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Pat Bigold

The Way I See It

By Pat Bigold

Tuesday, February 8, 2000

NFL isn’t doing justice
to its fans or players

THE NFL just polished off its 50th Pro Bowl and managed for one day to overshadow its own dark shadows.

But they remain, and the league is going to have to deal with them.

Especially now that at least one group of investors is smelling blood and getting ready to inaugurate a new league.

I don't think the NFL worries enough about its image among lower- and middle-income Americans, and those constituencies may sooner or later rebel.

There is an unmistakable arrogance conveyed by the NFL these days.

You see it at the Pro Bowl and you see it at the Super Bowl.

They can do no wrong, yet plenty is going wrong.

During a month in which two players were arrested and charged with murder, NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue said NFL violence off the field is as unpredictable and unavoidable as students shooting students or workers shooting workers.

TAGLIABUE had an equally unacceptable response to Rev. Jesse Jackson's demand to know why there are not more than two black NFL head coaches in a league that is primarily black. The commissioner said that two-thirds of the league's coaches are black.

That, of course, sidesteps the point that of the last 30 NFL head coaching hires, only one black man (Ray Rhodes) was selected. Now Rhodes has been fired by Green Bay.

The remaining two black head coaches are Minnesota's Dennis Green and Tampa Bay's Tony Dungy, who led the NFC to a 51-31 victory in the Pro Bowl on Sunday.

The issue of crime among the league's overpaid players, and particularly the number of violent crimes committed by football players against women, sure isn't helping to perpetuate the league.

Yet there has been an unmistakable marketing effort to lure more women to the game.

THE NFL had better start realizing that the women being addressed are mothers with sons, sons who could grow into the future foundation of the NFL. But that will happen only if those mothers don't decide to influence their sons to steer clear of supporting a league that looks the other way when Rae Carruth is charged with conspiring to murder a woman, Rod Smith, Darius Johnson, Steve Muhammad, and others are booked for assaulting women, or Jumbo Elliott urinates in the sink of a women's restroom.

Think the mothers will support a league that welcomed back one of the NFL's all-time women beaters, Lawrence Phillips? The league of Cecil Collins, who was arrested for breaking into a woman's bedroom.

LT's league.

An eye-opening book called, "Pros and Cons: The Criminals Who Play In the NFL," written two years ago by Jeff Benedict and Don Yaeger, pointed out that between 1996-97, an alarming 21 percent of active NFL players had been arrested or convicted of serious crimes.

Now that's a pretty high percentage of criminals for any business.

Many of the charges against players are later dropped, according to the NFL.

I agree NFL players do pay a price for their visibility. But the league has an obligation to society to do a better job of helping them live with that burden and avoid being crushed by it.

Pat Bigold has covered sports for daily newspapers
in Hawaii and Massachusetts since 1978.

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