Wednesday, May 23, 2018
Breaking News

SportsTalk: NFL must tackle its 'criminal element'

The NFL has had worse weeks, to be sure. The final week of June 2013 comes to mind. It's never good when one of your star players is taken out of his home in handcuffs and charged with murder, as former New England Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez was. That story dominated that week's news cycle to the point that the arrest of Cleveland Browns rookie free agent Ausar Walcott on an attempted murder charge almost went unnoticed.

Except at 345 Park Ave., New York, NY, 10154, of course.

NFL headquarters.

They never like their players to be involved in sordid activities even if it happens so often that they have to be getting used to it.

Look at one week this month:

Feb. 9

Missouri linebacker Michael Sam announced he is gay. NFL officials, coaches and players generally reacted well to Sam's plans to become the first openly gay, active player in the league, but multiple general managers and player personnel people said anonymously that they wouldn't draft him because they don't want to deal with the distraction. That's just swell.

Feb. 14

The NFL-commissioned 144-page report on the Richie Incognito-Jonathan Martin bullying case with the Miami Dolphins was released. It is strictly X-rated. If you like vile homophobic, racist and sexist talk, it's for you. It graphically portrays Incognito, Dolphins linemen John Jerry and Mike Pouncey and line coach Jim Turner as sick, twisted individuals who deserve your pity as much as your anger. Wouldn't you have loved to have been in NFL commissioner Roger Goodell's office when he read the report?

Former star safety Darren Sharper was charged in Los Angeles with two counts of rape by using drugs. He also is a suspect in other rape cases. Sharper was a five-time Pro Bowler and a member of the NFL's 2000s All-Decade team.

Feb. 15

Baltimore Ravens All-Pro running back Ray Rice was arrested in Atlantic City, N.J., after an incident with his fiancee. His attorney described it as a "very minor physical altercation." You probably didn't blink when you read the account. That sort of thing happens every day with an NFL player, right?

And you probably thought Goodell was overpaid at $44 million for 2012.

Former Steelers coach Chuck Noll was ahead of his time in 1977 when he talked of the "criminal element" in the NFL. He was referring to dastardly play by the Oakland Raiders' secondary, not heinous off-the-field behavior. Now, the league seems as if it is filled with criminals, period.

We got another taste of it with the Steelers this month. Safety Ryan Clark, who is not expected back next season, went on ESPN and said he knew of teammates who smoked marijuana, not for recreational purposes, heh heh, but for medicinal purposes. It wasn't exactly a breaking story, young men smoking weed. But it's against the law in Pennsylvania, medicinally or recreationally. Clark went on to say there's no way the league can stop the marijuana use because its testing policy is so lame. He probably stuck out his tongue at Goodell as he said it.

Goodell will deserve a raise if he can clean up the stinkin' mess his league has become.

The ironic thing is, many NFL players think Goodell has too much power when it comes to league discipline. The truth is he doesn't have enough. Punishment has to be more severe for the perps, up to and including expulsion from the league.

But it's not just Goodell who has to get tougher. The NFL Players Association needs to wake up and stop fighting so hard to protect the rights of its criminals and start worrying more about serving those many good, decent players, who are just as sad and just as sick of the abhorrent actions as you are.

There needs to be major change.

It's a crying shame when Rice will be welcomed back with open arms by the Ravens, but Sam won't be welcomed by all into the NFL fraternity.

Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is among the many players who will be tolerant of Sam and his lifestyle. "If he can help your football team, then great. That's what it's all about." Roethlisberger speaks for the majority, but it's the minority that should trouble Goodell. The Incognito-Martin report is proof the NFL isn't 100 percent ready for a gay player. It's not just in the Dolphins' over-the-top locker room that homophobic slurs are commonplace. It might not be as bad with other teams, but the slurs still are a part of the culture. It's up to Goodell, the team owners and coaches to change it. Good luck with that.

The NFL is fortunate. It's big, strong and bulletproof. It can survive anything.

But that doesn't mean Goodell and the NFLPA shouldn't take player-behavior issues even more seriously than they have. A good start would be throwing Incognito out of the league for good. Jerry, Pouncey and Turner, too.

Seriously.

Read the report.

Come back and tell me that punishment is too severe.

— Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

NFL must tackle its

'CRIMINAL ELEMENT'

It's a crying shame when Ray Rice will be welcomed back with open arms by the Ravens, but Michael Sam won't be welcomed by all into the NFL fraternity.

Comments
Marc Topkin’s takeaways from Wednesday’s Rays-Red Sox game

Marc Topkin’s takeaways from Wednesday’s Rays-Red Sox game

In a way, the timing of RHP Jake Faria's oblique injury seemed manageable in that RHP Nathan Eovaldi is close to coming off the disabled list and can step in. But on the other hand, the Rays finally could have four regular starters. Imagine that.Ther...
Updated: 30 minutes ago
Three arrested for street racing after mother fatally struck pushing stroller on Bayshore Boulevard

Three arrested for street racing after mother fatally struck pushing stroller on Bayshore Boulevard

TAMPA — The two cars raced each other along Bayshore Boulevard just before noon, witnesses told police. One was a black 2018 Mustang. The other a gold Nissan. They sped side-by-side, trading the lead, police said, despite the traffic and pedestrians ...
Updated: 1 hour ago
State baseball: 60 wins and counting for Calvary Christian

State baseball: 60 wins and counting for Calvary Christian

FORT MYERS — Calvary Christian will play for its second straight Class 4A state championship. The Warriors defeated Jacksonville Trinity Christian 2-1 on Wednesday night at Hammond Stadium in a game delayed three hours due to weather. It is the 60th ...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Live blog: It comes down to this for Bolts-Caps

Live blog: It comes down to this for Bolts-Caps

Follow our live coverage of the Eastern Conference final between the Tampa Bay Lightning and Washington Capitals.We'll have updates, analysis, photos, video and more on and off the ice from Times reporters, editors, sports columnists and photo journa...
Updated: 1 hour ago
‘C’mon Tampa, let’s go!’ Lightning fans gather for Game 7

‘C’mon Tampa, let’s go!’ Lightning fans gather for Game 7

TAMPA — Hours before Gate C opened Wednesday at Amalie Arena, six die-hard Tampa Bay Lightning fans gathered on the steps.Waiting.For Thomas Schooley, 40, of Seminole, it’s a pregame tradition with meaning."I’ve got to be the first one in," Schooley ...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Rick Scott overrules elections chief, directs Florida to seek cyber-security money

Rick Scott overrules elections chief, directs Florida to seek cyber-security money

FORT LAUDERDALE — Gov. Rick Scott on Wednesday directed the state's chief elections official to seek $19.2 million in federal money to help counties protect against possible cyber-security attacks in the 2018 election.Scott's intervention came ...
Updated: 1 hour ago

Eckerd College student critically injured in campus accident just before graduation

ST. PETERSBURG — An Eckerd College student fell from a ladder on campus in the hours before her graduation ceremony and remained hospitalized Wednesday with head injuries.Chicago native Rebecca Ryan Lavin-Burgher, known as Becca on campus and RyRy to...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Rays’ Jake Faria may be out until August, Vidal Nuno called up

Rays’ Jake Faria may be out until August, Vidal Nuno called up

UPDATE, 5:32: Faria is looking at at extended absence, potentially into August. Cash said an estimate of 6-8 weeks was on the optimistic side. "From what we found out he got it pretty good," Cash said.  "So it could be a little bit longer than t...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Birchwood owner will open a three-story restaurant and bar at St. Petersburg pier

Birchwood owner will open a three-story restaurant and bar at St. Petersburg pier

ST. PETERSBURG — Chuck Prather, owner of the Birchwood in St. Petersburg, returned from his daughter’s Maine wedding this week with an exciting announcement of his own. On June 7 the St. Petersburg City Council is expected to sign off on him being on...
Updated: 3 hours ago

Sinkhole opens up near Bayfront Health’s Brooksville hospital

BROOKSVILLE — A large sinkhole opened up by Bayfront Health Brooksville hospital in a water retention pond between State Road 50 and the hospital’s parking lot, according to a hospital spokeswoman.The sinkhole poses no threat to hospital buildings, e...
Updated: 3 hours ago