Actions speak louder than words? Not anymore they don't

Saturday , July 26, 2014 - 9:21 PM

Clippers Sterling Basketball-10

FILE - In this Oct. 25, 2013, file photo, Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling attends a...

Ladies and gentlemen, please join me in a moment of silence for the late, great notion that actions speak louder than words.

It certainly was a noble concept, wasn’t it? But, sadly, after living a long and fulfilling life, the centuries-old belief was finally put to death last week by NFL commissioner Roger Goodell.

Goodell gets credit here for doing his part to deliver the final blow but the truth of it is, the idea was beaten to death by a worldwide consortium of athletes, sports leagues, commissioners, athletic directors, fans, media members (of course!) and various other idiots.

Actions no longer speak louder than words because, well, that requires a bit too much personal responsibility. Instead, words now speak louder than actions, which, let’s face it, is a far more politically correct notion.

Don’t believe me? Look no farther than last week’s headlines.

Goodell, who presides over the country’s most powerful sports league, last week handed down a gutless two-game suspension to Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice, who last February knocked unconscious his then-fiance Janay Palmer in an Atlantic City casino.

Surveillance cameras caught Rice dragging Palmer’s limp body from an elevator.

The two are now married.

Goodell’s weak, pathetic punishment is truly confusing as it comes from a man who purports himself as a real hard-nosed leader. He stands firm on issues and doesn’t back down, all in an effort to show he’s in control of the NFL and its powerful brand.

Oh yeah, he’s John Wayne in a finely-tailored suit.

The idea of suspending Rice just two games for punching a woman so hard it knocked her out cold, simply doesn’t compute. Not when other players can be suspended six games or more for abusing the league’s substance abuse policy.

Now, I’m not advocating the use of illegal drugs, or even legal drugs banned by the league – like Adderall, for example – I’m only pointing out the hypocrisy involved here. Six games … eight games … an entire season for substance abuse but only a couple of games for abusing a woman? It doesn’t make sense.

The NFL takes a hardline on substance abuse but it’s soft on domestic violence?

C’mon, man.

But what does any of this have to do with the dearly departed belief that actions speak louder than words? Simply, it’s an indication that in our modern society someone like Ray Rice or Colts owner Jim Irsay (who was arrested in March on two counts of impaired driving and has yet to receive a punishment from the NFL) can ACT in a deplorable manner and come away relatively unscathed. Meanwhile, a buffoon like Donald Sterling can SAY something completely offensive and have his NBA franchise taken from him; or an all-around good guy like former Colts head coach Tony Dungy can make a remark that the media perceives is anti-gay, and be vilified.

See what I mean? Actions no longer speak louder than words. Politically incorrect words, or for that matter, thoughts, are now considered more dangerous and offensive than unsavory actions.

Consider the ESPN-fueled non-troversy Dungy faced after his recent comments that he wouldn’t have drafted openly-gay football player Michael Sam. Dungy’s reasoning? That having Sam on the team likely would create unwanted media pressure, which in turn would be a distraction to the team.

Weirdly, those comments created a media firestorm for Sam’s team, the St. Louis Rams, who were predictably distracted by all the unwanted media attention.

So it seems even while being proven right, Dungy was declared horribly wrong and terribly mean.

Please understand, I’m certainly not condoning any of the babbling racist statements made by Sterling, the L.A. Clippers owner who is on the verge of losing his franchise for the words he used. But remember the backlash he faced? Remember how his players, along with others around the NBA, staged protests and threatened to sit out games if the NBA didn’t act quickly enough?

The outcry was tremendous.

Now I cannot help but wonder if NFL players will stage similar protests against Rice, Irsay and so many of their fellow players who have run afoul of the law during the offseason.

The answer, of course, is no. No, members of the Baltimore Ravens will not walk to the center of the field on opening day, take off their jerseys and leave them lying there as a symbol of their embarrassment over playing in league that, essentially, condones violence against women.

No, Colts players won’t threaten to stop playing unless Irsay loses his franchise because he is, afterall, a danger to society.

No, players around the league will not band together in solidarity to strong arm the NFL into reacting to the court of public opinion.

It would be great if they did, but they won’t.

And why not?

Because actions no longer speak louder than words.

Rest in peace.

Jim Burton is the Standard-Examiner’s sports columnist. He can be reached at 801-625-4265 or at jburton@standard.net. Follow him on Twitter @StandardExJimbo

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