Bears kicker suffers from foot-in-mouth disea
Bears kicker suffers from foot-in-mouth disease
Singling out Virginia McCaskey as greedy is level of disrespect Gould should have avoided
David Haugh In the Wake of the News May 1, 2011
Usually when Bears kicker Robbie Gould makes news with his foot it's not for sticking it in his mouth.
Yet there's no better way to describe what Gould did last week in summarizing the NFL lockout to the Tribune.
"Look, fans don't buy tickets to see Virginia or Brian McCaskey. They pay to watch Brian Urlacher, Drew Brees and all the great players,'' Gould said. "This lockout is all because of the owners' greed. I'm sorry if that sounds cold, but it is the truth."
I'm not here to debate whether Gould was right about the NFL labor dispute. I want to say he was wrong to invoke Virginia McCaskey's name so disrespectfully.
There are ways to make a point about NFL owners' greed without disparaging the 88-year-old daughter of league/franchise founder George Halas, the matriarch of the team that signed Gould in 2005 when he was working construction.
Gould could have said, "Look, fans don't buy tickets to see owners,'' without casting Mrs. McCaskey as the face of greed. A Pro Bowl-caliber kicker signed through 2013 is too good for the Bears to cut over insensitivity. They could fine Gould, though I doubt they will. But the minute the lockout ends, somebody in ownership needs to give Gould a lesson in NFL history and etiquette.
By today's anything-goes standards, what Gould said falls short of offensive to many. But a Bears player criticizing Virginia McCaskey is like a baseball manager arguing balls and strikes. You're wrong the moment you begin to speak, whatever you say.
I called Gould to see if he regretted escalating lockout rhetoric to include a woman considered off-limits for a long time.
"First of all, I didn't invoke anybody and second, I don't regret anything I said,'' Gould said. "It was not a poke at Virginia, it was not a poke at Brian McCaskey. I was just simply saying no fans turn on TV to watch Virginia McCaskey, Brian McCaskey, the Richardson family, Jerry Jones or any owner. They pay to see the players put out a product.''
The Bears found answers at different positions during the NFL draft. I wonder how many people in the front office privately question their kicker for reasons unrelated to football.
The team chose not to respond when asked about Gould's comments but sources confirm they neither were ignored nor appreciated at Halas Hall. Coach Lovie Smith typically downplayed any potential rift.
"Robbie Gould is the player rep so he has to be in that role,'' Smith said.
Perhaps, but in the unwritten rulebook for Bears players, showing Mrs. McCaskey unconditional respect is on Page 1. Right or wrong, the Bears organization probably would forgive players who run afoul of the law quicker than those who run their mouths about Mrs. McCaskey. Everybody from groundskeepers to reporters knows where that line is.
If Gould has built up as much organizational equity as he says, he should know too.
"They know I am a professional and that I've done a lot for the organization, whether it's public speaking or charity or signing autographs for their charity work,'' Gould said. "I didn't downgrade anything the McCaskeys have done. I just said the McCaskeys, along with the rest of the owners, are greedy and that's why we're in a lockout.''
In Gould's job as Bears player representative before and after the lockout, he talks, texts and tweets a lot. He gets most passionate attacking the greed of owners. There may come a day that Gould needs those greedy McCaskeys, who have long memories. Did Gould just lose the benefit of their doubt? That $15.4 million contract the McCaskeys wrote Gould in 2008 won't last forever.
"It was not that I was trying to take a shot at Virginia McCaskey by any means,'' Gould said. "(But) she's my owner. The McCaskey family is my owner. They locked me out. They chose to make me unemployed, to allow me to pay for my own health insurance. They chose for me to take this path.''
Gould needs to choose his words with more care. As a players rep, he can't show a jarring lack of empathy for teammates who might not have saved as wisely as he did for the lockout when he said, "The guys who didn't plan for it, that's their fault." As a guy who might not be a millionaire without the Bears giving him an opportunity six years ago, he can't come off so ungrateful carrying out an anti-owner agenda.
I asked Gould if he will apologize to Mrs. McCaskey whenever football resumes.
"I don't feel I owe an apology to anyone because I don't find it to be a subject where I crossed a line to say anything derogatory,'' Gould said. "I simply said the reason we are in this situation is the owners are greedy and the McCaskeys are my owners. If people are going to be upset about it, I'll handle the criticism. I didn't say anything that was wrong.''
That didn't sound like a guy known for his accuracy.