Rooney doesn't rule

Sports blotter: "Pardon my French, but you're an asshole" edition
By MATT TAIBBI  |  March 26, 2008

080328-rooney_main

Zero tolerance, some of the time
Funny, funny stuff coming from Pittsburgh — a relief, actually, to see some other city’s storied NFL franchise balls-deep in an ethical nightmare. It so happens that the Pittsburgh Steelers have of late been hit with a series of domestic-violence-type arrests, from a girl-hitting charge involving prized rookie wideout Santonio Holmes back in 2006, to a domestic-violence/child-endangerment arrest of reserve back Najeh Davenport late this past year, to standout linebacker James Harrison getting busted for slapping his girlfriend a few weeks back, to the latest: stone-handed wide receiver Cedric Wilson getting arrested for punching his girlfriend in the face in a restaurant a few days ago.

Holmes, Davenport, and Harrison are all key performers on the team. Wilson is not. So guess which player owner Dan Rooney decided to immediately cut following his arrest, saying, “The Steelers don’t condone violence of any kind, especially against women”? Conversely, guess which three players Rooney decided to keep on his roster and give a second chance? I’ll give you three guesses!

Yes, the player cut was the journeyman fourth-wideout Wilson — a player who immediately fell on the local-media sword after his arrest, apologizing to the girl, her family, the Steelers, their fans, the NFL, and all the nations of sub-Saharan Africa (okay, not that last part). Rooney severed ties the night of the arrest, booting Wilson from the team, solemnly telling reporters that he hoped his swift action would “send a message.” Which it did, of course, the message being: don’t hit a woman if you know the team can find a cheaper replacement for you in the fifth round of the draft.

But here’s the kicker: when asked why he cut Wilson and not the pass-rushing demon Harrison, Rooney said that the circumstances were “completely different,” noting that Harrison had been attempting to take his son to be baptized, a move his girlfriend apparently disagreed with. When Harrison’s babymama locked herself in her room and called police, Harrison broke down the door, took her cell phone and ripped it in half, and then whacked her across the face, leaving the customary “red marks” on her cheek.

Now, according to Rooney, Harrison’s actions were “completely different” because what he was trying to do — take his son to be baptized — was “something that was good” and “well worth it” (those are direct quotes). It is therefore okay to break down a door, break the phone a woman is using to call for help with, and belt her across the cheek — so long as your intent is to take your child to be baptized into the church of peace and understanding.

Folks, this is going to be fun, watching as Rooney is dragged to the hill at Golgotha by N.O.W. and pretty much every other advocate for fairness and decency. It’s even funnier given that we know the baptism excuse is a canard, covering up the fact that the real reason Harrison was retained is that the dude can flat-out play. After seeing Bill Belichick take it up the dark place all year, it’s finally someone else’s turn. Take it like a man, Mr. Rooney. Take 30 points, too. And let’s give Wilson and Harrison 55 points each for the dom-assault charges; actually let’s give Harrison 60, since he’s getting away with his.

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