The clumsy P.R. effort on behalf of Texans linebacker Brian Cushing continues.
A day after Cushing stumbled through a prepared statement and unconvincingly answered media questions regarding his four-game suspension for hCG, the man who handled his appeal is complaining about the league’s procedures for dealing with positive drug tests.
Harvey Steinberg, a Denver lawyer who at one point appeared to be on track to represent every member of the Broncos organization, represented Cushing in his effort to avoid a four-game suspension. Steinberg spoke with Mike Klis of the Denver Post regarding the situation.
“The process is flawed,” Steinberg said, a day after his client expressed respect for it. “You have a situation
where the Commissioner determines the initial punishment and then you
appeal to one of his subordinates. I have a lot of
respect for the hearing officer. I really believed he tried to do the
right thing and be fair. But there is clearly a cloud hanging over the
process. If nothing else, there is clearly an appearance of
Harvey, take it up with the NFLPA. The union long ago agreed to this procedure.
Still, the fact that anyone who tested positive can piss and/or moan about the process suggests that referring appeals to an outside arbitrator would make the system seem to be more effective, since it would seal off one of the easy points that anyone who receives a suspension can raise.
Steinberg also said that he advised Cushing to refuse at Thursday’s press conference to accept responsibility for the presence of hCG in his body. “Why should he apologize when he did nothing wrong?” Steinberg said.
Steinberg shouldn’t be expected to go Al Pacino on the guy who pays his bills. But if Steinberg were as good at P.R. as NFL players and coaches seem to think he is with precedents and statutes, Steinberg would have told Cushing to keep his mouth shut.
In hindsight (or with the application of reasonable foresight), silence would have been far better than the strategy (assuming there even was one) that unfolded on Cushing’s behalf over the past week. The story remained alive far longer than it should have, and as a result Cushing’s career will now forever be undermined.
Perhaps most importantly, folks suspended for violating the league’s policy regarding anabolic steroids and related substances possibly will be met with the same stigma that has applied in baseball over the past several years.
So while it was a bad week for Cushing, it may end up in retrospect being a great week for the long-term integrity of the game.