Having had my head buried in learning as much as I could about the Cleveland Browns' recent undrafted free agent signings, imagine my surprise when I plugged the three letters NFL into my internet browser's search engine and it spit back:
Dolphin executive asks Dez Bryant if mom is a prostitute?
Think about that for a minute, really just put yourself in Mr. Bryant's position and imagine you are applying for whatever job you currently have and your boss looks you directly in the eye and asks:
Is your dad a transvestite? or is your brother a cocaine dealer? or is your aunt's brother's uncle's sister's kid a racist?
Are the answers to any of the above questions disturbing if they are true? Absolutely. Do they have anything to do with whether you will be able to complete the tasks required of you in a timely and efficient manner? Of course not. And if you were asked one of those questions, you would immediately have civil recourse through litigation.
The NFL recently suspended Ben Roethlisberger for boorish behavior that was not deemed criminal by the state of Georgia.
No executive that I can locate has ever been punished by the NFL commissioner for anything.
Football itself is similar to the agricultural model of feudalism. The owners control the land, the stadium, the uniforms and equipment much as they did the land, farm buildings, and equipment back in the middle ages.
The players produce football statistics and attendance much like they used to produce crops. Today's players are obviously in a much better situation. They are paid very well, have a union, attorneys and medical care but the fundamental premise is similar.
As such, the power structure has been traditionally tilted towards the owners and it will be interesting to see how Commissioner Roger Goodell addresses this issue.
NFL union players association chief DeMaurice Smith issued a statement that said in part: "During interviews, our players and prospective players should never be subjected to discrimination or degradation stemming from the biases or misconceptions held by team personnel.
"NFL teams cannot have the free reign to ask questions during the interview process which can be categorized as stereotyping or which may bring a personal insult to any player as a man" and that the union demands the players act as professionals, carry themselves with respect, and afford all others the same respect therefore:
"It is equally true that the same kind of respect is demanded of their employers ."
Two former NFL executives have weighed in, with Mike Ditka saying Ireland should have been "whacked across the head" and Matt Millen saying the question was no big deal and he had probably asked similar questions in his career.
No wonder your teams stunk Mr. Millen. We bring about our own fates.
I am not on a fence on this one and I don't see both sides. Jeff Ireland was so far out of bounds he should be fired and refused a reference. Ireland issued a qualified apology that I will print in case you missed it:
"My job is to find out as much information as possible about a player that I'm considering drafting. Sometimes that leads to asking in-depth questions...Having said that, I talked to Dez Bryant and told him I used poor judgment in one of the questions I asked him. I certainly meant no disrespect and apologized to him."
What a crock. Its too bad for Mr. Bryant that he probably won't be able to pursue civil litigation against Mr. Ireland for harassment according to Title 18 because of the labor/management structure in the NFL.
Ireland is in a position of authority which puts him in close contact with young human beings at a critical time in their lives. They are leaving their families and venturing out into the job market for the first time and are vulnerable to slights both real and imagined.
Nervous, fearful and yet hopeful, no one should ever be put in a situation at that point in their life to either answer for someone else's failings, or feel bad about themselves because of their connection to somebody else.
To smear a young man's family member is humiliating and unforgivable in a casual setting. To ask Mr. Bryant that question in a professional one had nothing to do with football and was demeaning, harassing and indicative at how far some of us haven't come.