Apparently there are no more ultra-conservative Presidents that Ralph Nader can help get into office, while feeding his ego that’s as big as, well, Terrell Owens’. If you didn’t see, Bloomberg News is reporting that the consumer rights activist cum presidential wannabe is weighing in the controversy du jour in the sports world – the decision by the Philadelphia Eagles to keep Owens, their superstar receiver, off the playing field for the rest of the season.
The straw that broke the camel’s back for the Eagles was when just over a week ago, Owens complained to ESPN that the team showed “a lack of class” for failing to announce to the stadium that he had caught his 100th career touchdown against San Diego, and followed it up by saying the team would be better off if it ditched all-pro Quarterback Donovan McNabb in favor of Green Bay has-been Brett Favre.
Of course, for those who have followed Owens’ career, this has been par for the course for the wideout, who once speculated to Playboy that his Quarterback in San Francisco, Jeff Garcia, was gay. After the Eagles loss in the Super Bowl last year, Owens fired his agent, David Joseph, and hired the ruthless Drew Rosenhaus. At least Rosenhaus is up front about the kind of guy he is, titling his book, “A Shark Never Sleeps : Wheeling and Dealing with the NFL's Most Ruthless Agent.” Rosenhaus convinced Owens that he “outperformed” his contract and deserved to have it ripped up and redone.
Since then, upset that the Eagles wouldn’t redo the contract he signed only one year before, Owens held out of summer camp, refused to talk to his teammates when he did report, yelled at his Head Coach Andy Reid to “shut up,” told his offensive coordinator not to talk to him “unless I talk to you first,” implied that Donovan McNabb was dogging it in the Super Bowl, said McNabb was a “hypocrite,” and refused to take part in a scheduled autograph session with other players. At that point he was suspended for a week and told that if he came back, his attitude had to improve or next time the team wouldn’t be so kind.
This past week was the “next time.” After his ESPN interview, the team informed Owens that he had to apologize to the team and McNabb, and then make those apologies public. He refused to do the first two, and then read a half-hearted three sentence apology that noticeably did not include McNabb. Oh yeah, then he also got into a fistfight in the locker room with a former player. The team suspended Owens for the maximum four games without pay, and informed him that after his suspension was served, he was not invited to come back, though they would honor the contract by paying him.
Smelling easy publicity like a dog smells the scent of another dog’s pee from yards away, Ralph Nader swung into action. He penned a letter to the Eagles and NFL Commissioner Tagliabue saying the Eagles actions were unfair to Owens because they did not recognize his right to free speech when he dissed his team and teammate McNabb, and it was unfair to fans who had already purchased tickets “on the assumption that they will see one of the game's most exciting receivers.”
Oh where to begin? First, free speech has rarely, if ever, been extended to the workplace. For instance, a McDonald’s cashier could be suspended for saying, “Welcome to McDonald’s, where the food is disgusting and I prefer to eat at Boston Chicken.” In football, the ultimate team sport, Owens’ actions have caused a serious disruption in team focus and unity as well, meaning he was not only hurting the organization in public, but within its walls too. Second, fans buy tickets to see a good game, not a wide receiver. Even if they did, would the Eagles owe fans their money back if Owens was hurt? Was Owens robbing fans of their opportunity when he didn’t play the final few weeks of the season last year with a broken leg?
Even with all my negative feelings towards Ralph Nader, I still believe he is a very smart man – definitely smart enough to understand that his argument is pathetic. It leads me to only one conclusion: Ralph Nader suffers from Attention Deficit Disorder. That is, he freaks out and does stupid and irrational things when he’s not getting attention.
Ralph, just shut up already, please.