Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Tank Johnson-poster boy

NFL commish Roger Goodell's new crack down on thuggery off the field in the NFL has been largely lauded by the press and fans alike. The NFLPA, far and away the weakest union in pro sports, just got some ammunition to fight back. Tank Johnson, gun lover extraordinaire was released by the Bears last week after a run in with cops. Johnson's a thug! Off with his head!

Let's be clear: he was driving 40 in a 25 at 3 am. He had been drinking but was not drunk. http://www.indystar.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20070703/SPORTS0303/707030366/1100/SPORTS03
Raise your hand if you've never done that. (cue crickets chirping awkwardly)
Listen, spare me the arguments about impaired driving. Personally, I don't drink, but legal limits are there for a reason and he was under them. In this instance, he's guilty of DWB (driving while Black). 40 in a 25? And he lost his job? The problem with policies that are too hard line on player behavior is that most NFL players are black. The live in nice neighborhoods patrolled by white cops looking for guys that seem out of place. Run-ins are inevitable.

I'm pro-cop in general, but I'm not naive. I'm not excusing guys like Adam Jones for their behavior, and I'm not saying it was the cops fault that 10+ times he's been questioned. I am saying that there are circumstances under which the most clean cut, straight laced, hyper intelligent, rich young black man can have his reputation ruined and his livelihood put at risk by an overzealous young officer (and just maybe even a little racist even if only subconsciously).

Someone is going to sign Tank Johnson and soon. Now that he's not guilty of DWI, the public relations hit will be minimal. Eventually, someone much less questionable than Tank Johnson will get bit by this new wave of 'clean up Dodge', and it will result in a major lawsuit, a huge black eye for the NFL, and a serious decrease in the power and credibility of the commissioner.

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