the two had been arguing in the front yard and then started walking down the street. At one point, the man dragged her by the hair about 50 feet to the house. The caller stated similar incidents involving the two had happened before.
The first TPD officer on scene heard a woman screaming inside the one-story home and a man yelling at her. The officer pushed the front door open and found Pender straddling the woman with his hands around her neck. The officer then pointed their gun at Pender and commanded he get off the woman and lie on the ground. Pender, court documents said, told the officer the two were “just wrestling,” but he got off the woman and was handcuffed.
The officer then pointed their gun at Pender and commanded he get off the woman and lie on the ground.
The woman was disheveled and injured, the officer said, with scratches to her left temple and chest, a bruised right eye and several scratches and marks on her neck. Pender’s shirt was torn and he had a cut on his lip, court documents said.
The woman told police she and Pender were arguing before officers arrived and that he grabbed her by the throat. She said Pender did not mean to injure her but he accidentally scratched her temple. The bruise on her eye, she said, was caused by her child. She provided a sworn statement but refused to have her injuries photographed by officers.
Obviously, this is an egregious crime and Florida State did the only thing it could have and should have done by swiftly dismissing Pender from the team. Based on the details from the police report as described above, it seems that Pender has a history of this violent behavior, isn’t afraid to lie about it to police, and that he has frightened his partner enough to lie about just how bad it had gotten.
According to the Tallahassee Democrat, he later refused to leave with police until Jimbo Fisher himself showed up at the residence and convinced Pender to leave. He is currently being held in Leon County Jail until he can post bond.
Pender’s awful crime and bizarre arrest is the latest in a long line of recent events in which FSU football players have beaten women, committed flagrant crimes, and seemingly had more respect for their football coach than the law. Leading up to the 2015 season, 19 FSU football players had been arrested since 2010, among the most of any program in NCAA football, and these recent events have only increased that tally.
These numerous, repeated instances in which FSU football players seem to systematically fail to live up to even the lowest expectations of human decency are appalling. Jimbo Fisher appears to have created an environment full of players who respect him, but no one else, especially women and police officers trying to defend those women.
When DeAndre Johnson (dismissed from the team, entered a plea deal, and is now at a junior college) and Dalvin Cook (later found not guilty and is still on the team) made headlines last year, there were questions then about what kind of culture was being instilled in players at the FSU football program. Those questions are sure to come forth again in the wake of Pender’s violent act and subsequent arrest, and deservedly so.
How many women do FSU football players have to assault before FSU considers drastic changes to its program? Apparently two or three beatings every year aren’t quite enough to make the administrators in Tallahassee think about it. This should certainly make you think about it long and hard.
Credit to the Tallahassee Democrat for their reporting of the incident and police report. Featured image credit: Leon County Jail/Tallahassee Democrat