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Miami Dolphins Cut Chad Johnson and the State of Player-Hating in the NFL

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bill-swift - August 13, 2012

After a domestic abuse arrest on Saturday night, Chad Johnson was cut from the Miami Dolphins on Sunday night. Johnson's tenure with Miami lasted less than two months. To the American sports media, this day will go down as one of celebration for the player-haters out there. From the alleged reasons for the argument between Evelyn Lozada and Johnson to the follow up speculation on what would've been Johnson's potential role with the Dolphins, this is a day that will separate media types into different categories forever.

For the sensible sports media figures, the fact that Johnson and his wife were supposedly arguing over a receipt that showed the purchase of condoms is completely irrelevant. It's a tawdry detail that doesn't help explain any of the facts that come after it. The sports story here are, in order: Chad Johnson is no longer a Dolphin; the new regime in Miami won't tolerate arrests and, if we're being generous, what does this do to the Dolphins offense. Sports media that's serving a useful purpose can stoke discussions about Johnson's future in the NFL. With teams deep into training camp, coaches and personnel folks know what they have and what they don't have at the receiver position. This makes Johnson's availability a thought in the back of somebody's mind. This is a guy who spent a year in Tom Brady's offense, however ineffective, and that knowledge is valuable to AFC powerhouses like Baltimore and Pittsburgh.

The question of how new Dolphins coach Joe Philbin handled this episode is legitimate too. Chad Johnson won't be the last Dolphin to run afoul of the law in 2012, but now the precedent has been set. Philbin has to cut the next guy to get arrested too, right? These are all great discussions to have.

For the player haters, their feelings on this occasion can be paraphrashed by this item we saw on Mike Florio's Pro Football Talk:

While it's possible that he's telling the truth and that his wife intentionally struck her head against his and claimed that he did it to her because she was mad about the condom receipt she found in the trunk of his car (and those are 42 words I never dreamed I'd type), Johnson should have at least gotten some inkling during their courtship that she was capable of such conduct.

So, either way, he didn't sufficiently have his personal life in order to avoid creating for the Dolphins the kind of publicity the team currently doesn't want.

So in addition to being substandard business reporters, American sports media figures are now commentators on our society at large? Wait, better yet, they're commentators on how NFL players should go about choosing their mates and managing their relationships? These are the same commentators who didn't get nearly as wordy and righteous when Mark Chmura was diddling his baby sitter or when Brett Favre was A) addicted to painkiller or B) sent pictures of his junk back when it was dirty not cool, like it is now.

Speculation as to what Johnson did and said; what Lozada did and said and what the Dolphins leadership did and said is absolutely worthless and, in this case, particularly reckless. It's a huge leap to say Johnson "didn't sufficiently have his personal life in order" and then use that as a way of explaining what has happened to him. NFL fans have the responsibility of speculating, guessing and pulling half facts out of their rear ends. Those who deliver the news and facts should be called out, questioned and doubted when they choose to speculate and recalibrate the discussion based on that speculation. Yes, blogs are in a gray area between journalism and consumer behavior. It's a huge part of the appeal of sports blogs. However, make no mistake, this is the fundamental structure of player-hating in our sports and news media.

Taking a fact, attaching wanton speculation to it and then proceeding with a discussion down the path you've just given yourself with that wanton speculation is a trick to make your biased opinion seem legitimate and worth consuming. We see it in our political, public policy and sports reporting in America. The dangers of this system are obvious when you're misinforming real people about real issues. Fortunately sports in and of themselves aren't serious, however, using this same misinformation process in sports helps make it legitimate everywhere else.

Getting back to Chad Johnson's situation, only he and his wife -- and maybe responding police officers-- can tell us what happened in their argument and only Dolphins leadership can tell us why they cut their wide receiver. A sports media outlet that tries to tell this story without going to those people to get it, isn't to be trusted. Not when you've got a sports media outlet with a tradition of dragging Chad Johnson's name through the mud and covering him as if he's already some kind of bad person. In fact, no player-hating sports media outlet can even say, with credulity, why Johnson is a target of their ire. It's quickly referenced that he's "controversial," "a prima donna" or "a douchebag" before they move on to tell the story and make the point that will reinforce the description they just gave you. Years of built-in bias against Johnson (and Terrell Owens and Michael Vick) mean you get the presumption of guilt and fault with anything he does and so whatever follows is expected because he's a "bad" dude. Where "bad" is never defined.

And lest you think I'm excusing any kind of violence or the logic of keeping condom receipts, understand that I'm a disciple of relationship expert Chris Rock. The man has underappreciated wisdom (fast forward to the 1:42 mark).

The worst part is, we're only beginning. This week is going to see a lot of lip flapping about Chad Johnson and most of it is going to be of the player-hater variety. No sports media figure has ever explained why they specifically don't like Chad Johnson. Whatever he's done to upset them and incur their wrath, he's done it to all of them apparently. And now is a time for payback. Now is a time to finally pile on a guy who --and this is the capper-- HAS NEVER BEEN ARRESTED. At the tail end of a very strong wide receiver career, Johnson has been arrested and your player hating sports media is treating him as if he's "finally" been arrested. To them, he's been guilty the whole time.

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