by Aubrey Bruce, For New Pittsburgh Courier
This is Black History Month and everything is supposed to be about Rosa, Martin and Satchel. However, a Thursday night matchup in November 2019 between the Browns and Steelers in Cleveland might have changed that. A fight broke out near the end of a 21-7 Cleveland win. Browns defensive end Myles Garrett ripped off Mason Rudolph’s helmet and hit him in the head with it. Garrett was suspended indefinitely by the NFL with a minimum ban for the remainder of the regular season and postseason. He has since been reinstated. Rudolph was also fined for his part in the incident.
Garrett made a claim days after the incident that he was called the N-word by Rudolph, an assertion that Rudolph vehemently denied. Many people question the timing of the accusation of Garrett, pointing out that during interviews initially given by Garrett, no racial slur accusations were mentioned by him to the media. However, according to a recent msn.com report former Browns GM John Dorsey confirmed that Garrett informed him of the slur almost immediately.
“Garrett said he told Dorsey, coaches and defensive tackle Larry Ogunjobi that Mason Rudolph‘s use of a racial slur is what set him off. The Steelers quarterback repeatedly has denied the allegation. Dorsey confirmed to Nate Ulrich of the Akron Beacon Journal last Monday that Garrett had informed the team of his racial slur accusation postgame. ‘Correct,’ Dorsey told Ulrich. ‘It’s the truth.’ That follows what Dorsey said in a prepared statement Nov. 21 in which he said Garrett ‘was open and honest with us about the incident from the start.’”
Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin has defended his second-string quarterback against these so far unproven accusations. However, by this being Black History Month, oops, I meant Black Mystery Month, I’d like to rewind the tape back to around 22 years ago when the NFL in particular and sports in general was not as politically correct or incorrect, depending on how you see it.
In December 1997, in a regular season game between the Broncos and the 49ers, former Broncos linebacker Bill Romanowski was captured by the television cameras spitting in the face of former 49ers’ linebacker J.J. Stokes. Romanowski was fined $7,500 for the violation. Stokes later complained that an official on the field had not addressed the incident. Romanowski played it off, saying that it was a “routine part of football.”
In the future, Romanowski continued his “racially insensitive” ways even against his own teammate when he played with the Oakland Raiders.
In an ESPN article titled, “Cracked Code” written by Alan Grant and posted on Aug. 15, 2005, Grant wrote the following when he covered the trial when Raiders tight end Marcus Williams sued Romanowski for damages.
“The jury sees the play. Hell, they see it at least 17 times. It’s called Exhibit 1. Rich Gannon is under center, fullback Zack Crockett lines up behind the left guard, Ronney Jenkins is at tailback and the tight end, Marcus Williams, is in motion. At the snap, Williams releases upfield and heads for the linebacker, Bill Romanowski. Williams engages Romanowski and drives him toward the sideline as Jenkins cuts inside the block and runs downfield. What happens next isn’t on tape, but no one disputes how the scene played out. It’s why the jury is here, two years later, in California Superior Court, on the third floor of Oakland’s administration building. That’s why Marcus Williams sits before 12 jurors who have been forced to pass judgment on a world from which they are excluded.”
Ask anyone in the game. Bruce Allen, director of pro personnel for the Bucs, held the same position with the Raiders in 2003 and said as much in his deposition. “I’ve observed thousands of fights in training camp,” Allen said. “I’ve seen a lot of stitches.” But when asked if he’d seen anything like what happened to Williams, Allen replied that he had not. This time, a man was seriously injured, his career thrown into jeopardy.
“I’d been in some tussles,” Williams said. “But that ain’t what this was. I was like, g____mn. I knew I didn’t do anything to deserve that. That wasn’t a fight. It was an assault,” Williams said.
When the trial concluded in March 2005, Romanowski was ordered to pay Williams $340,000 in damages, just a tenth of the $3.5 million that Williams was seeking. Williams was also awarded $40,000 in medical expenses and $300,000 for lost wages—about one season’s salary. Just a season’s salary? Bruce Ormsby wrote; “that’s just the way it is. Some things never change.”