Earlier this week, former Philadelphia Eagle Shawn Andrews came forward with a story of how he suffered severe criticism and ostracism during his playing days, with star quarterback Donovan McNabb as the ringleader. And now, McNabb is firing back.
In a long interview with Sync Weekly, Andrews had painted the mid-2000s Eagles locker room as a den of two-faced backstabbers, players who would be all-team in public, me-first in private. Churchgoing family-man types in the public eye, backroom gentlemen's-club rollers on the road, that kind of thing. Andrews saved particular criticism for McNabb:
“He was the type of person that had everything in the world he could want, but that still wasn’t enough. He wanted the attention on him. There was a whole lot of that behavior. He wasn’t just that way with me. I’m thinking, ‘Every day I strap on my shoulder pads and helmet, I’m here to protect you ... He was a big part of it — he was a big part of my issues there. Bully is a strong word, but he was degrading to me and spread rumors. It’s bothered me that I haven’t really spoken about it.”
Andrews, who is married with a child, said players spread rumors about his sexual orientation around the locker room and to other teams. After the 2007 season, he was treated for depression and missed much of the 2008 preseason. When he spoke to the locker room about his struggles with depression, Andrews claims that McNabb rolled his eyes through the entire speech. Two years later, after a series of injuries, the Eagles released Andrews.
Now, per NBC Sports, McNabb has responded. "For everything I've been questioned for in Philadelphia, you point the finger directly at me?" he said. "I'm the one that ruined your career? Why would I want to talk bad about you to others out there and question your sexuality? Does that make sense to you at all? And why is this coming out now? It's unbelievable."
That's not exactly a denial, and McNabb's "rhetorical" questions actually have some pretty easy and obvious answers: dominant players exert their will over others because they can, and it's coming out now because Andrews, who is retired, no longer has to fear recrimination.
McNabb said other teammates should be consulted, and it's a good bet they will be. Regardless of McNabb's role in Andrews' career decline, it's obvious: the culture of intimidation, which may or may not rise to the level of "bullying," is an integral part of the NFL locker room. What was acceptable locker room behavior once now comes with consequences. Expect to see a lot more of these stories going forward.