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Jets pulled offsides: Why no penalty flag?

September 20, 2010 – 2:16 PM

By Laura Pappano

This is a good Monday for the NY Jets: A smashing victory against rival NE Patriots – and the team won’t face punishment from NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell for “unprofessional conduct” by coaches and players in the Ines Sainz case.

Or obvious punishment, that is. Jets owner Woody Johnson has agreed to underwrite a program to train players on appropriate conduct with the media in the workplace – something Christine Brennan has tweeted, could cost him $160,000.

The quick-thinking inoculation by the Jets to call in the Association for Women in Sports Media and Johnson to offer to underwrite the training shows there have been major advances in the NFL treatment of female reporters in the past 20 years. At least now, throwing balls and acting like a frat boy is considered wrong.

Not so on September 17, 1990 when Boston Herald reporter Lisa Olson was sexually harassed by NE Patriots players in the locker room. Despite an encounter that was so lewd and graphic that Olson called it “mind rape” – then Pats owner Victor Kiam labeled Olson “a classic bitch.”

Yes, there’s been progress. But it’s puzzling: Why is the NFL just getting to this sort of training now?  And if the Jets are essentially paying a $160,000 fine, why doesn’t Goodell use this incident to send a message (as he so often does)?

Is this case different because Sainz was wearing super-tight jeans? Naturally, some have suggested that Sainz – whose provocative dress and conduct – was “asking” for trouble or that she was just seeking attention for herself and TV Azteca (if so, mission accomplished!).

But for a league and group of professionals  1) whose life is spent learning, memorizing and practicing choreographed plays 2) whose game day dress rules are so precise that having a towel larger than 6”X 8” is a $2,500 uniform violation, and 3) whose entire chess-like match-ups reward forethought of the kind that if they run-this, we’ll-run-that, it seems 4) unbelievable that no one could have imagined this play.

Call it The Meadowlands Fool: A blonde TV journalist-slash-model steps up to the line of scrimmage before the snap and throws a few glances and then – with stunningly little effort – opposing players (and coaches, too!) jump offsides.

The NFL is all about gamesmanship, and having one more play than your opponent. Why weren’t the Jets ready for this? And if they erred, why does Goodell still have the penalty flag in his pocket?

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