23 March 2008

Dan Rooney's Legacy Gets A Black Eye

Pittsburgh Steelers Chairman Dan Rooney has always been considered a class act. Inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2000, Rooney was the architect behind the so-called "Rooney Rule," mandating that NFL teams interview minority candidates during coaching searches. And thus this past week's behavior and comments from the Steelers and Rooney is made all the more surprising.

On March 8th Steelers Pro Bowl linebacker James Harrison was charged with assaulting his girlfriend. According to the police reports, he broke down her door, broke her cell-phone in half as she attempted to dial 911, and then hit her in the face. He remains a member of the Steelers.

Early Thursday morning Steelers wide receiver Cedrick Wilson committed a similar act, pushing and then punching his girlfriend in the face. Later that day he was cut by the team.

There is an easy rationale for this discrepancy. Harrison is arguably the best defensive player on the Steelers - his 98 tackles and 8.5 sacks exemplify that. On the other hand, Wilson was merely a role-player. Thus, it would be easy to make an example out of him. Yet that wasn't the case. You see, Rooney was able to draw a distinction between what is seemingly two similar crimes.

"I know many are asking the question of [why] we released Wilson and Harrison we kept,'' he said. "The circumstances -- I know of the incidents, they are completely different. In fact, when I say we don't condone these things, we don't, but we do have to look at the circumstances that are involved with other players and things like that, so they're not all the same."

"What Jimmy Harrison was doing and how the incident occurred, what he was trying to do was really well worth it," he said of Mr. Harrison's initial intent with his son. "He was doing something that was good, wanted to take his son to get baptized where he lived and things like that. She said she didn't want to do it."

Coming from a man with such an honorable history, Rooney's comments were incredibly ill-advised and foolish. Is there ever a reason to distinguish between domestic violence? Hitting your girlfriend is still hitting your girlfriend whether or not you at one point had some good intentions. Once Harrison hit his girlfriend, it no longer mattered what he initially wanted to take his son to do. The fact that Rooney couldn't see that is puzzling, and he should know better. And thus a man who has done so many positive things throughout his career has given his legacy a black eye.

16 comments:

Brandon said...

Aren't you rushing to judgement a little early? Do you really know what happened in either case? I don't think anyone knows by Harrison and Wilson. Everyone was so ready to jump to conclusions about Randy Moss right before the SB, and then suddenly, it was an over reaction. How do you not know this was something similar?

Rooney never says that the hitting incident in one was worse than the other - actually, he never even mentions the assault. Wilson's girlfriend showed physical signs of the hit - and there were witnesses. Did Harrison's girlfriend show similar signs? Was there witnesses? Exactly - the whole assault could have been made up or blown up - we won't know until more is released. Maybe, just maybe, Rooney knows more about thsi case after talking to Harrison than you do - so I suggest that you give Rooney the benefit of the doubt and leave you "opinion" out of this. The only black eye here is on you.

Michael Butterworth said...

Also from the Post-Gazzette article, Rooney says, "In the situation with James Harrison, he contacted us immediately after his incident and has taken responsibility for his actions."

Would he need to "take responsibility" for something that had been "made up," Brandon? Were the demolished door and cell phone figments of Fun Sheriff's "opinion?" What a shame that a woman be expected to "show signs" of abuse for us to take her seriously. Maybe she could have arranged ahead of time for some witnesses to be present when she was slapped. Then we could know for sure, right?

Domestic violence is tragic, pure and simple. Rooney should know better, and so should the rest of us.

Brandon said...

He took responsibility for kicking a door and breaking a cell phone. You are assuming "his actions" mean he hit her. Although, I don't see any police report that states that.

The two incidents (Wilson vs Harrison) could be completely different, but you have lumped them in as exactly the same. You seem to be making the larger leap. Give Rooney the benefit of the doubt - I think he deserves it.

And not once have I denied that domestic violence is not "tragic". My mother taught me right. But she also taught me not to pass judgement until all the facts are in.

Joseph Bianca said...

"According to the criminal complaint filed in night court and obtained by KDKA, Harrison allegedly got into an argument with his girlfriend and she locked herself in her bedroom to call 911.

Police say Harrison allegedly broke through the door, broke her cell phone in half and slapped her in the face."

What the hell are you talking about, "there's no police report that said he hit her"?

And don't give me that "don't rush to judgment" nonsense. Isn't that EXACTLY what Rooney did when he cut Wilson? I don't think all of the facts had come out in that case before the decision was made.

There's no excusing Rooney's absurd defense of James Harrison. Anyone who does so is either frighteningly ignorant or is such a huge Steeler/Rooney fan that they've convinced themselves the man can do no wrong.

I understand the world of sports, and while it's not right, it's inevitable that a more productive player will get more lenient treatment than a journeyman when it comes to crime. But for Rooney, a man with considerable influence, to suggest that Harrison's actions are somehow justifiable, is disgusting.

Brandon said...

Ok, I'm going to quote both here:

Wilson:
"The 29-year-old player was arraigned on charges of simple assault, harassment and disorderly conduct and freed on $10,000 bail."

Harrison:
"Harrison, of Franklin Park, was arraigned on charges of simple assault and criminal mischief. The 29-year-old was released on his own recognizance pending a preliminary hearing Thursday."

They were treated a little differently here - I'm not sure why. Both guys agreed they struck their girlfriends - which is wrong. I know that Rooney said that Harrison's reason was more just, but I don't think he meant that it justified the hitting. I think Rooney meant something else - like he knows the rest of the story (at least Harrison's side of it).

"Rooney said... “(But) each incident must be considered on a case-by-case basis.

“In the situation with James Harrison, he contacted us immediately after his incident and has taken responsibility for his actions. In (Thursday’s) decision with Cedrick Wilson, we determined the situation was severe enough to warrant the player being released immediately."

I'm just not sold on Rooney treating these guys differently - there had to be some difference besides one guy being a starter and one guy a reserve.

I'm not ignorant or stupid, I'm just going off of what Rooney said - which I will until something else changes. Harrison's case is set to appear on April 3rd. We should at least hold our judgement until we hear what comes of it.

mai wen said...

I think the fact that Harrison admitted he slapped the woman is enough for judgement, if he was denying it then that's one thing, but he's openly admitted it, so what's left up for speculation? The severity of it? So are you saying, brandon, that Rooney's judging the severity of the domestic abuse? So a little bit of domestic abuse (with no physical signs showing and with "good" intent) is okay but a lot of domestic abuse (a physical sign and no "holy" intent) is not okay? Sorry, can't find the differential here. Either way, both guys should have been kept or cut. To me there is no "scale" of domestic abuse... all of it is bad and none of it should be condoned despite the reasons. To be fair, the mother of Harrison's child has a right to keep her child from religion if that's what she believes and him physically trying to force her to or fight her on it is a violation of her rights as a parent as well and definitely not how the situation needs to be solved.

Sorry brandon, can't find any reason to defend either Rooney or Harrison here, his admission is enough for me to place my judgment, I'm not really sure what more you're looking for? For him to break her leg the next time?

Brandon said...

Where the f*ck am I condoning violence? Are you people reading what YOU want to hear - or what I am writing?

I don't know what a "slap" is, only Harrison and his ex know what happened. WE DO NOT KNOW THE WHOLE STORY! Let's wait and pass judgement when we know more. The hearing is April 3rd - we will know more then.

If this case is dropped, what are we to think then? I won't pass judgement until then.

mai wen said...

If you know anything about domestic abuse then you know that 9 out of 10 times the case is dropped because of the relationship between the abused and the abuser... doesn't mean the abuse didn't happen.

And, slap - a sharp blow or smack, esp. with the open hand or with something flat (as defined by the dictionary)... what's not abusive about a slap? The police report stated that Harrison admitted he slaped her and that he slapped her with an open hand.

So again, what's information exactly do you think would change my judgment? Frankly, that's all the information I need. I really don't get what you think will come out in the trial to change anything. A new definition of slap which means a warm and fuzzy face pat? Come on!

mai wen said...

Oh, and did the Rooney's wait for Wilson's trial to withold their judgment?

Yeah, didn't think so.

Jay said...

umm....the girl was trying to dial 911. Shouldn't that be some indicator of the situation? So what if it's a hit or a slap or neither...she was afraid enough to dial 911!!!!

Philly Brewer said...

I hate when bloggers speak out of line as though they work for ESPN or CNN.

If anyone in this situation gets "a black eye," it's Wilson's girlfriend... and she probably deserved it.

On another note, the situations between Harrison and Wilson were entirely different.

Get your shit straight.

Anonymous said...

Of course more talented players get more breaks you think that if Antonio Chatman was pulling what ocho cinco is that he would still be a Bengal? I love that if Rooney cuts Wilson thats wrong because he didn't also cut a Pro Bowler. Why don't you right about Leonard Little until everyone knows that he killed Susan Gutweiler and got an eight game suspension and a fat contract?

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