ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

Pro/Con: Are media attacks on pro football out of bounds?

Yes: They show weird bias of sportswriting elites Just in time for this fall's congressional elections, a jeering section of media pundits and politicians have taken to the airwaves denouncing the National Football League for not properly policin...

Yes: They show weird bias of sportswriting elites

Just in time for this fall’s congressional elections, a jeering section of media pundits and politicians have taken to the airwaves denouncing the National Football League for not properly policing the private lives of two of its most visible employees.
No one is excusing the unconscionable behavior of the Baltimore Ravens’ Ray Rice and the Minnesota Vikings’ Adrian Peterson or a handful of other NFL stars, mind you.
Domestic violence and child abuse are serious violations of our criminal and moral codes, and their perpetrators ought to receive stiff punishment. But this is America. They deserve a fair trial and - in the likely event they are found guilty - appropriate punishments that fit their particular crimes.
In the meantime, let’s get real. The NFL can urge its several thousand roster and taxi squad players to behave in a morally upright manner, but it cannot do 24-hour surveillance on them without seriously violating their civil liberties anymore than NBC News, IBM, GM or ExxonMobil can ride herd on their workers’ private lives.
Yet day after day the self-appointed moral arbiters of our lives keep yelping for the resignation of NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and the application of tough sanctions against his league’s 32 football teams. Since the players being punished are all African-Americans, one can only wonder if there’s a faint aroma of racism in the air.
Yet it was open season on professional football long before Rice and Peterson emerged as media whipping boys.
The Washington Post, led by such passionate columnists as Mike Wise, Sally Jenkins and Robert McCartney, has conducted a lengthy campaign to badger Redskins’ owner Dan Snyder to change his team’s nickname. Snyder, to his credit, has been steadfast in defending his First Amendment rights.
The push to raise public consciousness began a few years ago - ironically, at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian - even though repeated polling shows a large majority of Native Americans are not offended by the name and that many take pride in the team’s depiction of its mascot as noble, resolute and strong.
Jenkins in a recent column even urged Congress to “step in and regulate the business of these 32 billionaire plunderers.” Fifty senators - all of them Democrats - have written to NFL commissioner Roger Goodell urging a name change. Given the legislative branch’s job performance over the last decade, Jenkins’ recommendation ought to give everyone particular pause.
Ironically, until the past few years, the team enjoyed almost fawning support from the Post and other D.C. media. Sports writers and commentators dined out in the team’s press box, and a host of Washington media celebrities were guests in the owners’ sky box and were often highlighted on national TV.
H.L. Mencken, the iconoclastic sage of the Baltimore Sun, once defined puritanism as “the haunting fear that someone, somewhere may be happy.”
So it is with the anti-
football harpies. Rush to judgment - especially by the media and politicians - is never seemly, especially when they seem to echo the Queen of Hearts’ declaration in Alice in Wonderland: “Sentence first, verdict afterwards.”

Whitt Flora is the former chief congressional correspondent for Aviation and Space Technology Magazine and former Washington correspondent for the Columbus Dispatch. Readers may write him at 319 Shagbark Road, Middle River, MD 21220-3903.

Related Topics: FOOTBALL
What To Read Next