By John Helsley
Last Friday, after the opening day of the NFL Draft, I posted a link to the Yahoo!Sports article by Michael Silver giving some insight into Bryant’s emotional first round ride leading to him landing in Dallas.
It was a good read. One that keeps getting better, with the revelation that Miami Dolphins GM Jeff Ireland asked Bryant whether his mother was a prostitute.
Silver’s feature didn’t focus first on the probe, which took place during pre-draft interviews, and didn’t specify Ireland for asking the question, only a “franchise’s high-level executive.” Still, it was a part of what Bryant perceived as a widespread lack of respect — from the media and others — leading up to draft day.
Eventually, Ireland was called out. And a firestorm has ensued, with Ireland — and his question — at the heart of a polarizing debate.
Was Ireland, who has since apologized, out of line? Or was his question legitimate, considering Bryant’s mother’s past that included jail time for pushing drugs, and the impact such an experience might have on a son due to be heavily invested in by an organization?
Right away Monday, when Ireland was revealed as the “high-level executive” involved, Michael Wilbon weighed in angrily on ESPN’s PTI.
Wilbon said, “That’s insulting.” “It’s demeaning.” “It disgusts me.”
Wibon’s PTI partner, Tony Kornheiser said: “I can’t imagine anyone standing up and saying, ‘That was a good question. I understand.’”
The debate raged on Tuesday morning on Mike and Mike, where both Mike’s, Greenberg and Golic, said Ireland crossed a line. But there were callers and e-mailers to the show who disagreed, suggesting a company — and NFL teams are companies, in business to make money — about to make a future-altering decision should have the right to dig, however deep.
And across the ESPN platform Tuesday, radio host Colin Cowherd agreed in calling the question fair game, even to be expected of a business plotting a potentially large part of its future success on one employee. And he pointed out that many companies conduct background checks as part of the hiring process.
“I can’t think of a thing I would be offended by,” Cowherd said. “I’ve interviewd for seven jobs in my life. I’m 7-for-7. I’ve been asked weird questions. I don’t think I could be offended by anything.”
Cowherd said e-mails to his show were 60-40 in favor of the question, although the topic created a lively discussion, some who threatened that Cowherd had lost listeners.
And several of his guests, including former Oklahoma State basketball player and current ESPN analyst Doug Gottleib, suggested they had no problem with the question.
For Bryant, the whole process was trying.
“This is supposed to be a great moment for me. Trust me, it’s not. But I try to stay positive for my mom and my younger brother and sister. I don’t want to ruin it for them.”
So where do you fall?
Fair or foul?
For what it’s worth, putting myself into the role of employer, I’d never ask the question or anything like it.
What could possibly be gained? Don’t we all know people who have risen from troubled backgrounds to be great successes? And don’t we also know those from stellar parenting who turned out rotten?
Yes, Dez has some things in his past — his past — to answer for and explain. Get that.
But Dez doesn’t have to answer for his mom, whatever she did or didn’t do.
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