For that, I respect Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker James Harrison. By now, you’ve surely realized that the man simply doesn’t care what anyone else thinks. In the August issue of Men’s Journal, Harrison calls out not only commissioner Roger Goodell (which is to be expected at this point), but his teammates Ben Roethlisberger and Rashard Mendenhall.
He refers to Mendenhall as a “fumble machine” and had this to say about Roethlisberger’s performance in the team’s Super Bowl loss:
“Hey, at least throw a pick on their side of the field instead of asking the D to bail you out again. Or hand the ball off and stop trying to act like Peyton Manning. You ain’t that and you know it, man; you just get paid like he does.”
Naturally, Harrison has said that the reporter twisted his comments, though it’s hard to misconstrue a quote like that. This doesn’t even mention the slew of names that he called Goodell, ranging from “stupid” and “puppet” to an unprintable anti-gay slur.
While I respect Harrison for often speaking his mind, it’s where he took this particular tirade that makes it difficult to respect him. By calling Goodell an anti-gay slur and bringing race into the equation, suggesting that a black players is punished more for hitting a white player than another black player, it makes the entire situation a lot less fun.
It’s fun to watch a player implode and speak his mind. Heck, it’s even fun to watch him call out his other teammates, because as long as this disaster isn’t happening to your team, you can sit back and enjoy the ride. But when a player brings out the big guns and starts offending people or making unsubstantiated claims about race that further mire us in a discussion that, as a society, we should be past by now, it’s unfortunate.
It’s more than unfortunate – it takes the fun element out of sports, making it all too real. We want James Harrison to keep speaking his mind, but it’s not too much to ask that he keep his comments within a pretty wide, socially acceptable boundary, is it?