April 5, 2007

Who Does Pacman Jones Think He Is?

Print More

“KICK HIM OFF THE TEAM! KICK HIM OUT OF THE LEAGUE!”
That was Chris “Mad Dog” Russo’s reaction to the NFL office’s delayed punishments for Adam “Pacman” Jones and other NFL athletes like Tank Johnson, Chris Henry, half the Cincinnati Bengals … notice a trend?
“WHAT IS THE NFL DOING,” Russo questioned in February during a six-minute tirade in which he SCREAMED the words “enough” and “guts” a dozen times (I counted). “WHERE IS THIS NEW COMMISSIONER? HAVE THE GUTS TO DO SOMETHING! THIS IS ENOUGH! I’M SICK OF HEARING ABOUT … ALL THESE CLOWNS WHO PLAY IN THE NATIONAL FOOTBALL LEAGUE.”
While I may not agree with his manners (check out the video), Mad Dog — who I’ve been listening to on-and-off for the majority of my life on WFAN (Sports Radio 660 AM, New York) — made some great points: why are we giving some athletes such a cushion when it comes to legal transgressions? Why do they get to keep their jobs when any mindful company or publicly oriented organization would likely suspend employees in legal trouble indefinitely?

Some sports have limited tolerance for legal troubles but go with the “innocent until proven guilty” route, choosing only to punish once a verdict, ruling or settlement has been made.
Russo clearly doesn’t like that strategy.
“DON’T TELL ME HOW IT’S A LEGAL PROCESS,” Mad Dog said. “HE REPRESENTS THE NATIONAL FOOTBALL LEAGUE, HE’S INVOLVED IN A SHOOTING INVESTIGATION. YOU KNOW WHAT? SEE YAH! WHEN YOU’RE EXONERATED, THEN YOU COME BACK TO ME.”
He argued that, as a public representative of a business that is trying to promote good values, an employee has an obligation to uphold those values at all times. If that person doesn’t and, for example, faces legal troubles — rightfully or improperly, innocent or guilty — then he or she should not represent that organization until those troubles are cleared up. That could mean never. And yes, NFL players, you are employees.
Russo’s grievance with the NFL is two-fold, however: by not punishing athletes with any kind of speed or severity, the league is not only letting athletes get away with poor behavior in favor of making money off of their product produced (football), it’s not even trying to promote good values in the first place.
I couldn’t agree more. The NFL is the one of world’s biggest sports: it has a world-wide audience and a world-wide influence, especially on kids. Imagine you’re an eight-year-old kid, a Titans fan who idolizes the speedy and dynamic Pacman Jones. No one is going to stop you from enjoying ESPN while you watch TV, so you flip on the channel and find a SportsCenter special on how your idol is in trouble with the law … again.
(According to the Associated Press, Jones has been arrested five times and questioned by police in 10 different episodes since being drafted in April, 2005. Last week, Las Vegas police recommended a felony and two misdemeanor charges against Jones for his role in a Feb. 19 strip club fight that led to a triple shooting. The police consider Jones the “inciter” of the fight, which started inside the club and left one man paralyzed.)
He was raining money across a strip club, incited a brawl and seems to have been involved in a shooting. You have two choices: shun him and his “RAP SHEET AS LONG AS AL CAPONE’S”, according to Russo, or defend him. It’s an unfortunate choice, one that a proper role model (read: the NFL, in theory) should make for younger audience members. The league is about as publicly discussed and viewed as any could be, so it should at least attempt to serve the public’s interest.
“THIS IS A DISGRACE,” Russo said. “THROW HIM OUT OF THE LEAGUE! THROW HIM THE HELL OUT! IT’S A DISGRACE! WHAT DOES THE NFL DO? THROW HIM OUT!”
As for the players in such a high-profile league, no one deserves to be persecuted publicly — which is what being suspended probably amounts to, as an unfortunate consequence of the status of the league and its players. But as a representative of an organization, it is understood that when you join that organization, you’re a part of it and you’ll follow rules. If the NFL wants to promote proper values along with football, it will begin dishing out swift and harsh punishment to its players. Cornell athletes face equally — if not, more strict — rules and consequences for the same reason.
“THIS IS A DISGRACE,” Mad Dog said of Jones’ conduct and lack of league discipline. “GET THE GUY THE HELL OUT OF THE LEAGUE, AND GET HIM THE HELL OUT OF THE LEAGUE NOW! HAVE SOME GUTS COMMISIONER [Roger] GOODELL. HAVE SOME GUTS! SHOW SOME GUTS! A LITTLE GUTS HERE! GUTS!”
Goodell recently stated that he will unveil punishments for Jones and others, as well as new rules of conduct by the end of next week.
IT’S ABOUT TIME.
Josh Perlin is the Sun Sports Editor. My Pitch will appear every other Thursday this semester. Josh can be reached at sports-editor@cornellsun.com.