We may have resolution. But it doesn’t seem like we have answers.

From a criminal justice perspective, the investigation into what happened on Jan. 16 in the area of Zay Flowers’ Owings Mills home is over.

But the police report obtained by The Banner tells a concerning story, and it makes you wonder what the Baltimore Ravens — who say they have a “zero-tolerance policy” regarding domestic violence — knew before Flowers played a pivotal role in the AFC championship game.

On Jan. 21 a woman, with her father and her friend, went to police in Acton, Massachusetts, to report an assault by a person she refused to name because he was a high-profile NFL player. She told police the altercation in Baltimore County left her with bruises, and at one point, the player’s brother drew a gun. The situation was heightened enough for her to call 911, which led police to dispatch two marked cars, and according to her, that’s when the brother put away the firearm.

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On a follow-up, the woman told police she was not fearful of another incident, saying, “he has too much to lose and that he is too smart to do something like that.”

Because Baltimore County’s investigation ended with seemingly both parties declining to follow up, we’re left in a situation where the NFL — which touts a responsibility to hold players to a higher standard — is left to investigate whether Flowers violated its policies. It’s unclear whether the league is actively doing so; a spokesperson said they “continue to monitor all developments.” (The league’s personal conduct police reads: “Whenever the league office becomes aware of a possible violation of the Policy, it will undertake an investigation, the timing and scope of which will be based upon the particular circumstances of the matter.”)

But the few details we know are concerning enough to make anyone wonder about Flowers’ judgment, and perhaps more pointedly, the Ravens’ judgment to let him play during a police investigation.

Flowers was Baltimore’s leading receiver on Jan. 28, in a seven-point loss to the Chiefs. If the Ravens were privy to any details of this report in the week leading up to the game, should he have suited up? Wouldn’t it have been more in line with a “zero-tolerance policy” to sideline him until the investigation was complete?

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It may be 10 years later, but this is still the same organization that mishandled the Ray Rice case. It’s the same owner, the same coach, many of the same executives and top staffers. The Ravens have done a decade of work to show how seriously they take domestic violence. One false step could upend that effort.

I wrote earlier this year about linebacker Roquan Smith, who works closely with House of Ruth Maryland, which supports victims of domestic violence. The Ravens have an extensive partnership with the organization, too, including annual trainings which have been attended by top executives. These efforts seem truly sincere.

But the hardest, most impactful choices the Ravens can make about domestic and gender-based violence are when they affect the wins and losses. If they can’t make these tough calls ahead of a big game, what meaning does a “zero-tolerance policy” actually have?

The term “zero-tolerence” might seem ironclad in theory but appears vague in practice. Is it zero tolerance for players facing charges? Or is it zero tolerance for conduct involving domestic violence, whether there are charges or not?

When asked if there is specific guidelines to the zero-tolerance policy, a Ravens spokesman referred to a previously issued statement: “We take these matters seriously and will have no further comment at this time.”

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This is a problem for the NFL. Last week, I spoke with Daniel Sailofsky, a professor at the University of Toronto who has extensively researched how professional sports leagues react to allegations of gender-based violence. The New York Times wrote two years ago about one of his studies, which drew two bleak conclusions that stood out to me:

1. As long as a player was an average performer, they were statistically unlikely to see any lasting negative effects on the length of their playing careers.

2. While there has been more media coverage about domestic and gender-based violence since Rice’s 2014 incident, there has not been a significant change in how players’ careers are negatively affected by domestic violence allegations.

The NFL is sending mixed messages. It partners with organizations that support domestic violence victims, but allowed a team to give a record-shattering contract to Deshaun Watson after he settled with two dozen women who accused him of sexual misconduct. .

Sailofsky thinks he knows why these patterns repeat. In interviews with 30 people, including sports journalists and team employees, he noted that the talent of the accused player was typically considered a factor in how to discipline or whether to cut ties with the player completely.

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As he wrote in his paper, this is not the behavior of leagues that care about violence against women, but “increased societal and media attention to the issue may be causing organizations to focus more on creating the perception that they care” about it.

If you pay any attention to how teams deal with these issues, this should sound familiar. Buffalo’s Von Miller played games this season after being accused of domestic violence against his pregnant girlfriend (the charges were later dropped). Kansas City’s Charles Omenihu served a six-game suspension related to a domestic violence incident when he played for San Francisco, but it was served after the Chiefs had already signed him to a contract in the offseason. If you’re good enough, you can get the benefit of the doubt.

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This is not even the first time the Ravens have gone against their policy this season. Coach John Harbaugh said of Watson, in 2022, “what we decided [was] that we’re kind of zero tolerance. We’ve stayed away from that particular situation. I’m glad we have that policy.” But the Ravens also picked up running back Dalvin Cook for the playoff run this year — even though Cook has been in a protracted legal battle with an ex-girlfriend who accused him, with some galling photos, of abuse.

All this calls into question whether the NFL and the Ravens are serious about combating domestic violence that stems from their own locker rooms. Domestic violence cases often hit dead ends because victims decline to file charges, and that raises a serious question if legal responsibility should be the only standard the NFL has.

There are many complicated facets to these issues, including that the NFL is under media scrutiny that many other workplaces aren’t, meaning an unfortunately common societal problem is spotlighted when their players are involved. The NFL is also largely composed of Black men, who as a group face stiffer criminal consequences and have less support in the legal system than their white counterparts.

But NFL players and teams also are rich and highly visible. The league’s personal conduct policy even says, “We are all held to a higher standard.” If the NFL took a true zero-tolerance domestic violence stance, Sailofsky said, it could be a powerful influence on other groups affected by the problem. As things are, the viewing base of the NFL — which set ratings records for the most recent Super Bowl — probably needs to agitate for this to happen. But if all fans care about is if their favorite players are on the field, then there might never be change.

“We can’t be surprised when we get decisions that value performance above all,” he told me. “We need to have more of a say in it — as academics, as journalists and fans — enough that it changes a team’s bottom line. We can have an impact.”

It’s on us to demand more if we want it, to ask questions that make us feel uncomfortable about our favorite teams and sports.

So here I am, asking. What is the Ravens’ zero-tolerance policy? What are its parameters? And how much does it matter when winning is on the line?

The police investigation seems to be over. But these questions still deserve answers.

Kyle joined The Baltimore Banner in 2023 as a sports columnist. He previously covered the L.A. Lakers for The Orange County Register and myriad sports at The Salt Lake Tribune. He’s a Mt. Hebron High and University of Maryland alum.

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