By Julie DiCaro–
(CBS) If you were paying close attention to the run-up to the Super-Bowl, Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning didn’t have a great week.
First, the Daily Beast dredged up the unsettling details of Manning’s “forgotten sex scandal” while at the University of Tennessee, which contained details much uglier than many of us had first believed. That was followed by the Washington Post’s piece on Manning’s lawyers hiring private investigators (including one of whom allegedly claimed to be law enforcement) who showed up at the home of the parents of the man who accused Manning of having HGH shipped to him home in an Al-Jazeera report.
None of this, of course, was a subject of conversation by former players or the media, nor was the fact that the NFL saw the week leading up to the Super Bowl dominated by talk of the league’s continual denial of concussions and Johnny Manziel’s (second) alleged assault of his ex-girlfriend. But the league and much of the media who cover it are nothing if not tone-deaf, and that affliction extends to the former players and talking heads. As we’ve seen time and time again, former NFL players have little to say about players driving while intoxicated, beating women or committing sexual assault, but they have plenty to say about a player walking out of a press conference.
Take Deion Sanders, who had this to say to the Cleveland Plain Dealer after a judge issued a protective order requiring Manziel to stay away from his former girlfriend for two years:
“Johnny’s in love,” Sanders said. “And Johnny’s in love with something that’s crippling him right now. I understand it. And it upsets me that grownups don’t understand it. Because he feels as though this game don’t love him, the people in this game don’t love him, so the only thing that he associates with love is that thing that’s really inflicting a lot of pain on him and that’s his girlfriend.
“I’m not saying she is the problem. I’m saying their relationship is inflammatory,” Sanders said. “His last two issues have been with her. Take away that and what you got?”
Sanders wasn’t the only former or current NFL player to rush to Manziel’s defense:
This is bigger than football. The kid need real help and a strong support system. https://t.co/OV7A8OexC2— FABIAN WASHINGTON (@FABEWASH31) February 5, 2016
All of this begs the question of why players — who presumably have wives, daughters and mothers of their own — never express support for the person allegedly beaten by Manziel (or Ray Rice or Greg Hardy) publicly, but that’s a column for another day.
Former NFL linebacker Bill Romanowski even offered Manziel a handy bit of conspiratorial advice:
“You profess to have figured it out and you’re trying to do the right thing, and then all of a sudden you get caught in social media out drinking and partying,” Romanowski said. “At least be smart enough where you have some kind of a party at your house, lock the doors, don’t let anyone have their phones out, and have a blast. Bring all the hookers and girls you want – fly them in, do whatever. Have your boys over. But hey, be smart about it. He (isn’t) smart about it.”
Contrast this, then, with what Romanowski tweeted about Cam Newton, following Newton’s decision to quickly walk out of his postgame press conference after a 24-10 loss to the Broncos in Super Bowl 50 on Sunday evening:
And of course, there was all of this after Newton walked out of his press conference:
Maybe it’s me, but I don’t recall seeing this many players calling out Rice, Hardy, Ray McDonald, Aldon Smith, Josh Gordon or anyone who committed any serious infraction that actually reflects on the public’s perception of the league. It goes without saying that Newton hasn’t, to date, been accused of physically beating anyone or attempting to fool his team into thinking he was in Ohio when he was actually in Las Vegas. Even so, Newton didn’t get much love from Sanders during the postgame:
“You are the face of our brand right now, you can’t do that,” Sanders said. “I understand the emotions of losing, but you can’t do that. A Manning, a Brady … all these guys who are a prototypical type of quarterback in our game, they’re not going to do that ever. Would Drew Brees ever?”
“You’re opening yourself for more criticism,” he said. Because everybody is going to say you’re dabbing and smiling and smiling and styling. So this is how you go out when you lose?”
Actually, Deion, a Manning would and did. No, it wasn’t a postgame press conference, but it was a similar postgame temper tantrum after having lost. And while Manning did receive criticism for his actions back in February 2010, the brow-furrowing he endured is nothing compared to the media apoplexy over Newton’s aborted presser.
Look, it doesn’t take a genius to figure out that Newton didn’t do himself any favors by sulking through the postgame interview and running out of patience before reporters ran out of questions. His actions only served to give his detractors more ammunition to talk about his immaturity, his phoniness, his lack of leadership. And Newton will endure another season of thinly veiled racial slurs and pearl-clutching letters from white, Southern mothers concerned about his dancing.
It’s not fair, however, for NFL talking heads like Sanders and Romanwoski to judge Newton by his lowest moment, while failing to do the same with Manziel’s far, far worst moment. Unfortunately, Newton’s treatment has become emblematic of the league and its players, who seem much more willing to call out players for their minor misjudgments than for major indiscretions/crimes. The media and former players aren’t looking to Manziel’s behavior his entire time in the league as character-revealing, so it’s ludicrous to do the same with Newton’s behavior on one of the worst days of his life.
As I write this piece, Bills running back LeSean McCoy is being investigated by Philadelphia police for allegedly being involved in a fight that sent two off-duty police officers to the hospital. While we don’t know the details of that case or how it will affect McCoy, I won’t hold my breath for the outraged tweets from players formerly and currently in the NFL.
Julie DiCaro is an update anchor and columnist for 670 The Score. She previously worked for 15 years as a lawyer in criminal and family court. Follow Julie on Twitter @JulieDiCaro and like here on Facebook here. The views expressed on this page are those of the author, not CBS Local Chicago or our affiliated television and radio stations.