For some inexplicable reason, Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk chose today - the day after Aaron Rodgers had what many consider to be his finest performance as a pro - to take to his site and attack Rodgers over a short clip that appeared in a WBAY report (that has subsequently been pulled from the station's website - more on that later).
After reading Mike's post, I couldn't help but think about the fact that only a few days earlier he had penned another seemingly out-of-the-blue post about his newfound love for Jay Cutler.
Rodgers is represented by David Dunn, an agent Florio has been critical of in the past. Jay Cutler is represented by Bus Cook, who Florio often lampoons for his country-bumpkin ways but whom he rarely truly criticizes.
Long time readers of the site know where I'm going with this.
Florio started PFT much like we did here at CHTV. He was hungry and made PFT into a second job. He worked his ass off to make his site into what it is today.
But part of "building" his site came in the form of money he took from agents who saw what Mike was doing and saw how it could be beneficial to them to have him writing good things about their clients.
Fast forward to present day - NBC has paid Mike a lot of money to have PFT under their NBC Sports banner. The man is on television every week during Football Night In America. He has a real pulpit to preach from and today he chose to preach about Aaron Rodgers walking by a woman with cancer who wanted his autograph, an event he only knew about because of a 3 second clip he saw online with about as little true context as possible.
The whole thing smelled like a hit job and I wanted Mike to know I wasn't buying his holier-than-thou act. The following is our back and forth as it played out on Twitter Sunday afternoon.
AN: What would be interesting would be the history of @ProFootballTalk when it comes to posting about Bus Cook and David Dunn clients...
AN: Brilliant. I'm not the one who just tried to assassinate an NFL players character off of 10 seconds of video.
MF: Yes, it was a hatchet job on behalf of Brett Favre and Bus Cook. You have cracked the case. Bravo.
AN: Um, the Cook reference was to the bouquet you threw Cutlers way a few days ago. Seems I've hit a nerve Mike...
MF: . . . Yes, you definitely hit a nerve. My stupidity intolerance nerve.
AN: Well that's good. It will offset my hack-with-an agenda nerve.
Needless to say, I can't wait to see Mike at our next NFL function.
Shortly after this very public back and forth I heard quite reliably that Aaron Rodgers spoke to and signed an autograph for Jan Cavanaugh just last week before the Packers' Wild Card game victory over Philadelphia. It turns out Ms. Cavanaugh is a regular at the airport when the Packers travel and can often be found trying to get players to sign things for her.
Now, obviously, there's absolutely nothing wrong with that. God bless her. She's a true Packer fan.
But this points out the biggest issue of both the report from WBAY and Florio's reliance on it to draw his pompous conclusions from it. There's little to no context to the image and the participants. There's nothing to let the viewer know that just last week - without any cameras around - Rodgers spent time speaking with Cavanaugh and gave her an autograph.
Of course, the image is damning in a way regardless of context. Rodgers - and those charged with caring for his public image - simply has to be smarter than that. There's obviously a camera crew there, there's a woman they know is a cancer victim - and he just breezes right past her. Watching the clip, you can see someone with Rodgers, presumably a member of the Packers' PR staff, (UPDATED - the man walking with Aaron Rodgers through the airport is in fact an off-duty policeman, not a member of the Packers PR staff. I did not find this out from the Packers, who have not contacted me in any way regarding this post.) giving Cavanaugh a type of "not today" signal with his hand.
I get it. Really, I do. Professional athletes are under siege from autograph seekers every minute of every day - but as the face of the franchise in the smallest market in the NFL - Rodgers simply HAS to stop. He has to. Camera crew? Cancer victim all in pink? Not to mention the fact that Rodgers has aligned himself with the MACC Fund and LiveStrong - it is a public relations blunder of epic proportions.
The image suggests that those alignments are more about Rodgers cultivating his image rather than about his convictions - and images can reverberate with people who have personal connections to the image in question.
Of course, that image is only available because of WBAY. The full report is no longer available online, which is a good thing for the station because the entire spot was an incoherent mess. There's no mention of the fact that Cavanagh frequents the airport and, of course, no mention of the fact that Rodgers had indeed already spoken to her and given her an autograph.
If there had been, perhaps Florio wouldn't have been compelled to write:
...football players need to be willing to pause and sign an autograph or two from time to time. Especially when the person seeking the autograph is female, is wearing copious amounts of NFL-licensed pink apparel, and has very short gray hair.
There’s a pretty good chance that any person fitting that description is a cancer patient. And if the NFL is going to allow the official uniform to be infiltrated by pink patches and gloves and cleats and stripes every October, high-profile NFL players need to be willing to stop and sign an autograph for someone who fits the profile of a person who is in the fight of her life.
Well Mike, the "high-profile NFL player" in question DID stop and sign an autograph - last week. If you had bothered to look into it rather than jumping on your high horse you might have found that out.
In the end - everyone screwed up here.
Florio screwed up jumping all over Rodgers for not doing something he had already done.
WBAY screwed up for producing what can charitably be described as a confused mess of a story - then compounded the error by taking it down. I know it's local television but does that preclude all semblance of professionalism? Do you stand by the report or not? If not, make a statement telling us why not, don't just silently pull the video - which, as Corey so rightly pointed out, is an incredibly old-world way of thinking.
The Packers PR staff screwed up by letting Rodgers even be in this position and for not reacting better when the situation so blatantly needed to be handled a certain way.
And, yes, Rodgers screwed up by walking past Jan Cavanagh.
All that said, I don't know why Rodgers chose to walk past her and neither does Florio. But Mike took to his blog, read by millions of people a day, and proceeded to pass judgement on Rodgers without so much as a call to Rodgers or the Packers. This, after just a week ago praising Jay Cutler for eschewing the charity-work-limelight.
More than ever we realize the importance of content to a media operation. But we wish more NFL athletes would choose not to wear their charitable acts like logos sewn onto their jerseys.
Oh, you mean like secretly treating a hundred kids from the Boys and Girls Club to a day of bowling with Packer players followed by shopping for Christmas presents, all of it on his dime and all without ever once alerting the media?
Florio's background as a lawyer has served him well in the past when pursuing the Mike Vick story and when reporting on the Collective Bargaining Agreement. His other background (hack-with-an-agenda) has unfortunately reared its ugly head.