SBD/July 14, 2011/Leagues and Governing Bodies

James Harrison's Agent Tries To Temper Fury From His Client's Comments

Was Harrison merely voicing an opinion that's shared by several NFL players?
Steelers LB James Harrison's agent, Bill Parise, yesterday "tried to downplay the severity" of his client's comments to Men's Journal, according to Gerry Dulac of the PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE. Harrison's comments about NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell were among his "more venomous directives." But Parise said, "A lot of it is bravado. I think people have to be careful not to read that and think those statements are anything more than expressions of feelings, particularly in regard to the commissioner. The commissioner fined James $100,000 last year. What do you want him to say, he's my best friend? James is a tough individual, and that's the type of language he uses" (PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE, 7/14).'s Steve Wyche reported Harrison, who made the comments to the magazine in May, is "not singing solo in the choir of NFL players." Plenty of players "view Goodell as Public Enemy No. 1." Wyche noted of Goodell, "He's the face of the owners in the lockout. He's not liked for that." One player this summer said, "Don't even mention (Goodell's) name around me" (, 7/13). Men's Journal Contributing Editor Paul Solotaroff yesterday said, "Since the story broke this morning, I've been getting calls from NFL players blessing James Harrison for saying what they don't have the stature to say about Roger Goodell" ("SportsCenter," ESPN2, 7/13).

LOST IN TRANSLATION:'s Ashley Fox wrote Harrison's tone toward Goodell "overshadows the fact that Harrison does have a valid criticism, shared by other players in the NFL, of how Goodell went about fining players for illegal hits last season." There are players like Harrison "who think Goodell unfairly targeted African-American players and fined certain players more than others." There are players like Harrison "who think Goodell issued harsher fines for illegal hits on white players than for hits on black players," and that Goodell "had it out for certain players" (, 7/13). In Pittsburgh, Bob Smizik writes, "Harrison has a grudge against Goodell, as we all know. That doesn’t give him the right to take off on the commissioner the way he did and it certainly weakens any comment he made that might have had some merit" (, 7/14). Also in Pittsburgh, Scott Brown writes beyond the "insults, Harrison makes some serious points about what he believes are the league's misguided attempts to increase safety." He explains how "non-guaranteed contracts make players more likely to hit high, because in the short term, a torn knee ligament is more costly than a concussion" (Pittsburgh TRIBUNE-REVIEW, 7/14). In K.C., Pete Grathoff writes, "Unfortunately, Harrison's outlandish statements will overshadow some seriously good points he made later in his chat with the magazine. ... I hope that the good things Harrison said about reducing head trauma won't get lost in all the negative talk, but I fear it will" (K.C. STAR, 7/14).

GUNS A-BLAZIN': In Boston, Ron Borges reports NFL officials are referring to the photo accompanying the Men's Journal article of Harrison as "The Picture." The shot reveals a "shirtless Harrison with arms folded over his chest." In each hand he is "holding a handgun, one a Smith & Wesson 460V revolver" and the other a FN Five-seveN pistol (BOSTON HERALD, 7/14). ESPN's Adam Schefter said of the picture, "That is not the image that the NFL nor the Pittsburgh Steelers want to portray to its fans” (“SportsCenter,” ESPN, 7/13). Radio personality Sal Licata: "Not sure the image of him holding two weapons is one the NFL needs -- especially with the lockout. What is Harrison thinking?" ("Loud Mouths," SportsNet N.Y., 7/13). L.A. Times columnist Bill Plaschke said, "An NFL player, in this era of gun control and the NFL worried about guns, he’s posing with two guns. ... This guy’s an embarrassment to himself, to his team, to the league" ("Around The Horn," ESPN, 7/13).
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