Winning the Super Bowl is by far the greatest accomplishment of any football player’s career. Being the best is the greatest goal for any player in a team sport. With a Super Bowl victory comes fame, fortune, marketing deals, national exposure, and an opportunity (and honor) of going to the White House and meeting with the President of the United States.
However, it was brought to my attention Saturday that James Harrison, the NFL Defensive Player of the Year and current owner of the longest play in Super Bowl history, has decided, for the second time in his career, to shun the President of the United States.
In announcing his decision, Harrison was quoted as saying, "This is how I feel—if you want to see the Pittsburgh Steelers, invite us when we don't win the Super Bowl. As far as I'm concerned, he [Obama] would've invited Arizona if they had won."
Mr. Harrison, that’s the point. As stated before, winning the Super Bowl (Or the World Series or the NBA Finals or the Stanley Cup, for that matter) is the greatest single feat in all of sports.
Great accomplishments deserve great honors, and being honored by the President of the United States is one of the greatest honors any American can aspire to. Your decision, Mr. Harrison, is at best a poor example of sportsman’s folly and at worst a disgusting display of arrogance not seen this side of Brian Bosworth, circa 1986.
What you do not seem to understand, Mr. Harrison, is that you are turning down an opportunity and an honor that far exceeds any accomplish on a sports field, even winning the Super Bowl.
This display of false bravado is disgusting on a level far exceeding anything I have seen in all my years watching, following, and covering sports. I cannot recall any player showing this level of disrespect to the President of the United States, the NFL, his team, and the fans.
Of course, given Mr. Harrison’s track record, this may not be as much of a shock as it first seems to me. In 2006, after the Steelers won Super Bowl XL, Harrison, just a reserve at the time, made the same decision. Of course, Mr. Harrison was not, at the time, a household name by any means, so his shunning of then President Bush was not called to notice.
This was not the only instance to raise cause for alarm. In a 2009 interview, a fellow Steelers linebacker said that early in his career, Harrison would quit on plays and ask the coaches not to play him when he was struggling.
In March 2008, Harrison was arrested for striking the mother of his child over a disagreement about the baptism of the child. Despite the fact that former teammate Cedric Wilson was arrested around the same time for the same offense, Steelers owner Dan Rooney decided to cut Wilson and retain Harrison. The charges were dismissed after Harrison completed anger management classes.
The thing I find most disheartening about all of this is that Mr. Harrison is someone that is looked up to as an icon by young football players and adults alike, as well as people in the African American community. Yet, Mr. Harrison has the nerve to blow off the President because of some kind of petty turf war between teams.
It also must be pointed out that by doing this, Mr. Harrison is feeding into the unfair stereotype that all black athletes are uneducated, me-first arrogant street thugs who have no honor or respect for anyone but themselves and the almighty dollar.
One would hope that great men like Jackie Robinson, Jim Brown, and Muhammad Ali have narrowed the racial divide too far for someone like James Harrison to bring this issue festering to the surface once again. Unfortunately, there is a race divide that still exists in this country, and in doing this, Mr. Harrison is not doing those of us that wish to kill such stereotypes any favors.
It is my feeling that if Mr. Harrison cannot leave the competition on the field and show some respect for the country that has afforded him the right to play a game that is watched by millions, while at the same time allowing him income beyond most of our wildest dreams, then he should retire.
Leave the NFL.
Hang’ em up.
Because by doing this, Mr. Harrison, you are spitting in the face of every African American that fought against prejudice and hatred in this country long before you ever decided to lace up a pair of cleats.
By doing this, Mr. Harrison, you are spitting in the face of every American solider that has ever sacrificed his live, his well being, and his personal safety that was earned by Patriots far braver than you, sir.
By doing this, Mr. Harrison, you are defecating on everything that is supposed to be honorable about the NFL: The spirit of honest competition and the comradely that is in every locker room, from the Super Bowl champions to the worst team in the league.
I also implore to you, Mr. Rooney. You are a firm supporter of President Obama. In fact, you’ve been recently appointed to be the Ambassador of Ireland by the President himself.
The Steelers are YOUR team and it is up to YOU to make sure that that are reflected in the community as a team that holds itself to the HIGHEST level in terms of sportsmanship, honor, and patriotism. Mr. Rooney, if Mr. Harrison is unable or unwilling to renege on his commitment to skip meeting the President over something as petty as other teams having been invited in the past, you should release him.
Terminate his contract.
Pay whatever price you may have to grievances brought forth by the NFLPA or by the league itself. In a league where arrests are a daily occurrence, be the owner that shows some honor.
Your country has called you to service, Mr. Harrison. How long will you turn a deaf ear?