“Shawn Oakman” is a name that is sure to bring back memories for the NCAA football devoted. Needless to say, Oakman was a daunting presence at defensive end, standing at 6’9”, 280 lbs. Sports Illustrated’s mock projections of the 2016 NFL Draft all had something in common, Oakman’s name near the top. Nevertheless, all of this changed on April 13, 2016, when Oakman was apprehended and arrested for a sexual assault allegation from 2013. Oakman was indicted months later but was not tried until February of 2019, when he was found not guilty and was free to resume his pursuit of a career in the NFL. However, longstanding allegations do not allow for a smooth re-entry into the world of professional sports. Despite not having played a down of organized football for over three years, Oakman also stands to lose a significant amount of money due to his lengthy hiatus. If Oakman was drafted as early as he was projected in 2016, he could have been guaranteed nearly 45 million dollars over four years, the same contract granted to Philadelphia Eagles’ Carson Wentz, who was selected in the number two slot that many thought belonged to Oakman. While he looks to re-enter the NFL draft either this year or next, the first three rounds seem way out of reach for Oakman, and he will be lucky to be drafted at all.
While the idea that false allegations can affect a career this significantly seems almost heinous, it is a situation that is certainly not specific to Oakman’s case. Even if they do not receive as much publicity as some of the higher profile cases, they do the same amount of damage and have the same impact on a player’s career. Another notorious example of this is with NFL Hall of Fame wide receiver Randy Moss.
While his instance was not a federal allegation, Moss’ infamous failed drug test caused his draft stock to drop, forcing him to leave Florida State and play at Marshall, playing against a significantly lower level of competition.
A sense of notoriety is the least of players concerns in instances like these. As shown in the graphic below, dropping a mere five picks in the first round can lose a player around $10 million through their contract itself, mainly regarding signing bonus. This goes to show that even if found innocent, the controversy of a trial itself can cost a player millions of dollars, and severely alter the course of their career.