Chad Johnson, headbutt champ

I just read the news story about Chad Johnson losing his job because he was arrested for head butting his wife. For those of you who don’t know, Chad used to play football for the Dolphins and was a six-time pro bowl receiver and named All-Pro three times. That means he used to be good at catching a football. What he apparently isn’t good at is controlling his temper. He had only been married for 41 days when he got arrested for this, so I’m guessing he’s probably heading back to being single pretty fast. I’m calling him Chad because he’s changed his last name a couple of times and I’m not exactly sure if I should call him Chad Johnson, Chad Ochocinco or whatever. Chad Imawifebeater is probably more accurate.

Chad Johnson
Chad Johnson mug shot, courtesy of the Broward County Sheriff’s Office.

Reviewing the facts from the news accounts briefly for those of you who missed it, Chad was arrested after his wife called 911 from a neighbor’s house. Apparently Chad’s wife told police that she found a receipt for condoms in the trunk of Chad’s car and they had an argument after coming home from dinner. Chad says that he “accidentally” bumped her head with his head, but he also apparently told the cops his wife headbutted him, which doesn’t even sound close to believable. He also reportedly told his wife he “didn’t give a f… about my career!” which is OK because the Dolphins felt the same way about him.

According to the police report, the police found Chad’s wife with a three inch laceration on the center of her forehead. I’ve listened to the 911 tape and the neighbor who called the police said she probably needs stitches for a “cut” on her forehead and he asked her to wipe up the blood. If you’re too lazy to look it up, laceration means a deep cut or tear in the skin. My guess is the cops who wrote the report knew the difference between the definitions of laceration, bump, and scratch and chose the right word to describe what they saw. Also, it’s hard to make a mistake about a three inch laceration.

Now I know Chad is presumed innocent according to the court system until he either pleads guilty or no contest, or is found guilty after a trial. Without dwelling on it too much, many of these domestic cases don’t go anywhere so it’s entirely possible that he won’t get convicted. I mean, look at Tiger Wood’s wife. She went at Tiger with one of his golf clubs and nothing came of that, right?

Of course let’s be honest – there are two conviction standards here. Chad might never be convicted in a court of law but he has already been convicted in the court of news. Since his arrest he lost his job dropping footballs, which may have been coming in a year or two anyway because he was past his prime. He also lost his reality show on VH1 called “Ev & Ocho” for the obvious reason that VH1 didn’t want to be associated with a guy who puts a three inch “laceration” on his wife’s head, whether accidentally during a heated argument or not. Chad had previously been on VH1’s “Ochocinco: The Ultimate Catch” and HBO’s “Hard Knocks,” but I can’t find anything that says those two shows have been sidelined. They’re kind of old news anyway, so I doubt they’re coming back now.

It’s been hard for me to find out how much Chad lost in pure dollar terms. His one-year contract with the Dolphins must have been worth a half million, maybe more. My guess is that VH1 was going to pay him maybe $10,000 an episode for the new show’s first season, but he would have made more in the long run in with a TV career.

No matter how you look at it, that was an expensive head butting. He’s out of football, off TV, probably heading for a divorce, plastered all over the internet as a domestic abuser, and he’s certainly couch surfing with a friend. So why did he do it?

Why would anyone, for that matter? I’ve had arguments with my wife but, honestly, head butting her never crossed my mind. I’ve never thought about doing it to anyone at all, actually. Maybe I was feeling mad but I never thought to myself, “Hey, I got a great idea, I’ll smack her in the face with my face.” Wouldn’t that hurt, even if you use your forehead? Couldn’t you give yourself a concussion and need some stitches?

Chad’s not one of those guys who head butts because he physically can’t use his hands. I know that prisoners do this a lot to corrections officers. Their heads are about the only things you can’t control with chains and cuffs. The cops have to come in sort of close to grab their arms, open doors, sit them down, etc. so it’s easy for one of those guys to suddenly lunge and hit with their heads. Plus, if they connect they get to be a hero back in the general population. Fighting with guards doesn’t get them much but actually hurting one makes them a celebrity of sorts.

I’ve seen it happen to lawyers, too. These guys think that if they hit their lawyer they’re going to get another lawyer or at least a delay in their case. A new lawyer is going to ask for the trial to be set over anyway, which also gets them more time. And more time, my friends, means more time for the victim to: get hit by a car, move away, change their telephone number, find a new boyfriend and want to move on, forgive him, take the hush money and the bus ticket from his Mom and go to Florida, take new meds and go crazy, etc. You get the picture. Sometimes it’s just that a couple extra months means the witnesses kind of forget some details and look bad in front of the jury. It’s all an issue of “he said/she said” so if she flubs the details because she’s been trying to forget the pain for the last six months anyway, the jury might think they have reasonable doubt.

I think there are two real possibilities here for why Chad thought it was OK to head butt his wife. The first is that he hit his wife with his head because he won’t use his hands. He’s the kind of guy who grew up being told “you don’t hit women,” and that was interpreted as with your fists. Obviously I think that message is a good one. So, for guys like Chad who want to beat on their wives head butting is different enough that he can convince himself that he isn’t evil. I mean, he knows you can’t just start pounding on her because that will get you in trouble for sure. What are you going to say, “I swear officer, she just kept running into my fist. I begged her to stop.” Right! Trust me, that never works. But you can try to say that a head butt was an accident because it got heated, etc. In fact, that’s exactly what Chad is trying to say.

I think it’s at least likely that he was getting mad and was looking for any kind of excuse to tell himself that it was OK to hit her to release the anger. He convinced himself that hitting her with his head wasn’t the same has “hitting” a woman. I’m glad for her sake that he didn’t decide to spit on her, which is the other ‘no-fist’ option a lot of these abusive guys pick. It’s not physically painful but it’s degrading in a sick way.

Of course if Chad used his head the way he should have he would have walked away and let his wife calm down for a few days. Buy her some diamonds and go back to making tons of money and building up your retirement career on TV.

The other possibility is that he did it because he watched too many action movies in the last couple of years. The guys in those shows are always head butting people. It’s the sexy new violent act. Action movies aren’t long on fine plot details, so they keep it simple. Head butting is new, it’s fast, it’s surprising, and it’s up close and personal. It’s kind of like a more hardcore version of DeNiro’s move to stick his head in somebody’s face to be intimidating. They’re a CIA agent tied to a chair and have to escape? They head butt the guy and break free. They’re in a bar in Dublin and some badguy gets in their face? They suddenly head butt him and the audience cheers because the good guy won. You head butt somebody and you beat him in a surprising and violent way. This was probably the reason Keifer Sutherland head butted that designer at a party. That plus supposedly Sutherland was drunk.

Don’t forget that a head butt looks really impressive on the cameras because the stunt guy who gets head butted always has a lot of blood all over. A standard roundhouse to the chopper doesn’t do that much. Besides, the guy in the bar always saw the punch coming and was able to duck. A head butt happens fast so he can’t escape.

I think it was a mix of the last two for Chad. He was getting mad and couldn’t control himself. His wife was probably in his face and yelling at him. The anger built up and he feels like he had to lash out to release it. He can’t walk away because his twisted sense of manhood is on the line. Why should he back down to his mouthy wife anyway? She’s getting louder and he can’t punch her or use his hands to strangle her, so he doesn’t know what to do. He’s getting really mad and agitated, like he can barely control himself – which was probably true in his case. His wife leaned in to yell in his face and maybe was even waving her hands around. He just snapped. In an instant he remembered seeing the head butt move in a movie and he wanted to be the good guy who won. He convinced himself that head butting wasn’t the same as punching and besides, she deserved it.

I’m guessing it really hurt his wife but she was probably too surprised at the attack to react much. At this point Chad was letting the pent-up anger out and showing his dominance over her, so he probably tried to do it again just to intimidate her. After the  second attempt she probably started screaming and tried to get away. That’s bad because it sometimes triggers a kind of attack instinct in these guys and things go from bad to worse. They were arguing in their front yard after she found condoms in his car, so she may have been pinned against the door or trunk. He was probably smiling after she ran away, like he was the victor and he proved to her where her place was.

He deserves what he’s getting. I hope his wife is strong enough to stand up to him and get him prosecuted. The only way he’s going to stop doing these kinds of attacks is if he goes to treatment, and the only way he will do that is if the court makes him go as part of his probation.

-Samuel Owen

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UPDATE: Four days after he was arrested, Chad’s wife filed for divorce. Her lawyer’s statement to the press was “Given the recent events that have taken place, [she] has decided to file for divorce and move on with her life.”

Chad’s wife’s statement is worthy of being repeated here:

“I am deeply disappointed that Chad has failed to take responsibility for his actions and made false accusations against me, it is my sincere hope that he seeks the help he needs to overcome his troubles. Domestic violence is not okay and hopefully my taking a stand will help encourage other women to break their silence as well.”

Good for her.

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Author: Samuel Owen

This is my Lawyer Rant. I've put up with new associates trying to kill me, clients being dangerous idiots, and Judges being rude for far too long. It's time for me to tell it like it really is, and it feels good to give back.

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