Three professionals viciously hit others in their weekend work. Were they intentional? At least some were. Each initially suspended NFL player heard from NFL VP of Football Operations Jon Runyan…
To New England’s Rob Gronkowski, who launched his body on top of a down man, forcibly hitting him in the back of the head when the play was already over:
“Your actions were not incidental, could have been avoided and placed the opposing player at risk of serious injury. The Competition Committee has clearly expressed its goal of ‘eliminating flagrant hits that have no place in our game.’ Those hits include the play you were involved in yesterday.”
To Pittsburgh’s JuJu Smith-Schuster, who blindsided a linebacker, put him on the ground, and then stood on top of the defender he personally put into concussion protocol, gloating about his self-perceived accomplishment:
“You are suspended for the dangerous and unsportsmanlike acts you committed during the fourth quarter of last night’s game. Specifically, with 7:10 remaining, on a passing play to a running back, you lined up a defender and delivered a violent and unnecessary blindside shot to his head and neck area. You then ‘celebrated’ the play by standing over him and taunting him. The contact you made with your opponent placed the opposing player at risk of serious injury and could have been avoided. Your conduct following the hit fell far below the high standards of sportsmanship expected of an NFL player.”
And to Cincinnati’s George Iloka, who speared a still-in-the-air, opposing receiver dangerously in the head, potentially taking revenge for Smith-Schuster…
“On a play which began with 3:55 left in the game, you violently struck a defenseless receiver in the head and neck area. The Competition Committee has clearly expressed its goal of ‘eliminating flagrant hits that have no place in our game’ and has encouraged the league office to suspend offenders for egregious violations such as the one you committed last night.”
[Note: all three appealed their suspensions; only Iloka’s was reversed.]
Here’s the thing…
What each of the above did was wrong. It was bad behavior, poor judgment, awful, sinful, vicious, you-name-it. As one of my brothers said simply but profoundly, “If that happens on the street rather than the football field, it would be a crime.” That’s how violent each hit was.
So hence, the question…
Does being a Patriots fan keep us from seeing Gronkowski’s viciousness?
Does being a Steelers fan blind us from wrestling with the sad haughtiness of JuJu’s gloating after the hit?
And does being a Bengals fan make us think what Iloka did was not really all that bad?
In other words, does our loyalty impede our objectivity?
What about in areas more sobering and serious than football?
What about regarding the current focus on harassment, abuse, and sexual misconduct?
Does being loyal to a person or party keep us from seeing the viciousness?
Can we still wrestle with reality?
Or do we become a little more lenient, depending who the allegations are against, thinking it couldn’t have been quite so bad?
For the record, I root for the Bengals; Gronkowski is a key player on my playoff-bound fantasy team; and one of my besties is a diehard Steeler fan. Hence, I am significantly challenged here.
Our challenge, no less, should never diminish our objectivity.