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The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are the Earth’s very best football team, but they have a terrific moral blind spot right now.
Someone, most likely ownership, watched former coach Jon Gruden resign from the Las Vegas Raiders on Monday evening and by Tuesday morning, the wheels were churning at One Buccaneer Place to get as far away from their connection to Gruden as possible.
So the Bucs came up with the idea of simply removing Gruden.
The club announced its intention to remove the coach who won the team’s first Super Bowl in January 2003 from its Ring of Honor.
“While we acknowledge Jon Gruden’s contributions on the field,” the club statement read, “his actions go against our core values as an organization.”
That stance, in a vacuum, is not only understandable but appropriate because any company, organization or individual has a right to pick with whom it is associated or tied.
The problem for the Buccaneers is they’ve not really applied their “core values” with such unwavering gusto in the past.
And by the past, we’re talking two weeks ago.
And last year.
And on the very Ring of Honor the club is trying to protect.
Consider that Gruden is coming off the Tampa Bay Ring of Honor because a decade ago, he sent offensive emails about gays, blacks, women, tires, you name it.
But former Bucs defensive tackle Warren Sapp remains on the Ring of Honor, despite a more recent history in which he was arrested for soliciting and then assaulting a prostitute in Arizona. He was also arrested on a domestic battery charge in Nevada.
Sapp could say he was never convicted, but that is only because he pleaded guilty to the Arizona charges, which were later dropped after completion of court-ordered counseling. He pleaded no contest to the Nevada charge and was assigned probation, community service, fines and counseling.
Court documents also show Sapp routinely failed to pay his tax bills, alimony and child support. At one point he owed the Internal Revenue Service $853,003 and was also $876,000 behind in his alimony and child support payments.
So are these core values acceptable for the Buccaneers Ring of Honor?
Of course not. But those core values which the team volunteered as the best of what it represents are apparently not as unblemished as they might wish.
And it doesn’t end there.
The Buccaneers signed receiver Antonio Brown in 2020. That is not a move that, on its face, deserves ridicule or scorn. Brown has been a troubled guy at times.
In 2019, Brown was fined a combined $54,000 by Raiders general manager Mike Mayock for multiple unexcused absences and missing two team practice sessions. Brown eventually confronted Mayock and had a verbal altercation, with reports stating Brown called Mayock a “cracker.”
Brown has been accused of rape by his former personal trainer, according to a federal lawsuit.
The lawsuit alleges Brown sexually assaulted the trainer on three occasions. According to Sports Illustrated, Brown has also sent “intimidating” text messages to a second accuser, who said Brown made an unwanted sexual advance.
Brown’s attorneys denied “each and every allegation in the lawsuit,” calling the claims a “money grab.”
But the NFL nonetheless suspended Brown eight games to open the 2020 season after a league-conducted investigation, which stemmed from a slew of incidents dating back to 2019, including a battery charge against a truck driver delivering a package to Brown’s home.
It must be said Brown’s conduct has been exemplary as a Buccaneer, that we know of. Just as Gruden’s conduct was exemplary with the Raiders, that we know of.
Tampa Bay had a problem at cornerback two weeks ago. So the team signed veteran Richard Sherman, who made it clear the Bucs were the most aggressive team trying to land him. That happened only months after Sherman was arrested in Washington state.
Sherman was charged with driving under the influence, reckless endangerment of roadway workers, criminal trespass in the second degree (domestic violence designation), resisting arrest and malicious mischief in the third degree (domestic violence designation).
He pled not guilty to all five charges, but Sherman later said he was “deeply remorseful” about the incident.
The Bucs, it should be noted, have been at the forefront of doing things right both from a football and diversity standpoint since Bruce Arians became coach. This is the first team in NFL history to have a black offensive coordinator, a black defensive coordinator and black special teams coordinator all at the same time.
And they did this with the best reason in mind: Because offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich is excellent at what he does and is a future NFL head coach. Because defensive coordinator Todd Bowles is excellent at what he does, was the head coach of the New York Jets, and very likely will be a head coach again soon.
And because special teams coordinator Keith Armstrong is very good at what he does, has tons of experience doing it, and were it not for league owners being reluctant to hire special teams coaches as head coaches, he’d also be a candidate for the promotion.
This is the stuff the Buccaneers stand for without having to release a statement about their values. Their values on this front speak for themselves.
But when the NFL or Buccaneers virtue signal, as they both have on the Gruden matter, it invites scrutiny of actions.
And no one currently on the planet can withstand that investigation. Because no one currently on the planet is without blemish.
Follow on Twitter: @ArmandoSalguero