A growing disgrace: NFL scandals embarrassing more than just the league

Kirk Minihane
September 18, 2014 - 11:07 pm

The disgrace has spread well beyond the principals in the NFL scandals. (Getty Images)


Serious question: In the 11 days since the video of Ray Rice knocking his fiancée out cold emerged on TMZ, has anyone associated with the NFL seen his or her image improve?

No one, right? Everyone looks worse. It starts with Ray Rice and Adrian Peterson, of course. And Greg Hardy, Ray McDonald and Jonathan Dwyer. Then there's Roger Goodell, and let's not overlook that it's been roughly 13,000 minutes since Goodell talked to Norah O'Donnell in what could charitably be described as a comfortable landing spot on CBS. Things have changed. Might be time to answer some questions. And then there are the owners, with the pathetic effort by the Wilf brothers leading the way. But there's Jerry Richardson and Steve Bisciotti and the rest of the owners, happily backing Goodell (led by Bob Kraft, first out on CBS to defend the day after the Rice video) with no one calling him out for his bungling of this last few weeks.

The players? Silent, for the most part. And that's absolutely their right, as Tom E. Curran wrote in his column earlier this week. Tom Brady told our show on Monday that he feels his words on abuse against children and women wouldn't make a difference. I happen to think -- on an NFL scale -- he's wrong, but that's OK. He's a football player first, not a social activist. And some of the players who chose to speak made Brady look pretty smart for punting -- here's Reggie Bush on WFAN, weighing in on how he'll eventually discipline his now-1-year-old daughter:

"I definitely will try to [discipline] -- will obviously not leave bruises or anything like that on her. But I definitely will discipline her harshly depending on what the situation is."

Ah. OK. And Calvin and Chris Johnson have supported Peterson -- who beat his 4-year-old son with a branch, injuring the boy's back, legs and scrotum, leaving marks that were still clear 10 days later (and when do we start questioning the mother, who saw her son in that condition and never reported it to the police?). Not a great couple of weeks for the players in the league, during which more players have voiced support for Peterson and Rice (several players dedicated the Ravens Week 2 win to Rice) than have criticized them publicly.

And we get to the media. Take your pick, the flip-flopping of Bill Polian and Cris Carter, Rodney Harrison's stunning (and troubling, if I paid his salary at NBC) admission that he's read nothing about the Peterson case and has yet to see the pictures of Peterson's child, the lost and never-to-return credibility of Goodell stooge Peter King, Tom Jackson and Mike Ditka both supposing that Peterson -- again, a man who beats children and has fathered at least seven kids with five women -- could be a "great guy."

I'm going to focus, though, on a couple of guys who have flown under the radar just a little. I'll admit to having never heard of Eric Dodds until Tuesday, when he posted his column on Time magazine's website with the headline, "The Patriot Way: Tom Brady declines to take a stand on Ray Rice, other NFL scandals." I was naturally curious, since the story was based largely on the non-answer Brady gave me Monday regarding Peterson and Rice.

And there really wasn't much there until the last couple of paragraphs -- the first 75 percent of the column was the usual, Brady-doesn't-say-much, that's-the-way-Belichick-likes-it stuff. But things took an unexpected and bizarre turn at the end of the piece. I'm usually all for contrarianism, but this is a stretch:

"None of this [signing questionable character guys such as Randy Moss, Aqib Talib and Albert Haynesworth] is to say that the Patriots will sign Ray Rice or Ray McDonald or Greg Hardy or Adrian Peterson somewhere down the line. But the evidence suggests that Belichick and Brady value winning above all else, and at some point in the future, one of these players might be able to help them do just that -- at a discount. So perhaps that could be another explanation for why Brady had no interest in commenting on these recent incidents. Even if none of these men ever become a teammate of his, speaking out against them could close a lane that would maybe, just maybe, help the team win another Super Bowl. That’s simply not the Patriot Way."

Let's play a quick round of my favorite game -- "How does that work?" So in Dodds' world, Belichick and Brady have a secret plan to potentially sign any criminal who could help the team win football games. Belichick tells Brady not to say anything when asked about these players because a) it would ultimately look inconsistent if/when they sign with the Patriots, even though under Dodds' theory the Patriots don't care about media reaction and b) it could be a roadblock to actually signing the player because, you know, Adrian Peterson is a longtime listener to Dennis & Callahan. A lane could be closed.

I hate "perhaps." Don't write that -- you either believe it or you don't. If you're going with this absurd angle, get right next to it. "Perhaps" before throwing out some half-assed troll job is cowardly. I'm all for conspiracies, but this isn't even close. It's lazy, cartoonish and wouldn't be acceptable in some random blog, forget Time magazine. Being a Patriots hater is great, as long as it's smart and makes some sense. We need more contrarian views around here that include effort, not a copy-and-paste mail-in job from Dan Shaughnessy that has the stench of 1996 all over it.

Howard Bryant is an ESPN senior writer. In February 2011, he was arrested on charges of domestic assault and battery, assault and battery on a police officer and resisting arrest. Witnesses say Bryant choked his wife and pushed her into a car. Charges were later dropped (after six months of pretrial probation) and Bryant wasn't suspended by ESPN, a company that three years later suspended Max Kellerman for admitting that he struck his girlfriend -- now his wife -- over 20 years ago. Kellerman was never arrested.

Bryant appeared on ESPN New Hampshire on Wednesday and was asked about the Adrian Peterson case.

"I don't think it's a clear case of child abuse," Bryant said. "I think it's a clear case of child abuse in 2014. ... One of the things that's really interesting about this is the amount of support Peterson has. There are a lot of people who believe that he didn't do anything wrong. That the images are in some way misleading. For example, I am dark-skinned and my sister is fairly light-skinned. We both got hit with belts when we were kids. I'm sure when my mother got done with my sister she looked a hell of a lot worse than me, because of her skin. And because this kid was so fair skinned, and because of what was used, a switch, which creates welts, the image does not necessarily match the intent."

So if Peterson's son had darker skin we wouldn't care as much, or at all? Or the doctor who examined the child -- 4 years old -- might not have noticed the marks from the whipping? Or wouldn't have reported the assault to the police? How about the defensive marks on the arms? Would that change? How about Peterson's whipping room? How about the leaves stuffed in the mouth of the child? Would that be different if he didn't have light skin? Has anyone looked at the picture of this poor kid -- other than Bryant -- and thought about if he's light- or dark-skinned? And where is all this support for Peterson that Bryant referenced? The image does not necessarily match the intent? It matches the intent exactly.

Bryant is just another tone-deaf fool, a fraud, clinging to the very lowest rung of relevancy. It's astonishing to know there's someone looking at those pictures and thinking first: light- or dark-skinned? As a father, that's the reaction?

Bryant's image, never impressive, is now worse. At least he's not alone.

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