The League

Jim Buzinski
Sports Editor

Jim Buzinski

Co-founder of Outsports.com

Performance trumps slurs

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If Larry Johnson is rehabilitated as an NFL running back, it will have everything to do with how he plays on the field, not what he says off of it.

Johnson was let go by the Kansas City Chiefs after he used his Twitter account to rip Coach Todd Haley. When confronted by a fan on Twitter, Johnson used two gay slurs, and followed up with a third the next day when confronted by reporters. He was eventually fined a week's pay and benched in Week 9. On Monday, he was cut.

While I would like to think that Johnson's use of three homophobic terms did him in, the real numbers that got him cut were 29 and 2.7; as in his age and his yards per carry this season. Johnson turns 30 on Nov. 19 and there are very few NFL running backs who thrive when they hit that age. Combine this with his lack of production on a rebuilding Chiefs team and it was clear his days in Kansas City were numbered. His creative use of Twitter only speeded up that process.

Johnson could have said just about anything had he been averaging five yards a carry for a Chiefs team that was 7-1 and not 1-7. NFL teams have a way of forgiving almost any transgression for players who produce. And as much as I detested what Johnson said (and his lame non-apology apology after), even I did not think he should have been cut simply for uttering the "f-word" about gay people. If that was the standard, the league would need to shrink by half. A fine and a game suspension seemed right.

Which brings us to Johnson's future. His recent troubles and four prior arrests for battery will certainly give some teams pause. But if he says the right things and will play for the right price, he'll be employed by Thanksgiving. In the end, teams will decide that what's most important is what he can still do with his legs, not what comes out of his mouth.

By Jim Buzinski  |  November 11, 2009; 8:28 AM ET  | Category:  Kansas City Chiefs Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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Comments

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Knock it off with the "homophobia" tripe. The fact is, a lot of us, very, very many of us, still believe homosexuality is immoral. If Johnson used a "gay slur," his sin wasn't speaking negatively of homosexuality. It may have been that he spoke too flippantly, or too disrespectfully of some individual, or inaccurately about some individual. But don't expect all of your readers to fall in with your theophobic belief that it's a crime to speak negatively of homosexuality. It's not. Homosexuality itself is the crime, a crime against the body and the God who made it.

Posted by: dcsuburb | November 11, 2009 2:45 PM

To the writer, as an avid female NFL fan, it does matter to me if the player is an alleged abuser of women and/or gays. Character does matter. Give him a couple of years off outside of football. If he can rehabilitate, let him prove it. It remains to be seen if Michael Vick is truly rehabilitated, but at least he's out there trying. This guy? Shame on whatever team signs him this year, or even next. Even if, or maybe I mean especially if, it's my beloved Redskins, bad as they are, I won't watch them.

Posted by: gracie11 | November 11, 2009 5:59 PM

The attitude of DCSuburb is more revulsive than anything Johnson said. To justify discrimination against a (gay) person because of the way they were born--and to do so in the name of God--is, among other things, a sin.
I hope the Redskins don't pursue him. We have enough drama and dysfunction here already.

Posted by: jeff73 | November 11, 2009 6:55 PM

The comments by DCSuburb are more offensive than anything Johnson said. To use the Bible to justify discrimination against a person because they were born (i.e., gay) is truly a sin.
The Redskins shouldn't sign Johnson. There is enough drama and dysfunction on the team already.

Posted by: jeff73 | November 11, 2009 6:58 PM

After 416 carries in 2006 (plus the playoffs), Johnson's career was basically over. Herm Edwards rode that camel until the hump broke.
Sure, some team that has a desperate running back shortage will sign LJ for the season, but they won't be getting more than an off down utility back at this point.

Posted by: greennogo | November 11, 2009 11:41 PM

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