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Wayne Rooney arrest: A naive mistake or a pattern of terrible decisions?

2:00 AM GMT+4 08/01/2019
Wayne Rooney composite
The former Everton star has made headlines once again after a public intoxication charge – but how did UK and US media react differently to the news?

It is with a sad and heavy heart that we have to announce that Wayne Rooney is, unfortunately, at it again.

In the latest string of off-pitch events for the former England international, court records obtained in the US show Rooney was arrested on charges of public intoxication and swearing charges last month .

After arriving from Saudi Arabia in Virginia on December 16, the 33-year-old was arrested at Washington-Dulles Airport before eventually being released without bail.

The Virginia code section that Rooney was arrested under (18.2-388) suggests that he could have been charged for swearing or intoxication  or  both. But with the context of his past run-ins with the law, which include being arrested for drink-driving in 2017, it's hard to imagine a case where he was only taken in for mild verbal abuse.

"We are aware of news reports indicating that Wayne Rooney was arrested in December," D.C. United said in a statement that distanced themselves from the events entirely.

“We understand the media’s interest in this matter but believe this is a private matter for Wayne that D.C. United will handle internally.”

Rooney's agent, Paul Stretford, however, shed more light to the situation, claiming that the incident at the airport occurred as a result of the player mixing sleeping pills with alcohol on the flight back to the U.S.

The agent said Rooney "took a prescribed amount of sleeping tablets mixed with some alcohol consumption and consequently was disorientated on arrival. He was approached by police who arrested him on a minor misdemeanour charge.

"The matter is now at an end. Wayne would like to put on record his appreciation for the manner he was treated by all involved."

It seems a rather tame explanation for the incident that took place, however, given Rooney's past run-ins with the law. It was just in September 2017 that the forward, then playing for Everton, was arrested in Cheshire under charges of drink-driving and sentenced to a two-year ban behind the wheel.

Rooney was found to be at almost three times the legal limit when he was stopped by police on the road in the early hours of the morning, with a breathalyser test showing his alcohol level to be 104 micrograms in 100 millilitres of breath . The drink-drive limit in England and Wales is 35 micrograms per 100 millilitres of breath.

He was later sentenced to a £300,000 fine and 100 hours of unpaid work, and said after the hearing: "I want publicly to apologise for my unforgivable lack of judgment in driving while over the legal limit. It was completely wrong.

"I have already said sorry to my family, my manager and chairman and everyone at Everton. Now I want to apologise to all the fans and everyone else who has followed and supported me throughout my career."

The drink-driving incident, however, is only one chapter in a series of turbulent events acts for Rooney, who already had three points on his driving license for a speeding offence in August 2016.

US media outlets have reported Rooney's latest incident with the law in a straightforward manner without deviating from official reports or suggesting an alternate narrative, characterising the incident as a result of 'public intoxication', though the majority of publications have been sure to include his drink-driving incident in their story.

The likes of ESPN , Deadspin and CNN have all mentioned his 2017 arrest in their stories, along with D.C. United and Stretford's comments, though have not proposed that there is another layer to the story.

The Washington Post added that Rooney had consumed three mixed drinks with his sleeping pills which caused his disorientation, according to a source close to the story.

While the US publications have only reported known facts about the situation without colouring the narrative with other theories as to what caused the incident, fans on Twitter have been quick to point out their scepticism regarding his agent's official statement, and not buying the story .

Others questioned  his naive decision to drink alcohol while taking sleeping tablets in the first place.

"Are we supposed to feel sorry for him then? Surely he’s old enough to know that tablets and alcohol don’t go together," said one user, while another commented : "From the 'Wayne Hennessey' book of excuses," referencing the Crystal Palace goalkeeper's denial of doing a Nazi salute on the same weekend the Rooney arrest story broke .

Football fans are no strangers to Rooney's reputation off the pitch. It's not just driving-related incidents that the former England captain has been involved in – having been accused of alleged infidelity  and being unfaithful to his wife Coleen on multiple occasions in a long line of controversies.

His drink-driving charge in 2017 was perceived even worse when he was alleged to have done so driving with another woman while his wife was pregnant at the time with their fourth child.

It adds to the curious discussion as to how certain footballers are covered by the media in the UK. In the US, publications are in general a lot more partisan when reporting about athletes, and the Rooney incident was covered neutrally with only the basic facts covered.

The story was also, of course, covered widely in the UK, with publications covering an incident that would negatively impact a star player's reputation and career. Piers Morgan recently argued that there was no difference in the way that players such as Raheem Sterling were being treated by the press, using Rooney's past faults and misdemeanours as an example – with this the latest chapter to be considered.

Morgan referenced how the press have attacked former England greats such as Paul Gascoigne and David Beckham and how Sterling isn't isolated in his treatment – but what is crucial is the reasons for the derogatory press attention and reasons for the negative coverage.

Sterling has been attacked for being in a committed relationship (with The Sun describing her as his 'long-suffering girlfriend'), having breakfast , and shopping at Primark by the UK press.

The coverage of Rooney's incident, as expected, has not been treated with the same lowbrow attention as Sterling's stories has. The Man City starlet has never been arrested for drink-driving or public intoxication, but according to the headlines generated by his less-than-noteworthy actions, he may as well have already.