Bryant-Ireland controversy still alive

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  • Jeff Ireland
    American football player, coach, executive
Bryant takes a breather during Cowboys minicamp last week

Follow Michael Silver at Mogotxt, Twitter and Facebook.

In terms of free publicity – and, more important, drawing attention to a flawed pre-draft process – the Dez Bryant(notes)/Jeff Ireland controversy is the gift that keeps on giving.

Last Tuesday, when we posted a column exposing Ireland, the Miami Dolphins' general manager, for asking Bryant, the talented ex-Oklahoma State wideout and eventual first-round pick of the Dallas Cowboys, if his mother was a prostitute, I figured it would cause a bit of a stir. Well, here we are, a week and numerous news cycles later, and the remaining air still hasn't been sucked out of the room. I could've sworn that in recent days, Conan O'Brien, Roman Polanski and Florida Gov. Charlie Crist have weighed in on the topic.

On Monday, six days after Ireland apologized to Bryant (and three days after he and/or his close associates likely leaked a belated, passive-aggressive, attempted contextual rationalization of the remark), Bryant's mother, Angela, chastised the GM to AOL Fanhouse for not lobbing an "I'm sorry" call her way.

Hours later, ESPN reported that Angela Bryant, who previously served a prison term after being convicted for selling crack cocaine, had been arrested last year for a similar offense.

I'm not sure what the next twist will be, but I do suspect that we'll keep talking about what went down between Dez Bryant and Ireland for the foreseeable future, because it speaks to so many larger issues, some of which (gasp) transcend football.

For what it's worth, I can tell you that NFL Players Association executive director DeMaurice Smith was appalled by the way Bryant was treated – and by other recent revelations of demeaning and insensitive questions posed to players in the pre-draft process – and plans to press the league for meaningful change.

If that happens, I'll derive a small measure of satisfaction for having done my part to tackle the topic. The credit for this story, however, should go to Bryant, a courageous young man who not only managed to overcome some shady circumstances in his family life to put himself in position to succeed but also stood up for himself after being treated inappropriately in his meeting with Ireland, negative consequences be damned.

Granted, some of you are rolling your eyes at that assessment, while others are nodding your heads in approval. Either way, I love that we're having this discussion, which today includes the feedback that has been thrown at me through the magic of cyber-communication

Enjoy, and please feel free to keep it coming. You know I won't be complaining.


Sorry I questioned you on Twitter about the Ireland-Bryant thing. I missed the paragraph in the middle about the refused to comment bit (stupid iPhone browser). Just saw where Armando Salguero had a mea culpa from Ireland, too. I don't know what the commish can do about it, but I would like to see some sort of disciplinary action. And I'm a Dolphins fan and completely disgusted with the way they act. Sorry again for questioning your journalism skills.

Mike Lupton

No apology necessary – and, in fact, I may owe one – because this was a confusing situation. As the editor's note above the current version of last week's column explains, Ireland's decision not to comment and an accompanying statement from the Dolphins was inadvertently removed from the original version after the GM issued a public apology to Bryant. Personally, what I'd like to see from commissioner Roger Goodell is a set of guidelines for future pre-draft interviews, so that next year's crop of Dez Bryants, Myron Rolles and Toby Gerharts (and beyond) won't have to put up with these sorts of demeaning, unprofessional and insensitive questions.

I don't applaud Jeff Ireland's question to Dez, but he called and apologized on his own and the apology was accepted so why bring this up now? I can't help notice that others asked out of line questions as well. I'm willing to bet if it came down to getting that question or skipping the visit he'd still have gone. First-round draft choices cost a ton of money and most of us can't flash your press pass to get in, so while this question wouldn't be one of my questions, you don't know why the question was asked, or do you?

Jim Kelly
Mt. Juliet, Tenn.

OK, now I'm the one who's confused. Just so we're clear, the event that prompted Ireland's apology to Bryant was the posting of this column several hours earlier, which brought the question to the public's attention. Got it?

Michael, I read and enjoy your column regularly as part of a probably-largely silent online audience. After reading about Ireland's alleged question, I am appalled, enraged and seething. My hat, and shoes, are off to Dez for maintaining his composure. My size 13 barefoot would have been all up in Ireland's [expletive] had he said that to me. I understand the nature of free speech and business, but as Goodell told Big Ben, "there is nothing about [Ireland's] conduct in that interview that can remotely be described as admirable, responsible, or consistent with either the values of the league or the expectations of our fans." I hope the commissioner publicly chastises Jeff Ireland or I say the NFL shield just got a little less shiny.

Alonza Robertson
Washington, D.C.

First of all, I appreciate the support from you and your size 13s. Secondly, I'm glad you brought up Goodell and his stance against the tarnishing of the shield. As I've said many times before, there seems to be a grievous inconsistency between the way Goodell reacts to players who, in his eyes, violate the league's personal-conduct policy and other team employees who behave similarly – the Tom Cable-Randy Hanson altercation being Exhibit A. It's admirable that the commissioner cares about protecting the NFL's brand, but I'd like to see him extend his vigilance beyond the realm of player misconduct.

Michael, I apologize for being unable to use my real name …. I read you always; I disagree with things you say, but the job of a columnist is to make people think, and you always do that for me. And I am a former athlete, and 2-time Olympian. I now value my privacy and anonymity. From that perspective, and from the perspective of one who always "stood for something," my first thoughts were not violent reactions to Ireland's type of questions; that is never acceptable and anyone who throws him against the wall should go to jail. So as one of principle, I would stand, shake hands to show the respect he had not shown for me, and thank him for his time, pointing out that an interview is for each to evaluate the other, and he has shown me that I never would consider playing for an organization that demonstrates such uncivil, despicable, possibly illegal, and disrespectful questions. Without emotion, I would walk out at that moment and be able to feel good about myself, for principle does trump dollars for some of us. I understand the reasons, with so many bad apples today, but there are far better ways, in accordance with any Rules of Respect for our fellow human beings, than that atrocious and unacceptable tactic. Dez has "baggage", so he fell to a man who has a history of no concern for ethics in regard to signing such players; specific names need not be mentioned. … A monkey could have constructed a better question and evaluated the answer. Thanks for making me think about what is a major, major issue for me … in life … in sports … and how we all handle ourselves.

Charlotte Bennett

I admire your principles and eagerly await the day that a just-out-of-college prospective first-round pick has the courage and conviction to make the type of stand you describe. As I mentioned above, I believe Bryant deserves a ton of credit for having the guts to speak out about this. Also, you bring up an excellent point – I would argue that disrespectful questions such as Ireland's set a terrible tone for a prospective employee who might then be asked to give his all in pursuit of organizational success. That's something teams might want to consider in the future, and also something Dolphins owner Stephen Ross should think about as he tries to make his franchise more fan friendly.

Dear Michael: Seems you jumped on your high horse on 4/27 before getting both sides of the story. Care to retract some of your opinions about Mr. Ireland now? Perhaps apology No. 1 should be for the comment "A-List A-Hole." Although it was not noted in your column, I assume you attempted to get the Dolphins' perspective before finishing your work. Journalism 101, eh mate? Cheers …

San Jose, Calif.

You asked for the journalism lesson, and you will get it: I have no reason to retract anything or apologize to anyone, and your dubious belief that I do is based on the premise that the column you cited represents some sort of absolute truth. Here are the facts: I learned that Ireland asked Bryant if his mother was a prostitute. I called the Dolphins and gave Ireland an opportunity to share his version of the conversation with me well before I filed my column, and (as noted above) he declined to comment. Shortly after my column was posted, he called Bryant to apologize, and he issued a public statement indicating that he was sorry. Three days later, SI's Jim Trotter (who is a friend of mine, despite our disagreements on this particular issue) posted this Ireland friendly version of the conversation's context according to "two sources familiar with the conversation" and, as he later described them, "two members of the Dolphins organization." Not too long afterward, Bryant texted me to refute the version offered by Ireland's defenders, writing, "I did not say that … this guy is lying." Subsequently, Bryant also expressed this to me over the phone. So, to sum it up: Bryant, one of the two people in the room during the interview with Ireland, stands behind the story that I presented to you last Tuesday (and, before that, in a column that ran during the draft's first day). Ireland's sole public statement has been an apology for having asked the question. And yet you're convinced that the unnamed sources who spoke to Trotter (and, apparently, some ESPN analysts as well) are the unassailable broadcasters of truth? Pardon me (and others) for our skepticism, but my view is that once you apologize, you pretty much lose the ability to put forth a credible, rationalized, unnamed spin on your behavior three days after the fact.

Now that the whole story regarding the Dez Bryant-Jeff Ireland drama has come to light, do you think your one-sided account in the TMZ-style item titled "Ireland's, Dolphins' arrogance unacceptable" was the kind of irresponsible journalism that's becoming the norm in online reporting? Got what seems like a hot story? Get it out there before seeing both sides. Real reporters are the only thing I miss about the print media. Do you feel like you owe Ireland an apology? Does Dez Bryant, for manipulating you? Regards.

Sameet Nabar
Rome, Italy

Hi, I'm a guy in Italy who wants to try to discredit an accurate report about an NFL general manager by citing an unnamed, self-serving, after-the-fact protestation about context as irrefutable – and by throwing out a "TMZ" reference. And in doing so, I've just added new meaning to the term "International Man of Mystery."

You know what I found about your writing/responses in general? They were refreshingly blunt and right on. Do you choose the most radical responses to your article or what? I mean wow! It ranged from the seriously grammatically and vocabularily challenged, to those where I had to dig out my unabridged Webster's to figure out what they were talking about. I'm referring specifically to the article you wrote on race-based questions during NFL interviews … well done by the way. There are many sides to that issue – most of them ugly. I was listening to Marcellus Wiley(notes) (or however you spell his Ivy League highfalutin name) explain away the Ireland questioning, and it made me sick. He absolutely failed to see the bigger picture! Does the fact that millions of dollars are being thrown at these individuals justify caveman-like conduct? Do we dismiss all labor law, semblance of any respect, civilization, or racial blindness this country has battled hundreds of years to achieve, simply to satisfy the curiosity of a football executive? Anyway, now I'm rambling. But I think you get my point. Thanks for your bluntness and honesty; I wish that was the rule rather than the exception in today's field of journalism. By the way, is there a way I can be notified of your writings on Yahoo?

Terry Baines
Burney, Calif.

Yes, you can go to my archive and add me to your "My Y!" page, or you can subscribe to the RSS feed. And I'm sure that readers like Judge in San Jose, Sameet in Rome and others who expressed similar sentiments will take full advantage of this opportunity. Oh, and as far as my choosing the most radical responses – well, not necessarily. I do have a soft spot for the grammatically challenged, however.

Considering Jeff Ireland works for Bill Parcells I am not surprised he showed no class while questioning Dez Bryant. Ireland has learned from one of the least classy people in the NFL, that being Bill Parcells

Tupper Lake, N.Y.

Look, if you think I'm going to sit here and let you and others attack the Dolphins' executive vice president of football operations for being a demeaning bully … well, you're probably right.

Great job in calling out Jeff Ireland. I am a Dolphins fan who can't wait for Ireland and his fellow stooges to be thrown out, and denied the opportunity to address the press from the Fins' facility.

Morris Friedman

It would actually be cooler if a disgruntled owner decided to terminate a front-office employee DURING a press conference – and brought in a special guest to do the honors.

Excellent piece. I see that the opposing position is mainly that Dez Bryant's family history is relevant because he's about to become a highly paid worker in a billion-dollar industry. If so, the same can be said of Jeff Ireland, since each year, he allocates tens of millions of dollars more than Bryant will ever be paid in the NFL. What do we know about Ireland's mother? Is she bigoted? Given to simple-minded judgments about other people? Innately rude? Not particularly perceptive? Not bright enough to formulate intelligent questions? Frequently frustrated because she creates unnecessary drama via social missteps? Just asking.

Tom Kinsey
Fort Worth, Texas

Some readers will complain that you just unnecessarily attacked Ireland's mother – without any sense of the intended irony. Welcome to my world.

I was wondering if your mom is a prostitute?


I was wondering if your mom knows you snuck onto her computer to write this email, instead of practicing the alphabet.

Is your mother a prostitute?

Los Angeles

I don't know what's more pathetic – that you thought this was funny, or that you didn't realize that Toli (and a few others) would underscore your lack of originality so blatantly.

Michael, I have read a lot of sports coverage in my life (subscribe to the Los Angeles Times, USA Today, Sports Illustrated and ESPN the Magazine, on top of hitting too many blogs), and this is probably only the third time I have written a sports journalist. Your article on Mr. Ireland exemplifies the type of coverage that all sports fans should be reading. Of all the articles I read on the draft, it was the most original and revealing of what really goes on behind the scenes. Admittedly, I always enjoy sticking it to "the man," but your investigation of the ethical malfeasance of NFL brass and the actual naming of names, coupled with important and insightful background details, is refreshingly bold and too often winkingly overlooked by most sportswriters. This tact may get you banned from certain locker rooms, but I bet you will gain a lot of sources from those on the inside. That clod, Simers and Co. at the L.A. Times love to air their personal grievances with team execs (like access and buffet choices in the writers' room), but generally turn a blind eye to the indignities heaped upon others by the corporate douche class. I think you have found a great niche to explore. Keep it up! I, for one, will be reading. Respect!

Los Angeles

I appreciate all the kind words, but the real reason I included this email is that I like it when people refer to T.J. Simers as a clod. Keep it up! Respect!

If there is anyone that has any alternative view than yours, then they clearly have zero experience in the business arena and lack basic knowledge of hiring practices. I won't even begin to get into their morality. Their opinions do not matter. You are 100 percent correct and the NFL better take action on this immediately.

David E. Hintz
Washington, D.C.

Ah, I love it when people tell me that I am 100 percent correct, and any dissenting opinions, by definition, do not matter. In fact, I've attempted to use similar logic when arguing with my wife, with highly undesirable results. If only it were this easy.

Your own mailbag response: "Here's a guess: You're a white, Christian, heterosexual male? I thought so." Nice response. Why would you take up the plight of tolerance and decry racism in your article about Goodell's introduction and then say this? It ruined your credibility and painted you with the brush of ignorance you lambast. In essence, how do you not see your own hypocrisy?

Robin Vermillion
Raleigh, N.C.

OK, deep breath: Since I realize that despite their relative lack of oppression in American society, some white, Christian, heterosexual males can be quite sensitive, allow me to spell out exactly what I was saying. Often, people who dismiss racism or other forms of prejudice are those that have not experienced its sting; thus, in my opinion, they're less qualified to determine what is and isn't offensive than those who have been on the wrong end of the power dynamic. My point was that, even if the reader in question didn't believe that Goodell's "Silverback" reference had offensive racial overtones, some African-Americans who've been confronted with disturbing stereotypes and systematic subjugation might feel otherwise.