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.