If you’ve seen the HBO show “Ballers,” you might have seen a home owned by one of the main characters nicknamed “The Fun House.” This house had one rule: There are no rules. Back when the Dallas Cowboys won multiple Super Bowls, several members of the team bought a house near their practice facility. When team owner Jerry Jones found out about the house, he asked Michael Irvin to shed some light on what he heard. According to ESPN’s “Sportscentury,” Irvin told Jones this:
“We were trying to do the wrong thing the right way.”
One of Irvin’s colleagues did the same but he said it in front of a lot of people, and a camera.
Recent footage of Hall-of-Famer Cris Carter speaking at the 2014 rookie symposium has gone viral. Watch here:
The former Vikings wide receiver went on to say:
“Y’all not gonna all do the right stuff. I gotta teach y'all how to get around all this stuff too. If you gonna have a crew, one of them fools got to know he going to jail.”
The NFL got wind of Carter’s comments and released a statement:
"This was an unfortunate and inappropriate comment made by Cris Carter during the 2014 NFL rookie symposium. The comment was not representative of the message of the symposium or any other league program. The league’s player engagement staff immediately expressed concern about the comment to Cris. The comment was not repeated in the 2014 AFC session or this year’s symposium."
Yes, one of the best football players of our time, and an NFL Hall of Famer, gave up one of the most guarded secrets in pro sports, the role of the fall guy. You could visualize the groans and dumbfounded looks coming from NFL players that were directed at Cris. The jaw drops and head shakes reverberated across NFL Nation when the bones flew out of Cris' mouth. You could picture players saying- "What the f...?"
But don’t think for one minute that this role is reserved exclusively for pro sports; many celebrities and entertainers have such a person on standby. Hip-Hop has had many a fall guy and not just in "Empire." The HBO series “Entourage” had a few of those guys and remember during the first season of “Eastbound and Down” when Kenny Power made Stevie the fall guy after he got into an automobile accident? Yet this isn't just an on-screen thing.
Carter’s words may sound shocking to some since many have no clue what goes on in the lives of pro athletes. We pretend that people around them won’t engage in clandestine behavior in order to protect the brand. When someone comes into a whole lot of money, their first instinct tells them to surround themselves with the people whom they’ve known the longest, those they're most familiar and comfortable with- their crew from the old neighborhood. After all, when someone makes it out, we all made it out. For every LeBron James and Maverick Carter there are hundreds of others whose allegiance to those they came up with have cost them in one form or another. Seattle Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman said it best in a 2014 column for Sports Illustrated’s “The MMQB” when he explained the importance of bringing your boys along for the ride:
“Was DeSean supposed to then say, 'Thanks guys, but now that I’m a millionaire, please leave me alone?' Even if he wanted to, he wouldn’t have. In desperate times for people who come from disparate communities, your friends become your family."
And that is no different than the rest of us. We all have friends who fill certain roles in our lives. Some of our friends are good at giving us rides home when we need it yet that same friend might be completely useless in a bar fight. But we know who to call depending upon the situation.
I recently asked a high school teammate of mine who went on to play in the NFL about Carter’s words. He told me that the fall guy phenomenon is a real thing. He also said he has witnessed a friend of a teammate step in to block impending legal trouble:
"I had a teammate in XXXX that would keep an entourage of guys with him. I’ve seen the player drinking and get f--ked up, crash his truck and they put the player in another car while the one guy stayed and got arrested for DUI."
It would be easy for me to say that the NFL needs to stop fronting and get real about what their players are involved in. However, there’s no way they can stop this unless the players fess up. This is a league, one that continues to get into trouble for how they’ve handled recent situations, that seems to take one step forward only to take three steps back, analogous to Chris Rock's detailed report from The American Black Progress Association.
No matter how you look at it, the NFL had a Hall-of -Fame player give a group of young and impressionable rookies the playbook on how to avoid legal trouble, and avoid it the wrong way. That’s a bad for a league who is desperate for positive PR.
That is the very definition of when keeping it real goes wrong.