At this writing, a joint Google entry for “Chris Henry” and “10-cent head” shows only 39 hits, but we’re betting that number will soon jump to the triple digits, with serious four-digit potential long-term (look it up yourself for the true meaning). The Cincinnati Bengals wideout was one of several sports-crime all-stars who came out of the woodwork this past week to record Hey-Remember-Me arrests, but Henry is the highest-profile of those and had the most to lose. Having racked up 10 games lost to behavioral suspensions in past years, Henry — a superlative talent who needed to do nothing more than play ball and not rack up felonies in order to get himself a $40 million contract someday — actually managed to get cut by a Bengals team that may soon be receiver-poor, thanks to a brewing Chad Johnson mess.
Henry was arrested for assault and criminal damaging on March 31, after punching a guy and throwing a beer bottle through his car window. The judge at his hearing called Henry a “one-man crime wave,” a reference to his four previous arrests, including busts for the sports-crime quadrathlon: weed, gun, DUI, and broads with black eyes. That last charge is being reported in the press as “providing alcohol to minors,” but actually it was a much more sordid story involving three underage girls, a motel room, and a sex-assault accusation that was later kicked down to an alcohol-providing rap.
A few of Henry’s busts came during his college years, which is why this first-round talent plummeted to the third round on draft day a few years back. He was one of the signature players who earned the Cincinnati Bengals the reputation for criminal malfeasance they enjoy today — and as such it was a highly symbolic move when the team decided to cut him this week.
Let’s give Henry 35 points for the punching of a civilian — an 18-year-old civilian, at that. How soon do you think he’ll end up playing for the Cowboys?
Henry ain’t s***t
Chris Henry and his five arrests are newsworthy, but nothing can touch this next contestant. It’s a sad tale, but when it comes to sports arrests, this is the Holy Grail of jocks-gone-wrong stories. We’re talking about J.R. “Isaiah” Rider.
No one knows for sure exactly how many times the once-promising guard was arrested during his NBA career. I’ve seen estimates as high as 23. It’s a testament to Rider’s extraordinary volatility that even attempting such a count is a daunting task. Ask 10 sportswriters to name their favorite Rider arrest and you’d get 10 different answers. Weed. Cocaine. Kidnapping. Public gambling. Rape. Spitting at airport personnel. He was suspended for spitting at a fan — and this was during his “good” years in Portland. He made death threats against a reporter, then pulled the same stunt on Dikembe Mutombo, of all people. After being traded to the Atlanta Hawks in the late ’90s, Rider proved to be such an ass — he even got in trouble for parking in the reserved space of Atlanta Thrashers coach Curt Fraser — that the team was forced to cut him despite having given up two key players for his services. (Some people talk about a “J.R. Curse” with the Hawks, noting that the team hasn’t made the playoffs since it made that trade.)
Things really went downhill for Isaiah after his career ended in 2001. The low point came in 2006, when he was busted for kidnapping after pulling a female friend into his car against her will in Marin County, California, then driving erratically with his car door open, the woman screaming as he held her down. A subsequent court order prevented Rider from again appearing in that county, but he was spotted there anyway a few weeks later and ended up in a car chase that resulted in a semi-serious accident. Subsequent charges involved cocaine possession, battery, and evading police.
Most recently, Rider was picked up this past week in the Skid Row section of Los Angeles by police who noticed he was driving a stolen car through a red light at 2:30 am, a Sonny Liston–esque personal denouement if there ever was one. At last report, he was being held in LA County jail on $25,000 bail.
Out of mercy we should just leave poor old Rider off the board entirely. Not many jocks go so far that we can’t even pick on them anymore. It’s rare air, with maybe only Darryl Strawberry, Mike Tyson, and Lawrence Phillips. J.R. is there and he’s at the head of the table. Something tells me we won’t be hearing from him again for a while.
When he’s not googling “Regarding Henry” and “Easy Rider,” Matt Taibbi writes for Rolling Stone. He can be reached atM_Taibbi@yahoo.com.