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Where the Regulation of Violence in Sports Will Inevitably Extend: The Stands & Outside the Stadium/Arena

The University of Kentucky fans "celebrate" the Wildcats' Final Four win over Louisville to gain a spot in the National Title game.

The professional and college sports industries have without question reached milestones with respect to revenue generation over the past decade.  Both the National Football League and the National Basketball Association experienced pre-season lockouts and subsequent consuming negotiation sessions with their respective players’ unions concerning profit sharing.  In 2010, the NCAA signed a monumental $10.8 billion contract with CBS Corporation and Time Warner Inc.’s Turner Broadcasting for the media rights to its beloved Men’s Division I College Basketball Tournament, known by most as March Madness.

It goes without saying that fans are the impetus behind such revenue growth.  Whether a country and its citizens are facing a recession—even bankruptcy—or marvelous economic times, avid followers and fans of professional and college sports teams will pay hard-earned money for the pleasure drawn from watching talented athletes perform for up to three hours on the field, court or ice.  Fans will do so by attending such events, watching them at bars/restaurants, or through the purchase of oversized, flat-screen televisions for home.  David Levy, the President of Turner Sports, acknowledged in signing the March Madness media contract with the NCAA that “the tournament’s popularity and success [had outgrown] the ability for one network to provide all the coverage fans are looking for.”  Similarly, CBS News and Sports President Sean McManus recognized, “the opportunity for viewers to watch whatever game they want to on up to four different networks has to result in more eyeballs, more gross rating points and more exposure for the tournament, thereby creating much more value for the advertisers.”

I think it’s awesome that fans of professional and college sports teams continue to use this source of entertainment as an escape from the struggles facing the lives of individuals on a daily basis in many countries around the globe, including financial turmoil, disease, death and general unhappiness.  However, over the same decade that the sports industry has experienced rapid revenue growth and increased popularity, the fan experience at and following sporting events has become more violent, tragic and unpleasant.  A problem clearly exists that neither the professional leagues, the NCAA Directors nor the athletes have sufficiently addressed, or are even equipped to address.

Indeed, the European professional soccer leagues have essentially condoned fan violence since their creation.  The Philadelphia Eagles’ late Veterans Stadium maintained holding cells to accommodate unruly fans.  These facts represent proof that the sports industry has accepted violence as part of the overall fan experience for quite some time.  For instance, in 2004, Lakers forward Ron Artest—or as legal documents now refer to him, Metta World Peace—climbed into the stands as an Indiana Pacer at The Palace of Auburn hills to exchange punches with a few rambunctious fans. In 2010, I attended a New York Jets game in New York as an Atlanta Falcons fan and was threatened by four Jets fans following the Falcons’ last minute defeat of the Jets.  Fortunately, violence never ensued, though not as a result of action taken by stadium security.  In 2011, a San Francisco Giants fan experienced the wrath of Dodger Stadium when several Dodger fans beat him almost to the point of death.  And just a few weeks ago, University of Kentucky basketball fans nearly burned down and destroyed Lexington, KY, following the Wildcats’ Final Four win over state rival Louisville to gain a spot in the National Title game.

However, what has either been condoned or overlooked by these leagues and the NCAA will inevitably draw a divide between fans, compelling those who are visiting the home stadium or establishment (e.g., sports bar) of an opposing team to discontinue their participation.  This decreased fan participation and interest will inevitably compel revenue to decline for the professional sports leagues, the NCAA, media outlets and corporate partners and sponsors.  Should violence and unpleasant behavior by fans persist at or following sporting events, how could it not have a domino impact on the sports industry?

So, where should we as fans and professionals in the industry place blame and seek assistance in preventing this evolving problem?  First and foremost, responsibility should be placed on the individuals who are involved in such inappropriate behavior.  Fans have progressively turned their allegiance to sports teams into something personal.  However, sustaining a loss through a favorite team is not analogous to losing a love one.  Fans must realize that their personal lives will continue unscathed, so long as they categorize sporting events as entertainment and nothing more.  This point allows me to transition to my second and final position.  The professional sports leagues, the NCAA, the athletes, the media outlets and the corporate partners and sponsors must take on the responsibility of reminding fans of this fact.  Indeed, most professional sporting venues stop serving alcohol at a certain point during team play.  College venues refuse to serve alcohol altogether.  Great, by taking alcohol out of the picture, these entities and individuals have indirectly implied to the fans that they should behave responsibly.  However, I’m asking—maybe even pleading to—these same entities and individuals to make a direct and blatant statement to the fans: “Stop the violence and inappropriate behavior!”  The NFL has already done so much to prevent violence on the field in an effort to protect its brand and revenue stream.  Take the next step and prevent it from occurring in the stands and outside the stadium.

Hey guys, it’s your money, not mine, that’s being placed on the line.

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Thanksgiving

As I woke up this morning and scheduled my Thanksgiving day, which included determining whether to eat breakfast or maintain an empty stomach for dinner, whether I, at age 30, could muster up enough confidence to ask my mother if I could eat dinner while watching football, and whether I could feasibly touch base with all of my friends and family on this holiday, it hit me!  In the illustrious words of John F. Kennedy, on Thanksgiving, “as we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.”

Now, as I sit before my Parents’ “only in America must I purchase this size” television and watch the first of three NFL games scheduled for today, I observe individuals who truly live by their words on this Thanksgiving day.  First and foremost, I see American soldiers stationed at army bases in Iraq, Afghanistan and a number of other regions who are football fans and watching the same game as me.  The NFL has provided a live broadcast of these troops rooting for their respective teams to display its and America’s appreciation for these soldiers and their role in risking their lives while keeping our country safe.  While these soldiers put on a happy face via the FOX broadcast, you can’t help but realize that they must maintain at all times in the back of their minds the thought that potential violence is just around the corner, or maybe even just over their shoulder.  They are all stationed in violent war zones, yet they live by their promise to this country on Thanksgiving day to protect us so that we can–among other things–enjoy our family and friends, stuff our faces, and overindulge in football, carbohydrates, and discounts on items at stores around the country.

Secondly, I observe well-paid individuals strap on pads and a helmet and spend either their Thanksgiving afternoon or evening entertaining America…and even other parts of the world.  Though these football players on average make more money annually than 99.99999% of Americans, they step onto football fields within stadiums and domes around this country and work on Thanksgiving day.  They work hard.  They are passionate about what they do.  As a direct result, football entertains Americans and, in certain instances, permits these individuals to either forget about the fact that they got laid off, lost a family member or friend, or learned that they are ill.  Football is a blessing for many on Thanksgiving day, even for our soldiers.  As a direct result, NFL players live by their promise to the League and, to a certain extent, this country on Thanksgiving day to entertain us Americans and provide us a sense of joy for at least one day out of the year.

Accordingly, thank you to our soldiers and others who work so hard on Thanksgiving day to permit Americans to be so thankful for everything and everyone around them.

Try “Duranting”

Tim Tebow kneels in celebration of the Broncos' win over the Dolphins

Directly following the Denver Broncos’ comeback win over the dreadful 0-7 Miami Dolphins on Sunday October 23rd, Broncos starting quarterback Tim Tebow, in signature fashion, kneeled in reflection while his other teammates wildly celebrated the improbable win.  Tebow—a second year NFL quarterback who has acquired a reputation for publicly displaying his Christian faith since starring as a Heisman “quarterback” for the Florida Gators—has also gained a reputation for having the lowest quarterback rating (QBR) in the NFL while maintaining a starting role at quarterback this year.

Is anyone shocked, though? Tebow is not, and never was, the stereotypical quarterback.  As a senior at Florida, he threw 21 touchdowns, yet rushed for almost the same number (14).  Florida fans grew to anticipate and love his quarterback sneaks into the end zone, where he rode piggyback on the shoulders of his fullback or offensive line, or personally bulldozed several linebackers as if they were crash test dummies.  Notwithstanding Tebow’s endless drive to excel and win, his former tactics clearly have not worked in the NFL.  NFL players are bigger and quicker, and as a quarterback, you can’t sit in the pocket for nine seconds without getting rid of the ball.  He has had flashes of brilliance this season mostly due to his pure athleticism, but they have been largely outweighed by his miserable decision making as the field general.

Surprisingly, conversation and criticism regarding Tebow’s poor play during his two starts as the Broncos quarterback this season have taken a backseat to banter regarding his signature kneel.  Indeed, following his ugly comeback win against the Dolphins on October 23rd, an immediate Internet craze baptized his kneel as “Tebowing.”  And since then, Detroit Lions linebacker Stephen Tulloch and tight end Tony Scheffler celebrated significant plays against the Broncos last Sunday by Tebowing.  Orlando Magic center Dwight Howard tweeted pictures of him Tebowing in a fast food restaurant.  Moreover, the media has butted heads as to whether such imitation amounts to either disrespect and mocking of Tebow’s faith or mere playful entertainment.

Orlando Magic center Dwight Howard tweets a picture of him "Tebowing" in a restaurant

Detroit Lions linebacker Stephen Tulloch strikes a "Tebowing" pose immediately following his sack of the quarterback

Personally, I haven’t quite decided who is right or wrong with respect to the issue.  Nonetheless, I can confidently state that if you are a professional athlete, the act of Tebowing opens you up to more negative criticism than praise, even when your intentions are playful and innocent.  How does it possibly promote your brand as a professional?  It doesn’t.  If anything, professional athletes who imitate the kneel risk coming off as absolute jerks who are insensitive towards other individuals’ faith and the ways in which they express it.  They further risk alienating themselves from the aforementioned fan base.

Accordingly, I’d like to highlight another figure in professional sports who is worthy of more than mere imitation: Oklahoma City star forward Kevin Durant.  This past Monday, October 31st, Durant—one of many NBA players who currently sits on the sidelines while Billy Hunter and the Player’s Association negotiates with the league and its owners regarding a new collective bargaining agreement—decided to engage his twitter followers by expressing his boredom and need to be active.  Soon thereafter, the following tweets were exchanged between Durant and Oklahoma State student George Overbey regarding a possible opportunity for Durant to join George’s Fraternity in a flag football game that night:

@KDTrey5: This lockout is really boring..anybody playing flag football in Okc..I need to run around or something!

@groverbey: Got a game tonight in Stillwater!! I need a deep threat!! RT @KDTrey5: This lockout is really boring..anybody playing flag football in Okc..

@KDTrey5: @groverbey can I play

@groverbey: Can you catch?? Weve won the ‘ship for 3 years! Tonight @ 10 RT @KDTrey5: @groverbey can I play

@KDTrey5: @groverbey forreal?

@groverbey: Only if you bring your A game. Yes for real! Come up early and hangout, go over some plays RT @KDTrey5: @groverbey forreal?

Durant and George subsequently exchanged several private twitter messages and text messages, which led to Durant picking up George and several of his friends from their residence in his lavish—but very modest—van and driving them to the flag football game in Stillwater, Oklahoma.

On the football field, Durant further cemented his reputation as being both an elite athlete and a stand up guy.  Though the Oklahoma City Thunder could have likely voided his five-year $86 million contract extension due to kick-in this year had Durant sustained a serious injury on the field that night[1], he played the entire flag football game, recorded four touchdown passes on offense and three interceptions on defense.  He left the game in the same modest fashion by which he arrived, signing hundreds of autographs and interacting with just about every fan that reached out to him.

Most importantly, Durant left his fans with the sentiment that he doesn’t consider himself special or incapable of interacting with any of them on any given day.  Clearly, he’s just another one of the guys.  George Overbey summed it up best:

@groverbey: Had one of the best nights of my life tonight.. Game ball goes to @KDTrey5 . 4 tds and 3 picks! Thanks for coming up bro!

As a young professional, often your success directly correlates to the small decisions you make along your career path.  Thus far, Durant has figured “it” out, and has made all of the right decisions to propel his professional image off of the charts.  To all of you professional athletes who are attempting to brand yourself in a similar fashion, try “Duranting.”


[1] Most NBA Team-Player contracts establish that teams have the discretion to void players’ contracts where they engage in any activity that would subject them to more than a normal risk of injury.  For instance, in 2003, the Chicago Bulls waived the contract of second-year player Jay Williams following his involvement in a motorcycle accident that seriously injured him.  The team maintained that his contract was no longer legally enforceable and that it did not have to payout his remaining salary because he violated the contract by riding a motorcycle and injuring himself.  Williams, nonetheless, received a $3 million buyout from the Bulls as a parting gift.

Pop Culture – League Dress Code

As promised, THIRDandFOUR will occasionally mix in pop culture to keep things fresh and exciting.  This week, we address the various dress code policies that have been implemented within the professional sports leagues.  Our focus concerns the manner in which certain professional athletes, e.g., Amar’e Stoudemire, have taken advantage of these restrictions to further their professional image and create new professional opportunities for themselves either away from the field or off of the court.

***

As an attorney, I have grown accustomed to regularly wearing either business casual attire or suits.  I’ve accepted that this attire—though uncomfortable at times—is necessary for co-workers, clients, and adversaries to perceive me as professional and as someone who takes his work seriously.  The key to enjoying such attire, however, is to have a little fun with it.  I accomplish this level of fun by wearing immaculately shined shoes, custom-fitted shirts, uniquely lined blazers, colorful pocket squares, and signature argyle socks.  Often, I stand out in a room full of people.  But who doesn’t like a little attention? It can be the deciding factor as to whether you get your dream job or meet your future wife.

For many professional athletes, loafers, wingtips, slacks, dress shirts, blazers, and ties are as foreign to them as a consistent golf swing is to me.  Understandably, these athletes consider this attire bizarre, when their typical daily attire throughout high school, college or the minors consisted of either athletic shorts, sweats, t-shirts, or hoodies.  In comparison to most young Americans, Individuals who strive to become professional athletes never partake in semester or summer-long internships that require a business attire “uniform.” They work on their game.  Thus, this conservative attire never becomes an integral part of their professional lives.

That being said, once professional athletes reach the “league,” most of them yearn to stand out and fully project themselves.  As entertainers, they are drawn to the spotlight and naturally crave attention.  Unlike me or someone else who maintains that 9 to 5…6…7…8…9…10…11 job, they are naturally less worried about what their teammates, their boss, or the opposing players think about their attire.  Generally, professional athletes are of the mindset that if their clothing or jewelry draws attention—any attention—to them, they have accomplished what they set out to achieve.  It’s natural for them to think this.  These material things display their personality, wealth, and level of success.  Moreover, some, but certainly not all, professional athletes believe that once they strip away the uniform and step off of either the field or the court, their bosses, the media, and the fans no longer judge them.  Thus, they aren’t required to present themselves in a manner that is considered professional by either the league, the media, or the fans.  These individuals are misguided.  Professional athletes—as entertainers—are under a spotlight 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.  To be successful, at all times, they must cater to the audience (i.e., white-collar fans) that roots for them, purchases expensive tickets to their games, buys ridiculously overpriced beers and hotdogs, and ultimately pays their salaries.  As a result, most professional sports leagues have recognized this principle and implemented some sort of off-the-court dress code policy that controls what players can wear while conducting league business.

For instance, the Commissioner of the National Football League—probably the most lenient of the big-four leagues when it concerns attire—retains jurisdiction over the players’ attire for ninety minutes after the end of games.  Thus, according to the Houston Chronicle, players are not permitted to conduct interviews while wearing clothing with visible logos of non-NFL licensed apparel.

According to the Communications Manager of the Major League Baseball Players Association, no MLB dress code exists.  However, individual clubs have the discretionary authority to compel players to abide by certain standards.  Many teams, such as the Yankees, have taken advantage of this authority.  The Yankees, for instance, prohibit all facial hair other than sideburns and mustaches.  Similarly, NFL teams maintain the discretion to instill a dress code, for instance, when traveling to and from the hotel or the stadium.

The National Hockey League is quite unique with respect to its dress code.  ESPN columnist Scott Burnside sums it up best: “hockey players have been told what to wear for years, long before they reach the NHL.  Most junior and minor-pro teams have some form of dress code covering what is and isn’t to be worn to games and around the rink.  Dress codes for minor hockey teams are also common and are seen as a way of fostering team unity and cohesion.”  According to Tampa Bay Lightning star Vincent Lecavalier, “everybody wears a suit.  We’re just used to it.”  Burnside also noted that although an unofficial dress code exists in hockey, Exhibit 14, Paragraph 5 of the collective bargaining agreement officially checks those players who have a tendency to venture offsides (pun intended).  It states: “[p]layers are required to wear jackets, ties and dress pants to all Club games and while traveling to and from such games unless otherwise specified by the Head Coach or General Manager.”

***

Over the past two decades, the National Basketball Association has been synonymous with hip-hop culture.  For instance, during the 1990’s, Shaquille O’Neal—now, the “Big AARP”—rapped his way through his entire career with the Orlando Magic and three seasons with the LA Lakers.  He produced such great hits, like “What’s Up Doc? (Can We Rock)” on his 1993 album Shaq Diesel; “Freaky Flow” on his 1994 album Shaq-Fu: Da Return; “Strait Playin” on his 1996 album You Can’t Stop the Reign; and “48 @ The Buzzer” on his 1998 album Respect.  And let’s not forget about his favorite Lakers’ teammate Kobe Bryant, who collaborated with model Tyra Banks to produce the hit song KOBE.

So during the 2005-06 season, when—to the surprise of most of their players—the NBA implemented a very strict dress code, the new restrictions created quite an uproar.  In a memo issued to NBA players on October 17, 2005, commissioner David Stern required players to wear “business casual” attire while engaging in “team or league business” (i.e., all activity conducted on behalf of the team or the league during which the player is seen by, or interacts with, fans, business partners, members of the public, the media, or other third parties).  During players’ attendance at games in which they are not playing, they must additionally wear a “sport coat” along with “dress shoes or boots, and socks.”

Following his review of the memo, then Phoenix Suns guard Raja Bell expressed his discontent regarding the new rules, stating in a quote to ESPN, “I understand they’re making it out to make us look better to corporate and big business.  But we don’t really sell to big business…  We sell to kids and people who are into the NBA hip-hop world.  They may be marketing to the wrong people with this.”

Wrong!  Try again, Raja.  As explained above, “corporate and big business” pay your bills.  David Stern understood this principle in 2005 and certainly wasn’t going to let something as simple as his players’ attire drive away the substantial amount of revenue obtained by the league through corporate America.

Editor-In-Chief of Vogue Magazine Anna Wintour and Amar’e Stoudemire attend the Tommy Hilfiger Spring 2011 fashion show

So when life gives you lemons, make lemonade.  Since the inception of the NBA dress code policy, the Knicks’ star power forward Amar’e Stoudemire (aka STAT – Standing Tall And Talented) has done just that.  In the illustrious words of Vogue’s editor-in-chief Anna Wintour, over a five-year period, Amar’e has become a fashion icon.  He has enlisted the help of stylist Rachel Johnson and 6’5″ tailor Waraire Boswell to conquer his 6’10” height–a fashion barrier for many.  While Lebron James and Dwayne Wade sit beside each other during post-game press-conferences dueling over whose windsor knot is larger, Amar’e consistently appears before the media solo, dressed confidently for success.

Lebron James and Dwayne Wade address each other and the media after Game 6 of the NBA Finals

Amar'e Stoudemire addresses the media following a First Round Playoff Game against the Boston Celtics

Amar'e Stoudemire addresses the media following a First Round Playoff Game against the Boston Celtics

THIRDandFOUR applauds Amar’e Stoudemire.  He has taken the restrictions imposed upon him by the NBA and turned it into a love for fashion and a way to further himself professionally off of the court.  His new friend Anna Wintour has featured him on the cover of and within Vogue Magazine.  There, he is complimented for “his fashion instincts” that “are remarkably honed.”

Moreover, he has partnered with fashion designer Rachel Roy to design and release a women’s fashion line in fall 2011.  As for the rest of the NBA, many players should take notice:

Friday Morning Workout

Former UGA football coach Jim Donnan accused of making millions via a Ponzi scheme.

Mendenhall Sues Champion based on his terminated endorsement deal.

15 Popular Athletes who squandered their millions—many of whom you’d never guess.

Odds are good that Clemens will face another trial despite his argument regarding double jeopardy.

USC’s Kiffin suspends senior starting running back Marc Tyler for making inappropriate comments to TMZ.

Lance Armstrong fights back against prosecuting attorneys, claiming they leaked inappropriate grand jury investigation information to the media.

Laker’s Odom was a passenger in a vehicle that struck and seriously injured a motorcyclist and killed a young pedestrian in New York.

Bengals’ Cedric Benson jailed on assault for the second consecutive off-season.

Deron William and Zaza Pachulia officially sign contracts to play in Turkey contingent upon the NBA work stoppage continuing through the start of the season.

LA Lakers longtime trainer Gary Vitti recounts the days leading up to and after Magic’s announcement to the world that he had contracted HIV.

Once the NFL season commences, replay officials will automatically review every scoring play during NFL games, likely lengthening games considerably.

Insurance costs could hinder NBA player participation in the London 2012 Olympic games.  Stern and FIBA are scheduled to meet this coming Tuesday to discuss.

The Women’s World Cup final set the record for tweets per second.

Tiger Woods abruptly fires caddie Steve Williams after a 12-year relationship in which Tiger won 72 times and 13 major tournaments.

Rick Reilly’s suggestions to Tiger concerning how he can revamp his image and his game.

SEC Commissioner Slive opened the Southeastern Conference media day on Wednesday by pushing the NCAA to make extreme changes, including toughening academic requirements for student-athletes and broadening recruitment rules.  Interestingly, Slive chose to push for these changes in a year when more than one of his schools faces sanctions or an investigation by the NCAA.

Continuing to ride the comeback wave, Vick snags additional endorsement deals.

75 Ex-players sue the NFL and Helmet maker Riddell, claiming defendants intentionally withheld from players their knowledge about the long-term, adverse impact of multiple concussions on the brain.

Former NFL GM Vinny Cerrato offers five rules that the 32 NFL teams should follow when tackling this year’s abnormally short free agency period.  Can these teams feasibly sign hundreds of players in a number of days?

Ivy League football decreases full contact practices from five to two a week to limit the risk of concussions.

The NCAA strikes again, sanctioning the LSU football team after an assistant coach improperly provided a JUCO player transportation and housing.

A generation with a strong sense of self-entitlement is rewarded for pouting.

Chad Ocho Cinco, allergic to the sun?!?

 

Weekly Correction – James Harrison

One of the best things about covering sports media, image, law, and pr is that you never have to search too far for a story.  And some days, you get an athlete who gives you a mushball straight down the middle of the plate.  This week’s “Weekly Correction” goes to Steeler’s Linebacker James Harrison who decided to take on Commissioner Roger Goodell, his teammates, his opponents, and several broadcasters in an interview in this month’s Men’s Journal.

He then topped off his offensive and over the line quotes by posing for the picture you see above.

For those of you not familiar with James Harrison, this isn’t the first time he and Roger Goodell have butted heads.  In fact, this outburst is just another step in an ongoing feud.  Harrison came under fire from the Commish in 2010 for several late and violent hits – and was fined a total of $120,000, for which Harrison publicly questioned why he was being singled out.

In this latest interview, Harrison took things a step further by calling Goodell a “crook” and a “puppet” and stating that if “he (Goodell) was on fire and I had to piss him out, I wouldn’t do it”.  Harrison went on to call Goodell “stupid”, a “dictator” and even threw in an anti-gay slur for good measure.

But James was just getting started.  After going after Goodell, he trashed his own quarterback, Ben Roethlisberger, claiming that even though he gets paid like Peyton Manning, he isn’t as good.  And that the defense had to bail him out in last year’s Super Bowl for his interceptions.

Since taking on the Commissioner and his own team wasn’t enough, Harrison then went after Steelers rival the New England Patriots, accusing them of using stolen signals to beat the Steelers in the 2004 playoffs.  (There is evidence that the Patriots were taping practices of some teams during that season and were using it to their advantage).

He singled out Texans LB Brian Cushing for being “juiced” and called out broadcasters Tedy Bruschi and Rodney Harrison (both former Patriots) for being “clowns”.

I guess James didn’t have time to call out the fans or the owners of the Steelers, because they are pretty much the only people left to criticize who are associated with the NFL.

Now Harrison has always been known as a bit of a hothead, but this is on a whole different level.  This wasn’t a spur of the moment postgame quote or two.  This was a pre-meditated attack on his team, the commissioner, and the league in general.  There really is no excuse for it, and unless Harrison can prove he was misquoted (highly unlikely), it’s going to be nearly impossible for him to walk himself out of this.

An apology might help, but it likely won’t accomplish much since this was pre-meditated in a sit down interview.   Although personal apologies and explanations to any teammates he offended are probably in order.  And likewise, since the author of the article probably used a tape recorder, Harrison will face an uphill battle claiming that this was merely a misquote – especially when so much of the interview was negative in nature.  It’s pretty clear that Harrison said these things.

The only thing Harrison can do now is lay low and hope that the lockout ends this week, which will remove his name from the headlines.  With news organizations starving for stories due to the NFL and NBA lockouts, this is sure to get plenty of coverage.

And for those athletes wondering what James Harrison should have done differently, I think it’s pretty obvious – don’t say stupid things, especially when you know you’re on the record.

But…if you’re going to insist on ripping the Commissioner, who has already shown he loves to take large portions of your paycheck, then may I suggest that you don’t also rip the guys who would usually defend you in these situations, your teammates.  Don’t look for Ben Roethlisberger or Rashard Mendenhall to lobby on your behalf anytime soon.

But…if you insist on taking on the Commish and your teammates, you probably should avoid angering and disrespecting your opponents.  Given that you may have angered enough teammates to earn yourself a one way ticket out of Pittsburgh, you never know when “cheating opponents” may soon become new teammates.

But…if you insist on laying into the Commish, your teammates, and your opponents, it’s probably not a good idea to rip the broadcasters.  When the Commish, your teammates, and opponents are all placing your picture on a dartboard, you may not find another team to play on and may be looking to join the broadcast booth sooner than you think.  Something tells me the “clowns” you mentioned won’t be eager to give you a glowing recommendation to executives at their respective networks.

But…if you insist on burning bridges with the team, the opponents and the networks, you might want to avoid posing for a picture shirtless holding two handguns.  Especially given that NFL Receiver Plaxico Burress just left jail for a gun related incident, and NBA Guard Gilbert Arenas was suspended for the majority of the season for possession of handguns.  It’s pretty clear where the league stands on guns, James, and it is not exactly enthusiastically supportive.

I’m not sure there is a way for Harrison to spin this into anything positive.   The only remedy is to keep his mouth shut and hope it goes away.

Weekly Correction – Chad Ocho Cinco

Ocho Cinco: The Man, The Legend

It’s that time of the week again when THIRDandFOUR highlights an athlete who would have benefited by consulting our website prior to painfully stumbling before either the media, a professional team or college program, a professional league, an officiating crew, and/or similar individuals and entities.  Welcome to Weekly Correction—the Ocho Cinco addition.

Because we consider Ocho Cinco such a unique individual, today’s edition of Weekly Correction is somewhat of an aberration.  Instead of providing Ocho advice as to how he should have approached the media in one of his recent television interviews, we will push him to answer the most critical question regarding his career: what do you really want to do?!?

Ocho takes on Dancing With The Stars

The Cincinnati Bengals’ veteran wide receiver Chad Ocho Cinco certainly has enjoyed an above-average NFL career since exploding into the league in 2001.  From 2002 through 2007, he averaged per season 1,339 receiving yards and 8 touchdowns, leading the Bengals to the AFC North division title in 2005.  Since then, however, he has been the “King of Distractions,” while his performance on the football field has noticeably declined.  Though he logged 1,047 receiving yards in 2009—a year in which the Bengals won the AFC North title—he has averaged a mere 806 receiving yards and 5.7 touchdowns over the last three seasons.

Ocho's tryout with Sporting Kansas City

While Ocho has been anything but stellar as a wide receiver for the Bengals during this time period, he has successfully “caught” every non-football challenge thrown his way. Over the past four years, he has starred in the VH1 dating show The Ultimate Catch; raced and beat (with a head start) a professional horse at River Downs Racetrack in Cincinnati, Ohio; starred in ABC’s Dancing with the Stars; tried out for a spot on Kansas City’s Major League Soccer team Sporting Kansas City; rode a bull for 1.5 seconds at a Professional Bull Riders event in Georgia; and driven a racecar at 190 mph on a NASCAR track in Atlanta with Sprint Cup driver Jeff Burton.  Oh, and I shouldn’t forget to mention, in August 2008, Chad Johnson—number eighty-five for the Cincinnati Bengals—legally changed his name to Chad Javon Ocho Cinco in Broward County, Florida.  Get it: eighty-five translates to ocho cinco in Spanish.  Wait, what?  No, it doesn’t.

Dhani Jones

Anyway, I will momentarily digress: You are probably thinking, Ocho Cinco is not the first Bengal to tackle alternative sports during the NFL offseason.  You’re right; linebacker Dhani Jones stars in the Travel Channel’s show Dhani Tackles the Globe, which began airing in 2009 and features Dhani attempting to excel at sports that define cultures in different countries around the globe.  Dhani has taken on the ancient martial art of Pradal Serey in Cambodia; dragon boat racing in Singapore; cricket in Jamaica; polo in Croatia; and rugby in England, just to name a few of his adventures.  In an attempt to show that the love of sports is universal around the globe, Dhani immerses himself in the culture of the countries he visits.  He creates an educational experience for the Travel Chanel viewers, himself, and the individuals who live in the countries he visits.

Thus, Dhani is a true example of what THIRDandFOUR strives to foster: a professional athlete who is dedicated to his sport, yet aspires to create a professional image that will make the transition from football to his subsequent desired profession seamless.  From July through January/February, Dhani dives headfirst into the NFL season.  However, during the offseason, Dhani is, among other things, a television personality for the Travel Channel; a guest correspondent for ESPN2 and the NFL Network; and a writer for Page2 on ESPN.com.   Dhani runs a high-end bowtie company and occasionally serves beverages and food at his Bowtie Cafe in the historic Mount Adams neighborhood of Cincinnati.  Moreover, he writes books; on June 7, 2011, Dhani released his first book The Sportsman: Unexpected Lessons from an Around-the-World Sports Odyssey.

Now, I bring you back to your regularly scheduled programming on OCNN—the Ocho Cinco News Network.  On June 30, 2011 following Ocho Cinco’s recent NASCAR event, he participated in an ESPN interview on Sportscenter Express, where he opined about his upcoming challenge.  There, he informed us that he will make the trip to Okeechobee, Florida in the coming weeks to “catch a couple of gators.”  When asked, “are you really going to try to wrestle live alligators,” Ocho Cinco confidently responded, “have I ever steered you wrong any other time?  If I say I’m going to do something, I’m going to do it…  Wait and see what’s after the alligators.  I mean, if I get hurt—lose an arm—I can always be the kicker for the Bengals.”

Ocho Cinco’s June 30th announcement validated two things: (i) he is a living, breathing marketing ploy; and (ii) his marketing exploits do nothing to further either his professional football career or his seamless transition from football into another profession.

Indeed, Ocho’s offseason adventures cause people to take notice.  However, most individuals—including those involved with the Bengals organization—take notice and cringe.  First, most recently, Ocho Cinco has done everything possible to void his NFL contract with the Bengals.  Should he lose an arm wrestling alligators in the coming weeks, I’m pretty confident the Bengals won’t reserve a spot for him on the roster as a kicker (See former Chicago Bulls star Jay Williams and his non-existent basketball career following his 2003 motorcycle accident).  Second, unlike Dhani Jones, Ocho has not been selective about the avenues through which he markets himself professionally.  For the lack of a better term, he’s been all over the place.  He has failed to show that he is qualified to excel in alternative professions.

In sum, keep it coming, Ocho!  Sleep in a bed of snakes.  Take on Wladimir Klitschko…I’m pretty sure you can connect more punches than David Haye.  Swim with the sharks.  Shucks, juggle balls, while riding a unicycle and breathing fire!  I think it’s safe to say, Barnum and Bailey Circus will reserve a spot for you on their roster.