Throughout the history of the NFL, double standards always existed. Yet, with the omnipresence of the 24-hour news cycle and social media, attention intensifies. Last week, Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton made unquestionably sexist comments towards Charlotte Observer reporter Jourdan Rodrigue. As mentioned in various places, the reaction to Newton’s comments exploded. Everyone from ESPN to local newscasts made sure to opine, tweet and otherwise comment on the narrow-minded remarks.
Yet, lost were Rodrigue’s tweets regarding her previous views on racism. More importantly, the question needs immediate asking: Does the double standard that applies to Newton infect other areas of the NFL. Should idiotic behavior and comments be tolerated by some, if not all of fans and media? As a wise person once said about Newton, he lacks “sincerity when he messes up”. In an era where, fans and media want tears with their contrition, Newton fails that test. On the other hand, few must live up to the standard set for him.
When people see Patriots’ TE Rob Gronkowski, they see a lovable, meathead that destroys defenses while enjoying himself greatly. Yet, if you look deeper, fans and media give Gronkowski the ultimate pass. Media celebrates him for his partying, friendships with porn stars. In addition, Gronkowski once gave a female media member a lap dance on national TV. Very few people saw this as demeaning in any shape, form, or fashion. Newton utters an unacceptable statement towards a sportswriter and he’s considered the worse person in sports.
Honestly, Gronkowski receives media protection. Who else is celebrated for the perception of lacking intelligence in the NFL? What other superstar athlete could start an annual eating, drinking and cavorting cruise with fans? The media lapped this foolishness up. Multiple media outlets sent staff to “cover” the Gronk Cruise. Imagine if Todd Gurley embarked on this sort of escapade. Outrage is subjective.
During his three stop tenure in the NFL, Jay Cutler did not endear himself to many teammates. Wearing out welcome in two of those spots with maddeningly poor decisions mixed with flashes of brilliance, Cutler’s demeanor, words and actions turned off teammates. From shoving J’Marcus Webb on the sideline to appearing apathetic during losses, Cutler’s reputation earned him a bad reputation. Yet, somehow the Miami Dolphins thought enough of him to ink a one year deal. Meanwhile, Colin Kaepernick sits out, and teams appear to stay away en masse. The purported distraction of Kaepernick kneeling for the anthem. Forget the fact that Kaepernick’s teammates loved him and voted him a team award in 2016. With that said, a universally despised player walks out of the annoyance booth to grab a starting job.
Unsurprisingly, the league itself treats drug related offenses difference. For example, Eagles’ tackle Lane Johnson popped for PED. His suspension? Ten games. Browns wideout John Gordon failed multiple tests for marijuana and enters his third season of not playing in the NFL. Granted, Gordon did not adhere to the league’s policy, but if marijuana is his only offense, should he still be sitting at home.
Part of the blame shifts to the NFLPA, which collectively bargained that suspended players must stay away from team facilities during their suspensions. This does not help anyone. Like Josh Gordon, Raiders’ edge rusher Aldon Smith appears to have played his last game after multiple drug offenses. Yet, if their drug of choice were HGH, they could be on the field as we speak. However, marijuana and alcohol maintain that less than positive image. Even though, the league accepts millions of beer dollars each year. As the child of an alcoholic that inevitably lost his battle, separation is the last thing addicts need.
In essence, the double standard clearly lives in the modern NFL. Players, even superstars are not treated equally. That remains the domain of the league, media and fans alike. Yesterday, the words unity bandied about the airwaves. Be that as it may, a truly united league occurs when everyone is held to the same standard.