Whether you devote your entire Sunday to watching National League Football games, or you're just one who has to watch the Detroit Lions' annual Thanksgiving Day game, chances are you've seen recent headlines about the NFL's woes with the domestic assault incident of Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice. You may have also seen that Husain Abdullah of the Kansas City Chiefs was penalized for unsportsmanlike conduct — for praying after scoring a touchdown.
Locally, problems abound for the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor's football program, shining a negative spotlight on one of the nation's most prestigious schools.
To offer some insight, we reached out to Terry Foster, Detroit News columnist and co-host of Valenti & Foster on 97.1 WXYT-FM, for his take on the matters.
Metro Times: The U-M football program has taken some serious heat for the way it handled quarterback Shane Morris' concussion. What'd they do wrong?
Terry Foster: What they did wrong is they failed to communicate. They failed to use a very important sense, which is called "sight" and "feel." That's where [U-M Football Coach] Brady Hoke failed, because he had a player who was in trouble and everybody seemed to see it except him and some of the people on his staff. That's not acceptable in today's age, where concussions are the buzzword for injury, and concussions are killing football players. Football players don't live as long as other people; football players go around not knowing where they are. They don't know where they're going. Obviously, a guy like Shane Morris, he'll be fine and he'll recover, but if he keeps [suffering] concussions and things that we don't know about, Shane Morris will be a statistic like a lot of other players who go on to play in the NFL and play at a high level of college football.
MT: Who at U-M is at fault here, then?
Foster: His medical staff has to tell him, "This kid cannot play," or has to tell him to get out of the game. They say that he was in trouble. Now, there are some people who say they absolutely did that and he either didn't hear it or ignored it. I don't think he would ignore it deliberately but I guess I would just say he didn't hear the calls that Shane Morris was in trouble.
Once again, you have to go back: The medical staff has to literally grab the coach and say, "He cannot play," and the coach has to get that signal. So yeah, I would blame the medical staff, but I would also blame Hoke, who didn't see that this guy was in trouble and thought it was a foot injury rather than a possible concussion at the time.
MT: Do you think Hoke's job is on the line?
Foster: Hoke's job is on the line — and it should be — because now, after what has happened, I am sure if you're recruiting against Michigan and Brady Hoke — if he's the coach next year — the other coaches are gonna be like, "Hey, do you want to play for this guy that sent an injured player back on the field?" They will send that message loud and clear to every parent of a recruit that: "You're entrusting your livelihood, your life, your well being, and your child's well being to this coach, and look what he did to Shane Morris." That is going to be relayed, maybe not to the recruit, but to the recruit's family, and I think that's going to hurt Michigan recruiting down the road if Hoke remains the coach.
MT: Between the Morris scandal, and the Wolverines' poor play as of late, do you feel the football program's reputation is at stake? After that two-and-a-half hour rain delay in the recent game against the Utah Utes, there was practically no one left in the stadium when play resumed.
Foster: That image was sent across the country. There's nobody in the stadium, and even though the circumstances, I totally understand. After a two-and-a-half hour rain delay, I would've been gone too if I was a fan. You see that image and now it plays on the nation, "Man, people aren't going to Michigan games," which is an issue, but not to this extent. But the image of that is shown across the country and that does affect the brand, because the Block M, Michigan, the helmets, and everything has been very, very, very strong, but now it's been damaged a little bit.
MT: Switching gears now. The NFL was criticized recently after Kansas City Chiefs safety Husain Abdullah was penalized for praying after he scored a touchdown. Considering Tim Tebow made a thing out of praying after he scored, how'd the league botch this so bad?
Foster: It was embarrassing but not surprising. It shows that the NFL and officials are out of touch. I bet they did not know that Abdullah was praying. They probably thought he was clowning. There is no excuse.
They knew Tim Tebow was making a Christian gesture with his prayer. But they did not recognize a Muslim praying. Maybe this gives us a better understanding of how the NFL made out of touch decisions on domestic abuse and other big issues. The NFL is so out of touch it's pathetic.
MT: How do you feel the league handled the situation with Ray Rice?
Foster: I thought the NFL handled it as poorly as could be. It was a PR nightmare because the NFL tried to do things the old-school way. But, you've got Deadspin, you've got TMZ getting into sports, and they say, "You know what? We don't believe you. We're gonna get this tape that you say you cannot get and we're going to expose you."
Here's what the NFL has been telling us for years with these fines and suspensions: "Well, yeah it's bad to kick your woman's ass, it's bad to molest her, it's bad to rape her, but it's not that bad." Now, what has happened is everybody's like, "OK, you've been exposed. Here's what you've been doing for years. We don't like it, and now you've got to change."
If you've noticed, everything the NFL is saying is, "Well, we want to make things right. We were wrong," and all this stuff. You're doggone right you were wrong! They got exposed because now there is a new media out there and that media is vicious and they don't take your story as gospel. That's what happened, in my opinion.
MT: Was the initial suspension of Rice appropriate?
Foster: The two-game suspension was not appropriate and people were angry about that. [NFL Commissioner] Roger Goodell tried to hide behind, "Well, this is the way we do things."
Now, here's what he saw: a woman getting off of an elevator knocked out. He knew Rice hit her, but it took a video for him to change his mind, and you know what? I'm not going to totally blame him for this. I do talk radio here in Detroit, and when that woman was dragged off of the elevator, we got about 30 to 40 percent of guys calling in, saying, "Well, she must've done something. Ray Rice wouldn't have just knocked her out."
It took the video for them to say, "Oh, OK. We have to physically see things for us to get the appropriate punishment on this and this is what happened." With Ray Rice, the NFL couldn't get the tape, right? Well, TMZ got it, and all of a sudden they got exposed.
MT: Do you think that says something that speaks to, I guess, the American psyche? Because I think that's an excellent point — that people want to deny that these stars they look up to would do something like that.
Foster: It's the, "Good 'ol Ray wouldn't do anything like that." And that's the mentality that we have. But look, before the tape came out, Ray Rice gets a standing ovation at training camp. Even after the tape came out, we see women wearing Ray Rice jerseys at games — still saying, "She must've done something."
This, to me, is a sad testimony to our society. I mean, it's obvious what he did and — excuse me — I don't think she had much of a chance to beat up Ray Rice. He is an elite athlete. If you're in the NFL and you're an elite athlete, the rest of the world doesn't have a chance, so I don't buy the "She must've been attacking him and blah, blah, blah — " no. He was mad, he knocked her the bleep out, and that was it. End of story.