Drawing The Line Of Sanity

By David Climer
Updated: July 18, 2008

NFLTENNESSEE — Once again, the NFL front office is checking the tape.

These guys edit more film than Spielberg.

Now that Spygate has been put to rest, the league is reviewing video of past games in search of what has been described as “suspicious” hand gestures by players. Specifically, the NFL is on the lookout for gang signals that may or may not have been flashed during games.

On first glance, this seems like prudent action by Commissioner Roger Goodell. The last thing the NFL wants is to be perceived as gang-friendly.

But where do you draw the line? One man’s gang sign might be another man’s shout-out to his pals back home.

When Steve McNair was playing for the Titans, he celebrated each touchdown with the sign of his college fraternity, Omega Psi Phi. McNair is retired now, but he wasn’t the last Omega man in the league. Is the frat sign still permitted? And what if a member of a rival frat takes offense?

If a player flashes the peace sign as he crosses the goal line, is he silently protesting U.S. involvement in Iraq? Might the NFL’s response depend upon Goodell’s agreement or disagreement with the war?

Eye of the beholder

What about Peyton Manning? Once he steps behind center, he starts gesturing wildly in all directions. How do we know if he’s signaling pass routes or vowing his undying allegiance to a gang like Archie’s Boyz?

While we’re at it, aren’t red and blue associated with rival inner-city gangs? Uniforms featuring those colors must be banned. And I guess the Raiders will have to change home jerseys since they wear the preferred attire of some known criminals.

In short, you can find something sinister in just about everything — if you look hard enough and have a strong enough agenda.

Maybe this crackdown is a continuation of action taken by the league’s owners in 2001 when bandannas were outlawed. Somebody noticed that some members of some gangs wear bandannas, so the owners took a stance.

That’s right: The do-rag became the don’t-rag.

NBA took lead

As for hand gestures, the league’s rush to judgment was hastened by the NBA. Celtics star Paul Pierce was fined $25,000 for making what was termed “menacing gestures” toward the Atlanta bench during a game in the playoffs.

I just hope the NFL isn’t using the NBA’s policy for screening its referees.

Last year, Denver defensive back Darrent Williams was gunned down after an altercation with suspected gang members. Later, word surfaced that Williams’ MySpace page included pictures of him flashing known gang signs.

Was there a cause and effect? Who knows?

Frankly, it’s hard to believe that NFL headquarters can get up to speed on our changing culture in time to make any difference. He may have brought in experts on gang issues to review the tape, but Goodell doesn’t have a lot of street cred on this subject.

Like it or not, it’s a sign of the times.