Mychal Kendricks

USA Today

No Second Chance In Cleveland For Mychal Kendricks

When I looked at the Browns, I thought I saw a team that would tolerate anything.

August 30, 2018 - 2:19 pm

Mychal Kendricks, the Cleveland Browns, insider trading, and cheesesteaks. Nope, not the single worst game of Mad Libs ever. This is an actual story. And it’s actually insane. Like completely and totally one of the weirdest stories ever.

It all broke yesterday when Mychal Kendricks apologized for being involved in insider trading. I never thought I’d be talking about that story, but his apology was one of the least weird things about the day. In fact, as far as apologies go, it was one of the best.

In a public statement, Kendricks wrote: "I would like to apologize. Four years ago, I participated in insider trading, and I deeply regret it.  I invested money with a former friend of mine who I thought I could trust and who I greatly admired. His background as a Harvard graduate and an employee of Goldman Sachs gave me a false sense of confidence.  To this point, I had worked my tail off since I was 5 years old to become a football player.  I was drawn in by the allure of being more than just a football player.  While I didn't fully understand all of the details of the illegal trades, I knew it was wrong, and I wholeheartedly regret my actions.”

He went on to say that he has fully cooperated with authorities and apologizes to his coaches, the owners, teammates, the NFL, and fans, and his family “who I have failed in this.” 

That’s how you apologize. He admitted what he did, that he knew it was wrong, and that he let people down in doing so. MAYBE he did it in the hopes of leniency and to mitigate his punishment; but as apologies go, that’s one strong.

So what did he do? Well, if you thought talking about Aaron Rodgers’ new contract had a CNBC feel to it, brace yourself, because I’m about to get all Mad Money on you. 

Federal authorities accuse Kendricks of working with former Goldman Sachs investment banker Damilare Sonoiki in a series of insider trades. Along the way, Kendricks allegedly turned 80 grand into 1.2 million. That’s right. A 1500 percent return on investment. Nice work, if you can get it. BUT YOU PRETTY MUCH CAN’T. AND THAT’S PRETTY MUCH THE POINT.

Because according to authorities, Kendricks and Sonioki met at a party in 2013 and then in 2014, Kendricks opened a brokerage account with 80,000 dollars. They then proceeded to buy stock options on four companies, all of which Sonioki had insider information on because he was working with Goldman Sacks. 

In exchange for the ridiculous growth in his portfolio, Kendricks is alleged to have given Sonioki roughly 10 grand in cash, tickets to Eagles games, and a trip to a music video shoot. This dude gets Kendricks a 1500% return on his money, in almost no time at all and what does he get in return??  Ten grand and an invite to a video shoot??  What the hell. Yo, man thanks for turning my 80 grand into 1.2 mill…you’re my dude!! Here! Let me chip you off this $25 giftcard for Starbucks. Nah, dude, really, keep it. It’s the least I can do after everything. You’ve done for me. 

Oh, and here’s where it gets good, because some of their text exchanges were in code and Sonioki referred to the kickbacks as “bread,” like in this alleged message: “idk when next imma be able to see you, so try to have the bread if you can … the bread in NYC just isn’t the same and I really like my cheesesteaks with the stuff you all have in Philly.”

And there you have it. A great story just got even better because not only do you have an insider trading scheme with guys making crazy money, but they’re communicating in code, and that code is about cheesesteaks. I just wish that Kendricks had gone back and asked if he wanted those cheesesteaks from Geno’s Steaks or Pat’s King of Steaks. 

But that wasn’t the end of the excitement for the day, because a few hours after this all came out, the Browns released Mychal Kendricks. Bam. Have some. 

And they claimed that they did so because, according to GM John Dorsey in a statement released by the team: “Prior to signing Mychal, we were informed that there was a financial situation that he had been involved with in 2014. We were told Mychal had fully cooperated with investigators as a victim. From what was communicated at that time and based on the numerous questions we asked and further due diligence on our part, including checking with the league office, there was no information discovered that conveyed otherwise.”

If he lied to you, say that. But if you didn’t do your due diligence, that’s on you.

These are the same Cleveland Browns who have given Josh Gordon second, third, fourth, and who knows how many chances. The same Browns who drafted Antonio Callaway this year despite the fact that he had been suspended last year for involvement in a credit card fraud case, was cited for marijuana and drug equipment possession in May 2017, and failed a drug test at the combine. The same Callaway who was pulled over for marijuana possession and driving on a suspended license earlier this month. And Callaway’s punishment for that? The team refused to take him out of a preseason game.

And it’s not just a Browns thing, it’s an NFL thing. Hit a woman? Take a seat for a few games. Grope an Uber driver? Let’s agree on three games and call it a day. Engage in insider trading? GET THE HELL OUT OF HERE. NOT OUR IN LEAGUE, CRIMINAL.

I’m glad to see it, though. Because for a minute, when I looked at the Browns, I thought I saw a team that would tolerate anything. But I was wrong. They do have standards. If there’s one thing the Cleveland Browns won’t stand for, if there’s one thing they will not tolerate, and there is a line you do not cross. And that line is…insider trading.

No engaging in financial malfeasance on my watch, says Jimmy Haslam, owner of the Cleveland Browns. The same Jimmy Haslam of Flying J Truckstops, which has seen at least 17 former employees plead guilty or be convicted in a fraud scheme worth more than 56 million dollars. Flying J agreed to pay 177 million in penalties and settlements. 

Compared to that, Kendricks crime is, well, cheesesteak money. 

That’s not to say that insider trading isn’t a crime. It is. Kendricks was greedy and participated in something that he knew was wrong. It is not a victimless crime. It hurts the entire system and trust in the markets, but it’s not a violent crime. And here’s another thing: in white collar crime, there’s a lot of gray. 

I’m guessing there’s a good chance that at least one of you listening right now has participated and may still be participating in something similar. Shoot, it wouldn’t surprise me to learn that one or multiple NFL owners have participated in something similar and you’d never know. Because aside from the occasional highly publicized cases, like Martha Stewart and now Mychal Kendricks, it goes largely unpunished. 

I’m not defending Kendricks. He was wrong. And if he admitted it so quickly, there’s a chance he’s guilty of more than we know. But what kind of a world are we living in where you can hit or grope a person and you get a timeout, but if commit financial malfeasance, you’re released in a matter of hours?