What do Don Imus and the Tennessee Titans' Adam "Pac Man" Jones have in common? Both of them ran afoul of their employers and kind of for the same reason. Imus got canned by CBS for talking like a thug whereas Jones got a one year suspension by the NFL for being a thug. Not content to mete out stern justice to just one NFL miscreant, Commissioner Roger Goodell suspended Cincinnati Bengals wideout Chris Henry as well for multiple violations of the NFL's new "personal conduct" policy. Henry's most recent faux pas was that he pleaded out last January to giving a minor some alcohol. Note to Chris: make 'em show you a driver's license before offering them a Courvoisier and Dr. Pepper.
By the way, Jones and Henry played-and were suspended on numerous occasions- together at West Virginia. The knucklehead factor for the Mountaineers increased exponentially with those two on the roster. Indeed, Henry fits in exceptionally well with the Bengals seeing as how they set what has to be a league record for player arrests last year.
As for Jones, he has had ten instances of what are typically referred to as "run-ins" with the police since being drafted by the Titans in 2005. What finally moved Goodell to throw the book at Jones was a melee in a Las Vegas strip joint during the weekend of the NBA All-Star game, a weekend characterized by numerous incidents all over town, many of them precipitated by NFL guys in town for the weekend. It was the kind of weekend that gives law enforcement a greater appreciation for organized crime because disorganized crime is really hard to get on top of once things get out of hand.
Jones' contribution to the mayhem came after he showered 40 strippers onstage with $8100 at the coyly named Minxx Gentleman's Club and Lounge. $8100? How did he come up with that number? Anyway, the festivities began in earnest when Jones insisted that the ladies give the money back. One thing led to another and a woman was shot in the head. A security guard was also shot. He is paralyzed for life.
Now, in all fairness it must be said that Jones did not do the shooting. Indeed, he has not even been charged with anything at this writing. After all, it is not against the law to be acting like a knucklehead in a strip joint in the wee hours of the morning. But the NFL and the NBA are getting increasingly more and more redassed about the issue of off the field conduct. Which means that this not a good time to be a "Pac-Man" Jones or a Chris Henry.
There are some who would say that in the case of Jones particularly the suspension is particularly draconian since he has not been charged with anything and received suspended sentences for his other "run-ins." The San Francisco Chronicle's usually sensible Gwen Knapp even suggested that Goodell's actions were unconstitutional.
To which I call "bullshit." For the most part, and the exceptions don't apply here, actions by private individuals or organizations can't deprive someone of their Constitutional rights. My father used to tell me to shut up all the time. One time I told him that I thought I had a 1st Amendment right to free speech. He told me to write my Congressman. And to shut up.
Same thing applies here with equal force. If the Chris Henrys and Tank Johnsons of this world think the league is coming down too hard on them, they need to grieve it through the Player's Association.
But even if the NFL is within its rights to clamp down on these jerks, isn't it hypocritical? The NFL turns a blind eye to the hyper macho, chest thumping, mouth running antics of these guys every Sunday. It expects these guys to work themselves up into a lather sufficient to play in the hyper-violent NFL and then they expect them to turn it off at the buzzer? They are surprised that poorly socialized young men with more money than sense get into trouble? As Tony Kornheiser once said, " Not every paranoid-schizophrenic can play at the Division I level."
Which brings me back to Imus who has said things on the air that are 10 times worse than referring to the Rutgers women's basketball team as "nappy headed hos." And the suits at CBS did nothing about it until the sponsors got nervous. That's the way it is in the entertainment business. The suits will keep dancing with the devil as long as the product isn't threatened. But when it is, they find somebody to hang out to dry.
It's constitutional. But it is hypocritical.