If you are like me, you have been overloaded with information coming out on the interview that Steelers linebacker James Harrison gave for the article in Men\’s Journal magazine. It seems that quite a bit of the information is out now, although we have not heard from Harrison specifically since the news broke. He was scheduled to be on Sportscenter tonight, but has since cancelled that appearance as I alerted you earlier. I have had a few hours to digest everything and here are my own thoughts on it all.
First I do not think Paul Solotaroff twisted the words of Harrison as much as Harrison might proclaim he did. Solotaroff has it on tape according to an afternoon interview that he did on Outside The Lines and he seems prepared to stand behind what he wrote. Solotaroff claimed that he talked to Harrison today for 10-15 minutes and that he did not seem angry about the piece. It seems that Harrison wanted to clarify if he indeed said some of things that are stated in the article, more specifically the gay slur. We are all adults here, he said, “faggot”. Big deal in my opinion. Sure that is not what the NFL and the Steelers want him to be quoted as saying and Solotaroff even said he used it more in a schoolyard sense and not a homophobic sense. Reportedly Harrison regrets using it, but it seems like it is on tape and I am sure Solotaroff used it more for shock value. If so, it worked. The interview went on for a few days in mid-May and I think Harrison got so relaxed around Solotaroff, that his lips got a little loose. I do not think Harrison will get suspended or fined for using that slur though, nor should he.
The next issue that seems to offend everyone is the picture of Harrison with the two guns. Once again I think the league and the Steelers wish he did not portray himself in that fashion, but I think Harrison might have gotten caught up in the hype of the feature and how “cool” it might look to toughen up that hard ass image of his even more. Did the picture offend me? Absolutely not as I am a gun enthusiast myself. Much like the slur he used though, I do not think it violates the personal conduct policy to be photographed with guns in your hands to promote a feature story. Does it send the wrong message? That is for the viewing public to decide as it did not offend me. Once again I think Harrison might have gotten caught up with the picture and image being sold to him. Magazines pay people to do that after all.
The comments about NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell did not surprise me at all. The name calling was a bit over the top, but outside of the slur, those comments did not surprise me. It will be interesting if those names were used over the course of the interview or just rapid fire, not that it matters though in the big picture. Will Goodell or the Steelers suspend or fine him for speaking his mind? I kind of doubt it. At worst the Steelers might sit him an opening series against the Ravens and ask him to apologize publicly, but I would really be surprised if it ended up being much more than that. Harrison just said what I bet quite a few players around the league think.
The comments about the former Patriots and the Texans linebacker do not surprise me either. Harrison spoke his mind. What else can I say about that? It is what it is. Fined or suspended for that? Really? I think not.
Perhaps the thing that shocked me the most is the comments he made about Ben Roethlisberger and Rashard Mendenhall. Those really can hurt the team unity and cause internal distractions, something the Steelers have had quite a bit of for some time now. Unless we listen to the tape, we may never know the exact context of the criticism. Was it playful off the cuff? Maybe a little, but those comments are the ones that he has apparently already attempted to clarify as he has already talked to Roethlisberger today to say that Solotaroff twisted his words. Let\’s be clear though, do you really expect a team of 53 players to all get along in a lockerroom all the time and not have issues with the effort some give or don\’t give on the field? Should Harrison have made those comments to a writer? I think he certainly could have used better judgment, but once again think he got so relaxed with Solotaroff during the days he was with him, that he never dreamed those comments would be used. I think they will eventually get this worked out internally when camp starts, but the damage is done for now. If he indeed said what he is quoted as saying, he can\’t take it back. The team will deal with it behind closed doors.
The speculation is running rampant right now that the Steelers will release or trade Harrison. No way that happens. To cut Harrison would cause a cap hit of over $14 million in 2011 and it is silly to think he will be made an example of at that price. Trading him is not going to happen either. I found the 9/11 comments by Mendenhall more damaging to the Steelers and the league than all of the ones Harrison made, but that is just me. You might think otherwise and I respect that. That horse has been beat to death.
There is an old saying that goes; loose lips, sink ships and think that is exactly the case with Harrison in this article. He got entirely too friendly and close to a writer that knew exactly what he was doing and he got Harrison to start talking about anything and everything. Do I blame the writer? No, absolutely not as that is his job. The canceling of the interview this afternoon will give Harrison some time to get with his agent to better attack his comments that are out there. Outside of the slur and ripping his teammates publicly, it is just James being James in my opinion. I think he likes the Deebo characterture of himself and got caught up being that character during the days he spent with Solotaroff. Harrison is normally not the most media friendly athlete and I bet he gets even less friendly from here on out with them. Do not forget how much charity work Harrison does as well as his play on the field when you try to balance all of this out. Harrison is human and we all say things we wish we could take back sometimes, unfortunately for the Deebo character; he can not do it either. The action of sticking a foot in ones mouth has been around forever and will never go away. It just seems like more and more of the Steelers players have taken up that hobby as of late.
This too shall pass, Steeler Nation.