Hall of Fame Bears defensive lineman Dan Hampton recently created an uproar by saying that, on Thursday, “The Vikings need to go down [to New Orleans] and hit that town like Katrina.”
The story generated 247 approved comments and counting at PFT, presumably many more unapproved comments, and a general sense that Hampton didn’t simply cross the line but that he knowingly jumped over it.
The remark came on the Pro Football Weekly television show, and so we contacted PFW publisher Hub Arkush, who said that the decision-making process regarding the situation is ongoing but, “We won’t be ignoring it.”
Meanwhile, several of you have complained about an arguably half-hearted (hoof-hearted) apology from Eric Edholm of PFW, who offers up the kind of excuses that Hampton should be offering up for himself.
“I can tell you this for certain: Hampton meant no harm when he said
the Vikings ‘need to go down there and hit that town like Katrina,’” Edholm writes. “I have worked with Hampton a few times on the show, filling in for my
boss, Hub Arkush. Hampton speaks from the heart and believes what he
says, but what he does not do is script his lines and certainly not with
a malicious intent. . . . That portion of the show, where the guys go game by game and make their picks, has a loose, unscripted feel.”
Eric, please. The fact that it was extemporaneous doesn’t make it OK. Rarely if ever do sports analysts on radio or television read from a prompter. Part of the job requires folks to be able to pick the right words on the fly — and to avoid the wrong ones. The burden falls solely on the speaker to speak in a way that doesn’t offend, and whether it’s Hampton or Howard Cosell or Rush Limbaugh or Michael Irvin or anyone else, it’s a high wire without a net.
Frankly, it’s not all that hard to avoid saying something generally regarded as offensive, if a person truly doesn’t have malicious intent. Indeed, some may think that the folks with malicious intent are the ones most likely to let something malicious slip when they otherwise should realize that everything they say is being recorded and repeated.
When trying to be edgy or funny the challenge comes from being sure that the audience receives the message the way the speaker intends the message to be sent. When that doesn’t happen, the responsibility lands on the shoulders of the person who said the offensive thing to make it right. At a minimum, then, Hampton should be the one who’s apologizing, not Edholm. (In the same show, Hampton made a remark when discussing the Cowboys that some have viewed as being homphobic. Though reasonable minds may differ, we think the Katrina comment was far, far worse.)
As to what should happen next, we’re going to let Hampton and PFW figure that one out before sharing our views. Feel free to share your own in the comments.