Here’s A Better Question: Why Won’t This Story Go Away?

May 5, 2010

The story that won’t seem to die: previously anonymous Miami Dolphins General Manager Jeff Ireland asked former Oklahoma State wide receiver Dez Bryant whether his mother was a prostitute during a meeting with team executives prior to the NFL draft.  I expected this nugget to create a little buzz in the blogosphere and fill a couple segments on talk radio, but after a week and a half it seems to have more staying power than an unwelcome houseguest. 

When the initial story broke following the draft, it created enough of an uproar that Ireland was compelled to issue a public apology and call Bryant with a personal apology.  Bloggers suggested that Bryant should have come across the table and punched Ireland. The Dolphins launched an “internal investigation.”  One writer called Ireland an “A-list A-hole.” And that was just day one.

Then we started to hear a bit more context.  Apparently Bryant’s mother was convicted for selling crack in 1997 and served 18 months in jail. And, a CNNSI report claimed that Bryant told Ireland his dad was a pimp and his mom worked for him leading up to the question. On Monday, Bryant’s mom made a statement saying she feels slighted that she hasn’t received a personal apology – the same day ESPN reported that she was arrested just last year for selling crack cocaine to police informants and received 10 years’ probation. 

I assume the reason one of Bryant’s advisors leaked the information was to make the Dolphins front office look bad after they didn’t draft him.  That obviously has happened, but it also backfired when Bryant’s personal life and his mother’s criminal record were splashed all over the headlines.  Not to mention the fact that the source has burned a bridge with one of only 32 potential employers for his client.

Nobody is going to emerge unscathed in this, but all accusations and inflammatory comments aside, let’s put this dust up in perspective. It was a private interview.  What was said in the room should have remained confidential.  Like most people, I don’t believe Ireland showed good judgment in asking the question.  And I certainly would never ask a similar question to someone interviewing at Fast Horse no matter the context.  But, as long as Ireland didn’t tackle any topics that would be deemed legally discriminatory, shouldn’t he have the right to conduct the interview any way he sees fit? 

I doubt Ireland really even cared what the answer to the question was – he cared how Bryant handled it.  Top NFL draft candidates spend countless hours being prepped for these interviews, including well-scripted answers to all the typical questions.  I suspect Ireland tried to catch Bryant off guard and see how the talented player with a reputation for having a bad attitude would react.

NFL franchises stand to pay first round picks millions of guaranteed dollars – more than company CEOs in many cases.  Of course they are going to dive deeply into the background of these players and take every opportunity to put them in uncomfortable situations to see if they sink or swim.  And I truly believe that this would never have been made public if the Dolphins had drafted Bryant.  In fact, my guess is you’d have seen a smiling Bryant posing for photos with Ireland and talking about how thrilled he was to be part of such a fine organization.

So, the GM of an NFL team asked an insensitive question to a prospective player during a private meeting — am I crazy to think that this is a big story that should have been a non-story?  I say let’s get back to covering things that really matter, like Tiger Woods and Jesse James –