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Wright On

Florida Times-Union reporter Michael C. Wright covers the ins and outs of the Jacksonville Jaguars. In this blog, he'll share behind-the-scenes anecdotes not published within the pages of the T-U, in addition to offering up incessant ramblings about nothing such as road trips, crummy hotels and not-so-delicious press box food. Perhaps he'll even delve into serious discussions about NFL issues. So ask questions, participate in conversations, or just learn more about the Jags.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Gang signs in the NFL?

Here's an interesting story from the Los Angeles Times http://www.latimes.com/sports/la-sp-nflsigns16-2008jul16,0,1332501.story about the league hiring experts to see if players are throwing up gang signs during games.

"Guys come from all over the country, and who knows what they're really doing?" said Jaguars receiver Dennis Northcutt, who grew up in L.A. "People have got signs for their kids, signs for their fraternities. How do you differentiate who's really throwing up gang signs?"

There's a little truth to what Northcutt is saying. Players from my fraternity - the great Kappa Alpha Psi - throw up our sign when they make big plays in games. It wouldn't surprise me if that sign was some type of gang sign. So to me, there seems to be a lot of gray area here. If one of these "experts" sees what he thinks is a gang sign, do they dig into the player's background to see if he might be involved in gangs? After all, said player's hand sign could actually be a personnel grouping rather than a gang sign.

This all seems a bit hokey. What do you guys think?


Blogger The Thinking Man's Man said...

They clearly have the right to do this -- or at least nobody has challenged their assumed right. Several years ago they ruled against practitioners of the throat-slashing gesture, of whom Fred Taylor was a prominent one.

This action by the NFL was clearly motivated by Paul Pierce's hand gesture to Al Horford in the playoffs this past season. One of the issues is the message that act conveyed and the sentiment behind it. It wasn't celebratory as most of them are, and that's when I think players will draw the league's inquisition.

Also, as far as the gray area is concerned, the league will need to be nearly certain that a symbol is that of a gang. The investigators they've hired after all, are experts in this type of behavior. Where there's overlap with the signs of fraternities, neighborhoods, or other circle of friends, I think if the sign is common to a prominent enough gang, the league would be sensible to levy against that. This is all about the league's image, and that's a function of fan perception.

Consider the case of Pierce. What do you think fans thought it meant? It could have meant anything from "blood killer" to "crip killer" to "What's up Boston?" to something less unique to the player and his group of friends. That Pierce is from a gang-heavy neighborhood, that the intent of the sign seeemed malicious, and that two of the possible meanings are threatening gang references, what do you think the league's fans are going to think it means? That's what both the NBA and the NFL have to be concerned with. And if a similar situation presented itself in the NFL, the league would also be right to punish that behavior.

July 18, 2008 at 1:32 PM  

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