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Fan reactions and misconceptions strong in the Travis Kvapil arrest

Updated on October 10, 2013
Kvapil's arrest stirred fan passions on both sides
Kvapil's arrest stirred fan passions on both sides | Source

In yesterday's edition of “Another Left Turn”, I stated unequivocally that BK Racing should pull Travis Kvapil out of the car indefinitely after his domestic violence arrest Tuesday night. That opinion wasn't a popular one with many readers taking me to task for ignoring due process and convicting Kvapil before he's had his day in court. Whether you agreed or not, I appreciate a healthy discussion as much as the next guy. Some of the arguments became a little personal but that's natural any time a debate stirs people's passions. Yet several common themes arose during the discussion and they deserve a better hearing than a few emails or posts on a discussion board. Here are four of the most common.

The scales of justice have yet to tip on Kvapil's legal fate
The scales of justice have yet to tip on Kvapil's legal fate | Source

1. Like anyone else, Travis is innocent until proven guilty.

This is one of the greater fallacies of modern criminal law. “Innocent until proven guilty” applies solely to the twelve individual jurors that may someday be called to determine Kvapil's fate. They are legally obligated to consider him an innocent man when the trial begins and at no point does the burden of proving otherwise shift from the prosecution. That principal is the bedrock of the American criminal justice system and isn't likely to change within any of our lifetimes- nor should it.


But that applies solely inside of the courtroom. The rest of us are free to make our own judgments based on available information and act accordingly. Some people will assume the charges are overblown and not warranted. Some will instantly assume he's guilty of more than what's been made public so far. Most of us will fall somewhere in the middle. But every single person who reads about the charges will form some sort of opinion. And people will act based on those opinions, whether it's to defend Kvapil or to deride him and any who stand with him. That's the way life works.


The same has happened in the NFL with the Aaron Hernandez murder charges. He too is innocent until proven guilty. It didn't stop the Patriots from releasing their star tight end hours after he was arrested in connection with the murder of Odin Lloyd. The legal system still hasn't played out in that case either, yet the team felt that simply being associated with an accused murderer was not worth the the firestorm of negative publicity that would result. They even allowed fans to trade in their used Hernandez jerseys for a different team jersey of their choice in an effort to distance themselves from the player.

What did the Mooresville, NC police find when they arrived at the Kvapil residence?
What did the Mooresville, NC police find when they arrived at the Kvapil residence? | Source

2. This whole thing is being blown out of proportion

Unless a video recording surfaces of the incident we may never know exactly what happened at 6:50pm last Tuesday in the Kvapil household- particularly if the victim chooses not to testify. Kvapil himself said, “this is a personal, family matter and we would ask for privacy and respect as we work through this together as a family.” I find this argument perhaps the most offensive. This isn't a domestic 'situation'. He stands accused of dragging his wife, the mother of his children, around the house by her hair and then striking her in the head. All of this took place before 7pm so it's entirely possible that others in the household watched it happen. Think about the kind of impact this may have on them.


Moreover, I'm not at all impressed by the fact that he's never been accused of this kind of act before. In most domestic violence cases it's later learned that there were numerous incidents that took place before events reached a tipping point involving the police. And any officer with a few months experience can tell the difference between a drama queen putting heat on their spouse and a victim who's just had the crap kicked out them. They had him hooked and booked less than 2 hours after the 911 call. What does that tell you about what they found at the residence?

Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger was suspended by the NFL despite never being charged with a crime
Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger was suspended by the NFL despite never being charged with a crime | Source

3. NASCAR has no right to discipline Kvapil until the judicial system makes its ruling

NASCAR has a LONG history of doing exactly what it pleases, particularly when it comes to the image of the sport. If they perceive that you've become a liability they will act under the umbrella of, “Actions detrimental to stock car racing,” and dare you to prove otherwise. It's a catch-all phrase that essentially means, “If they want ya, they got ya.” We don't need to look any further than the heavy punishment Michael Waltrip Racing received for having a pair of cars hit pit road to help out a teammate. There is no inalienable right to drive a stock car- something Jeremy Mayfield discovered after running afoul of NASCAR's drug testing program.


Again, the NFL provides an excellent example of applying discipline before the courts make their determination. Numerous players have faced punishment after being charged with DUI. Players such as Ben Roethlisberger and Adam “Pacman” Jones received suspensions despite never being convicted of a crime. The league determined that their actions tarnished the image that the NFL is trying to build. Guilt was a secondary issue; the league felt they could not afford the public perception that they would tolerate the kinds of behavior those players stood accused of.

NASCAR head Brian France has shown a willingness to do whatever he feels is necessary to protect the sport's image
NASCAR head Brian France has shown a willingness to do whatever he feels is necessary to protect the sport's image | Source
It's doubtful that this is what Burger King signed up for when they cut the check to BK Racing
It's doubtful that this is what Burger King signed up for when they cut the check to BK Racing | Source

4. What's the hurry? Punishing Kvapil now is a rush to judgment

This argument is a corollary to the “innocent until proven guilty” one. The arrest just occurred and the criminal process has a number of steps that will need to play themselves out before a final determination is made. And who knows what might come out at any step along the way? All of that is absolutely true. But that doesn't mean discipline from either the team or the sanctioning body would be a “rush to judgment”. Both NASCAR and BK Racing have an enormous amount to lose here and the heat that's coming to both all stems from the events of Tuesday night.


For NASCAR, the risk is a reputational one. Kvapil is one of less than 50 people who represent the sport at its highest level. Everything he says and does is under an enormous media spotlight because it ultimately reflects back on NASCAR itself. Drivers know this; it's why they conduct dozens of interviews on a weekly basis. They're trying to sell the sport to those who might be inclined to give it a shot. The last thing they need is to be tarred with the “wife beater” brush. That's even more true considering the stigma NASCAR already carries as a “redneck” sport.


For BK Racing, the risk is to their very existence. No team can survive long term without a sponsor footing the bill. That's been NASCAR's economic model for decades. Sponsors make racing possible by the millions of dollars the pay teams for the right to put their logos on the car. What they get in return is exposure- at the track, during the race, and on the television throughout the week. Companies also get someone who can serve as the face of their franchise, the centerpiece of an advertising campaign designed to reach the NASCAR fan demographic.


Think about the exposure Travis Kvapil's sponsors (and to a lesser extent, teammate David Reutimann's sponsors) are getting this week. Their logos are a part of every SportsCenter and news show piece about the arrest. Given the lackluster performance the teams have had throughout 2013, those sponsors are getting more airtime than they've seen the rest of the year combined. And that airtime is linked to all the wrong reasons. Because nothing says success in selling your product to middle America like spousal abuse, right?

Kvapil's arrest leaves him and his team with far more important things than Saturday's race
Kvapil's arrest leaves him and his team with far more important things than Saturday's race | Source

To millions of casual or potential fans, their only exposure to BK Racing this year will come thanks to this incident. “Oh yeah, the Burger King car... isn't that the guy who beat his wife?” That's the conversation those fans will be having. It's a scarlet letter that no amount of PR work can ever truly erase. There's not a single thing Kvapil can ever do to remove this particular item from his 'after the comma'. For the rest of his career, he will be Travis Kvapil, NASCAR driver and accused domestic abuser in the eyes of some. Do you think Burger King or any other company wants that person to represent them? BK Racing co-owner Ron Devine is a Burger King franchisee but that won't stop the company from pulling the plug in the long run. If anything it may ratchet up the pressure on the team to make a move. A franchisee at odds with the corporate office is in as much trouble as a NASCAR team without a sponsor. Those are the potential consequences and in the cold calculus of corporate America, Travis Kvapil just isn't worth it.


Finally, there's something that's being lost in this debate. A family has been torn asunder and a man faces the possibility of losing his freedom. There are children who risk losing their father. There's a marriage that faces the likelihood of collapse. Those are real-world consequences for the people involved and it's all going to play out in public. Whether you feel Kvapil is innocent and getting a raw deal or believe they should toss him in jail for the next ten years, having him at the track over the next six weeks is wrong. Maybe he's hoping the track will prove to be an oasis of peace in a world that's falling apart.


But the bright lights and hoard of microphones that will follow his every move serve no one. Not his sponsors, not NASCAR, not his team, not his fellow drivers, and certainly not his family. My hope is that someone involved here recognizes that fact and pulls the plug on 2013 for Travis Kvapil. Going away isn't an admission of guilt. It's an admission that right now the last place Kvapil should be is on a NASCAR racetrack.

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      Mike Roush 3 years ago from Newark, DE

      Gene,

      I was hoping someone might mention that. For the record, Ebay and Amazon advertising is designed to reflect the content of the article. I disabled advertising of those types on the original article for precisely that reason. As this article dealt primarily with fan reaction, they were active for this column.

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      Mike Roush 3 years ago from Newark, DE

      Lucmwis,

      As you may have noticed, I approve virtually all comments regardless of whether or not they agree with the article in question. The only ones deleted are either A)Spam advertising, or B)Unable to express themselves without excessive use of the F-bomb.

    • profile image

      lucmwis 3 years ago

      How does this guy's articles show up on the Jayski links? He has exactly 11 followers on this site. Aaron Hernandez comparison? Really? Apology expected. I stopped reading right there. Grow up and be a responsible journalist prick.

      I see that the author has to approve comments, either let it through or I'll report it to ESPN/Jayski/Your 15 minutes.

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      Gene 3 years ago

      I just find it ironic that in the middle of a Blog calling for Travis Kvapils firing is an ad for E-bay, selling Autographed Travis Kvapil memorabilia.

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      Carl Watson 3 years ago

      When has the verdict of a trial, lawsuit, or any other matter ever given NASCAR grounds from which to withhold judgment and punitive measures? The answer, as the author explains, is basically never. At the end of the day NASCAR can do whatever it wants, figuratively and pretty much legally, since none of these drivers are employees of the sanctioning body and would have some grounds to argue against illegal termination. Same for the race teams themselves, and in fact other teams/sponsors have self policed and fined drivers for engaging in behavior that reflected negatively on them. If NASCAR can pull the hard card from a family member of a driver or bar them from the track for their behavior, they can do it here too if they so wished.

      As for the matter of hand, if Kvapil had been found in possession of a small amount of heroine, meth, cocaine, marijuana etc, even if they had tested negative for having it in their system on a given day, does anyone really think NASCAR would hesitate to suspend them immediately from participating in their events until rehab/road to recovery was completed?

      To anyone who would make the argument that "Drugs are different because then the driver poses a risk to others on the track, whereas in this case the driver does not", I would ask them to remember that the driver comes into contact with pit crew, journalists and other media, fans, track staff, and so on. So a person with possible anger management problems and violence isn't potentially endangering those around him? It's OK to pose a risk to others off the track, so long as it isn't on it? Is that the position being put forth? I ask that sincerely and not facetiously, because they may not have considered that, and I don't want to be knocking down a straw man.

      Now when it comes to penalties from the state, that's why we have courts, judges, rights, and an entire process set up to handle these matters. By no means whatsoever would I assert that the state should issue punishment or penalties until that system has run its course. However, a spouse can get a restraining order before a defendant has been found guilty in a court of said abuse.

      However, corporations such as NASCAR, his team, and his sponsor are perfectly within their rights to terminate employment when they feel an employee is no longer able to fulfill their duties or has broken a contract, and you can bet there is probably a morality clause in those contracts somewhere.

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      NASCARJeff 3 years ago

      Lets all agree that O.J. Kvapil needs to have his celebrity justice day in court.

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      Steve 3 years ago

      Kyle, your mentality is typical of our society these days and not in a good way. Its actually pretty sad actually that people really feel this way. And then they wonder why professional athletes, who have had their discretions ignored for so long, because of their talent, get into trouble and end up in jail.

      I'm glad Nascar, the team and sponsors are waiting for all the facts before making a decision.

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      Russ 3 years ago

      Nascar will be the last to be involved in this story. Its Burger King and BK Racing where the real judgement will be passed. It doesn't matter who you are no reputable company is going to be associated with this sort of behavior. So while the team can do as it pleases, I expect Burger King to exit as a sponsor of anything associated with him.

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      kyle 3 years ago

      I can't believe anybody would argue that Kvapil should't have been canned the second this happened. Travis Kvapil just isn't worth it... if you had a driver as good as Jimmie or Kurt or Kyle or something and they did this, at least there is a reason - competition-wise - to want him to stay in the car... but this is Travis Kvapil. He is easily replaced, and he should have been replaced on Wednesday, as the actions he is accused of are disgusting.

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      Robert Eastman 3 years ago

      It seems there's confusion "why" people are sanctioned for their actions. In the previous article there's reference to the situation concerning AJ Allmendinger being "yanked" from his NASCAR ride. NASCAR determined that AJ showed up to work unfit to operate his "200 MPH machine" safely and was potentially endangering all those around him. This is not the case with Travis.

      Everyone understands why "the state" suspends the drivers' licenses of people who are DUI, but no sane person believes it's fair for the state to issue the same penalty to people who have arguments with their spouses. (ie: "I had an argument with my wife so the state suspended my driver's license"... is absolute "Non-Sense!")

      Concerning "the image" being projected by participants in the sport... it's best left to the sponsors to determine "what's best for them!" It wasn't that long ago that MARS pulled their sponsorship from JGR/Kyle Bush for the last 2 races of the season, yet later extending their contracts with both, claiming a 4 to 1 ROI.

      My concern is that a steady diet of "heat of the moment" over-reactions by media and fans will cause long term damage to our sport!

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      amazed 3 years ago

      While I appreciate trying to justify your article in the many ways you did, you are still wrong in all your arguments. The system has a lot of flaws and it's still not our business to storm the Kvapil househould with pitchforks, althought I see a few of you bloggers getting hot under the collar with your hang em' high position when people disagree with you..quickly. I am not old, and I am not young, but I have seen many , many scenario's that at first blush isn't what you though, so I think his employer and sponsors and NASCAR should stay the hell out of it. At one glance you people hang Nascar then you want them to micromanage peoples lives even more so, when clearly their own house isn't in order. Sorry the mob mentality has no business here at this time. And I'm sure that Nascar has kept stuff like this private, but Travis isn't A-list , sooo....