Pacman’s Interview Couldn’t Save Him

April 10, 2007

UPDATE: This post was linked in Slate’s blog roundup. Christopher Beam excerpted my uncertainty about the exact status of certain legal problems Jones is facing, and in my defense, Pacman has had several run-ins with the law that are hard to keep straight. There were actually two separate spitting incidents, one in August 2006 (charges dropped on condition he stay out of trouble) and another in October 2006 (which led to a one-game suspension). Just wanted to update and be accurate considering this post is referenced by a legit web site, and visitors clicking through that link would probably feel compelled to set me straight in the comments if I didn’t do this… [What follows is the original post.]

The NFL suspended Pacman Jones for the entire 2007 season today, a week after an attempted whitewash in an interview with Deion Sanders on NFL Network. Peter King highlighted the following excerpt in his MMQB column yesterday:

Sanders: Why do you think trouble follows you?
Jones: “Like I said man, it was the people I was hanging around. I made some bad decisions. I am not living a lie. I promise you that I am on the right track, but I have made horrible decisions about who I am with or who I am going places with….Two of my friends who had never driven a Bentley, I let them drive my Bentley one night just because. Not just to show them the upside, but I never had anyone do that for me. It is the little things. It is always the little things that get me in trouble.”

The bit about the Bentleys shows, shall we say, a lack of perspective on things. He admits to “horrible decisions” but the first example he cites is letting friends drive his expensive cars — not spitting in a woman’s face (was this charge dropped recently? I can’t remember) or instigating a nightclub fight that left a bouncer paralyzed (probably didn’t bring that one up on advice of his lawyers). Anyway, my point is that the Bentleys remark goes beyond trivializing his extensive past record of bad behavior.

I wonder if the Sanders interview was a last gasp effort by the NFL Network to see if Jones’s image could be revived at all before the commissioner had to put down the hammer (it’s only fair to the Titans to let them know how screwed they are before the draft later this month). This columnist for the Tennessean decries the NFL’s cable channel as a propaganda network that lobbed softballs at both Jones and fellow law-breaker Chris Henry of the Bengals, who earned an eight-game suspension of his own today.

The proliferation of sports media outlets that are controlled by the leagues and teams that they cover does create all sorts of big questions about journalistic integrity. For example, the Red Sox are partially owned by the New York Times Company, which also owns the Boston Globe, the team’s big hometown paper. The Red Sox games are all broadcast on NESN, a TV network the team owns. This is a recipe for biased coverage, of which other examples surely abound, and the NFL may be getting caught up in similar issues now too.