'Shop Talk': Former NFL Star Faces Rape Charges
MICHEL MARTIN, Host:
I'm Michel Martin, and this is TELL ME MORE, from NPR News.
It's time for our weekly visit to the Barbershop, where the guys talk about what's in the news and what's on their minds. Sitting in the chairs for a shapeup this week are freelance writer Jimi Izrael, syndicated columnist Ruben Navarrette, civil rights attorney Arsalan Iftikhar and sportswriter Dave Zirin. Take it away, Jimi.
JIMI IZRAEL: Thanks, Michel. Hey, fellas, welcome to the shop. How are we doing?
RUBEN NAVARRETTE: Hey, hey, hey.
ARSALAN IFTIKHAR: Doing good, man.
DAVE ZIRIN: Very well, thank you.
IZRAEL: Well, yo, check this out. NFL hall of famer Lawrence Taylor, otherwise known as LT, was arrested on the felony count of third-degree rape and a misdemeanor charge of soliciting a prostitute. Now, the alleged victim, she's a 16-year-old runaway who had a pimp.
Now, Taylor has denied all charges and has posted a $75,000 bond. Now, if he's convicted, he faces up to four years in the pokie. Michel, we've got some tape, right?
MARTIN: You know, it's a very serious charge, and his attorney, Arthur Aidala, talked to the press yesterday and vigorously proclaimed Taylor's innocence. I just want to play a short clip from that press conference. Here it is.
(SOUNDBITE OF VIDEO CLIP)
ARTHUR AIDALA: I'm not even admitting that he even knew her. We don't even know who she was. Her name isn't even on the document that was submitted to us today. We have some initials. So, at this point you could presume that each and every aspect of this case and each and every aspect of these charges will be litigated to the fullest extent of the law.
IZRAEL: Wow. This is awful. David, now - thanks, Michel - you were a big LT fan. What do you have to say about all of this?
ZIRIN: I mean, honestly, I have no snark, I have no humor, I have no little witticism about this. The charges are too serious and the fall is too grand. I mean, the mere fact that when this story was reported, a lot of people, the first comment was: Yeah, I could see that...
ZIRIN: ...because of LT's history with crack cocaine, running afoul of the law and just one of the most difficult post-playing career transitions that we've seen in recent years. I mean, to be so high up in the eye of New York City - I mean, I had an LT poster on my wall that went floor to ceiling, for goodness sakes.
ZIRIN: I had a 56 jersey I wore to school, even though I went to a Catholic school with a dress code and it got me in trouble, I wore my 56 jersey. So it's a very difficult thing. And I just keep thinking of his book "Over the Edge" that came out a few years ago, and about how because of LT's physical skills, he got a pass every step of the way...
ZIRIN: ...from any kind of responsibility with regards to substance abuse, with regards to relationships with women, with regards to how he was treating his own kids. And he was owning up to that in his book. And now you have these charges. It's just very difficult.
IFTIKHAR: Yeah. I mean, you know, for any sports junkie out there, we all knew that Lawrence Taylor was the Mike Tyson of the NFL. You know, we obviously remember the November 1985 bone popping hit on Joe Theismann, which ended Joe Theismann's career. I mean, the man was vicious on the field, and he was troubled off the field. And so I don't think that it came as a surprise to anyone who has followed either professional football or professional sports in general.
IZRAEL: You know what? Not for nothing - homeboy, Taylor, he's a Hall of Famer, and this is what I say: You know what? I say all these guys at the Hall of Fame, you know, when they catch these heinous charges, one after the other after the other, I think, you know, three strikes and you're out. I think, you know, after the third change, you know, I think your status as a Hall of Famer should be revoked.
David, what do you think?
ZIRIN: I disagree.
ZIRIN: I also don't want to hog the Barbershop time, so, yeah, I disagree with you entirely, 'cause I think one of the things that makes the NFL Hall of Fame so good is that there's no hypocrisy in the NFL Hall of Fame. And the guidelines to get into the Hall of Fame, it says specifically that off the field transgressions cannot be factored into whether or not a player goes into the hall.
And you contrast that with the utter hypocrisy and cant of the Baseball Hall of Fame where they talk all about oh, no, Mark McGwire, Barry Bonds, steroids, they could never be in the Hall of Fame. Meanwhile, you have Tris Speaker in the Hall of Fame, who was in the KKK. You've got Ty Cobb in the Hall of Fame, who once beat up a crippled fan in the stands for saying that he had African- American blood in his body.
I mean, give me a break. I mean, it's like either you judge by what happens on the field or you don't. All this messy morality area, get it out when we're talking about who's a Hall of Famer.
IZRAEL: Hmm, I don't know about that. Ruben?
MARTIN: That's interesting. So, wait, Jimi, do you think the standards should be if the disclosures come to light after your playing days, then do you think...
IZRAEL: Yeah. I mean if, that's what I - I think if you become a Hall of Famer, and while you're Hall of - I mean I just, you know, like Michael Irvin. Michael Irvin's another great example of a Hall of Famer who catch...
IZRAEL: He's catching these crazy charges.
IZRAEL: And it's like, you know what? This really taints your legacy beyond any kind of redemption, I think. I think, three strikes and you're out.
MARTIN: What if your behavior issues come out before you're voted in? You think that should be a factor in whether you're voted in or not?
IZRAEL: No, I don't.
IZRAEL: I don't. But then, again...
IZRAEL: I don't know. I think it's something we have to work with.
NAVARRETTE: It's Ruben. I think you've got that backwards.
IZRAEL: Go 'head.
MARTIN: Go ahead, Ruben.
NAVARRETTE: I think you've got that backwards. If...
NAVARRETTE: Before the vote is taken, I think it's relevant. After the vote is taken - I mean, basically, you're in the Hall of Fame because of what you did during your career as a football player, and there's no accounting for what happens after the fact, you know, all those many years later in your retirement. So I think you and I would, we just sort of disagree in about 180 stance, because I think it's more relevant when before you're voted in than after you're voted in.
But for me, what everybody has to understand - and I guess really the people who are playing the game now, people who are playing professional sports right now - is that by the time you've gotten to the point where people are talking about you on the radio, you've already lost. Your public image has already been tarnished. Your reputation's been hurt. And so you need to do your best you can to stay out of those situations in the first place. And that's really what came to mind when I was listening to the details of what happened to LT, because if you find yourself in this situation, even if you are innocent of X, Y, Z...
NAVARRETTE: ...you are not completely innocent, because most people who are minding their business don't end up in situations like that. We talk about that with infidelity all the time. Forget about under-aged, you know, prostitutes. We're talking about just - if you find yourself in a John Edwards-type infidelity situation...
ZIRIN: Or a Duke Lacrosse situation.
NAVARRETTE: ...you know you didn't get there by accident.
IZRAEL: Right. If you're always at the wrong place at the wrong place at the wrong time, brother, maybe it's you.
IZRAEL: You know.
(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)
ZIRIN: That's what bothers me so much when people talk about the Duke Lacrosse boys, as if they were the angels who were tainted by this horrible stripper. I mean, they were sending emails to each other beforehand about how...
NAVARRETTE: Right. Right.
ZIRIN: ...beforehand about how they wanted to skin the stripper alive and look at her skin. I mean, it's like at some point, you have put yourself in this kind of situation. But I have to just go back. I disagree with the moral relativism argument, because it becomes so messy. Where do you draw the line? I mean, Michael Jordan has done business with companies that use sweat shops in Southeast Asia. Should that keep him out of the Hall of Fame? Is that worse than smoking crack on a corner? I mean, how do you begin to have this discussion?
IFTIKHAR: Well, and I also...
IZRAEL: If you're catching charges, that's where I think it begins. Michael Jordan's not catching any charges.
IFTIKHAR: Well, also I think that this speaks to the whole greater entitlement issue with professional athletes. You know, we obviously saw that with Ben Roethlisberger recently. You know, professional athletes...
NAVARRETTE: Oh, another one.
IFTIKHAR: ...you know, with this overinflated sense of entitlement, where they feel like they can get away with anything. And so I think that, you know, we're starting to see that run a muck, as well.
MARTIN: Can I just make one quick point here about alcohol - the role of alcohol and the through-line alcohol and substance abuse in - the through line in all this?
NAVARRETTE: Drugs. Yeah.
MARTIN: Roethlisberger at a bar, clearly drinking. LT, alcohol found at the scene, clearly drinking, very drunk, and has obviously substance abuse problems in the past. And, you know, and I know that there's ongoing issue about whether, you know, alcohol and substance abuse problems are a character issue or a medical issue. But I don't think you can ignore the role of alcohol.
IFTIKHAR: I agree.
MARTIN: I mean, this awful - this terrible Duke Lacrosse case.
IFTIKHAR: I agree.
MARTIN: This awful case that's getting a lot of attention locally about a UVA player who's charged - a Lacrosse player, again...
MARTIN: ...who's charged with killing his girlfriend, and clearly had a lot of substance abuse issues in the past. So...
NAVARRETTE: If you have a moral defect - Michel, if you have a moral defect, if you bad values, if you weren't raised right by your parents, alcohol will bring that to the surface. But it didn't create it. And I think anybody who learns about drinking and exposed to drinking - whether it's in college or high school or whatever - knows that every single time you got drunk, you didn't go out and assault somebody.
MARTIN: Let me just - well...
ZIRIN: But, can I ask you a question, Michel, though?
MARTIN: Sure. I just have a point of clarification, because you raised the Duke issue, that...
ZIRIN: Oh, sure.
MARTIN: ...I think it is important to point out that the attorney general dropped all charges against those Duke students. I know you're making a broader point about conduct, not a point about legal...
ZIRIN: I'm making a broader point that they put themselves in a situation where getting a stripper and...
MARTIN: I get. I just feel it's important to clarify that these young men were not charged with a crime.
MARTIN: If they were, the charges were dropped. I just think it's important to just clarify for people who may not have followed our program.
ZIRIN: The idea that it started when they were feeding kids at the orphanage, and all of a sudden were accused of rape, I think that I don't like that in the narrative, either.
(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)
MARTIN: No. No. No. I don't. But we just...
NAVARRETTE: They caught me coming out of church. Here I was, coming out of church, and boom. What?
MARTIN: No, I just think that we're really clear on - and we just have some very interesting attitudes. I mean, we're really clear - like, we draw this clear line on, you know, illegal drugs versus alcohol, which is a legal drug. And how many people are harmed by abuse of alcohol, and we just - I just I'm just saying athletes are hurting...
ZIRIN: Well, that's what I wanted to ask you, Michel.
MARTIN: Go ahead. Go ahead.
ZIRIN: I mean how would this country be different, honestly, if you could wave a magic wand, and all of a sudden alcohol is illegal and weed is legal?
MARTIN: I cannot answer this question, because I do not drink and I don't use weed. So I can't answer this question, not really from own personal...
IFTIKHAR: A lot more Cheech and Chong movies would go...
NAVARRETTE: Yeah, ask me about Starbucks, and then we'll talk.
MARTIN: Exactly. If you want to talk about Starbucks, I'm right there with you.
ZIRIN: Just making the point, it's interesting that things are legal which tend to make people more aggressive, which makes a car a murder weapon and leads to the result of thousands upon thousands of deaths each year on the highways of this country, and yet people shrug their shoulders and say: What are you going to do? Freedom of choice. Yet the one that gives you the munchies and hangs out on your couch, that's the one where you have to go to prison for.
IFTIKHAR: This Barbershop brought to you by Cheech and Chong.
(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)
MARTIN: I can't help you with any of this. I can't help you with any of this. If you're just joining us...
ZIRIN: I'm just making a point. I don't do any of this stuff, either.
NAVARRETTE: Friends don't let friends do radio shows.
ZIRIN: I'm a father of two. I don't do any of this stuff.
MARTIN: I feel you.
ZIRIN: I'm just trying to make a point about hypocrisy when it comes to substance.
MARTIN: But I'm also - I just also am making the point about the fact that so many people have these problems with alcohol - and I think, particularly, you talked about the sense of entitlement, and I have to wonder how much people associate big drinking with being a big sports guy. You figure, you know, you're a man's man, and therefore, your conduct does not get checked until you are way over the line.
MARTIN: Way over the line. So, anyway, I just want to - let me just jump in briefly to say, if you're just joining us, you're listening to TELL ME MORE from NPR News. We're having our weekly conversation at the Barbershop with Jimi Izrael, Ruben Navarrette, Arsalan Iftikhar and Dave Zirin.
Back to you, Jimi.
IZRAEL: Thanks, Michel. All right. Well, you know what? It seems like we got don't tase me, bro part two. The baseball diaries. Now, early this week, a 17-year-old male hopped a fence at Citizens Bank Park, ran from officials for a few seconds until pow.
NAVARRETTE: That's right.
IZRAEL: The Philly police zapped dude with a taser from behind, dropping him on the spot - left-center field, Michel.
MARTIN: I think a lot of people saw that video. And I think - deserving, I think. Steve Consalvi is the young man's name. And it was the first time any fan was tasered on the field at Citizen's Bank Park, according to the Phillies. The police commissioner, it's worth noting, Charles Ramsey - who was formerly in Washington, D.C. - said that it was an appropriate use of force, and he supports the officer 100 percent. So there's that. A 17-year-old...
MARTIN: A 17-year-old senior at Boyertown High was...
NAVARRETTE: It's all fun and games until somebody light you up with taser. That's what - and this guy should have not been running on to the field.
IZRAEL: And you what? He should not have been running on to the field, and I co-sign that 100 percent. We got umpires out there like Laz Diaz being attacked by fans. You know, here's this yahoo running across the field.
Dave, what do you think?
ZIRIN: Well, a couple of things. First of all, my God, Charles Ramsey's like Freddie Krueger. It just keeps coming back. Every time I think he's out, he's just like...
(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)
ZIRIN: And I was like, is it going that Charles Ramsey? Oh, my goodness. It's that Charles Ramsey. Putting that aside - I mean, here's the thing: The kid - we talked about parents before, with regards to alcohol. Part of the story is that he asked his pops for permission before running out on the field.
NAVARRETTE: Nice. Nice. Pop his here right there, baby.
ZIRIN: And his dad like...
IZRAEL: But his pop said, no. But his pop said pop, no. His pop said that's not going to be a good idea, son.
(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)
NAVARRETTE: But he ran anyway.
ZIRIN: I don't think that's what happened.
MARTIN: But is that such a big - is it really such a big deal, running across the field? I mean, I know it's...
MARTIN: Is it that big of a deal?
IFTIKHAR: No. I mean...
MARTIN: Am I showing my gender again? I don't see it - is it like - did he have a weapon, or was he hurting someone?
ZIRIN: I remember watching a game where Tom Gamboa, the first base coach of the Kansas City Royals got jumped, and he really was just beaten up terribly by a father-son tandem at the park a few years ago. And one of the parts of that story that nobody talks about is out of - I believe it was the father's pocket - a switchblade fell out.
ZIRIN: I mean, so you're talking about potentially very dangerous, very violent situations.
IFTIKHAR: Yeah. But I'm going to put on the civil rights lawyer hat for a second here and, you know, and...
IZRAEL: Go ahead, A-Train.
IFTIKHAR: ...talk about the excessive force aspect of it. The Supreme Court in 1989 in a case called Graham v. Connor came forward with three factors to decide whether or not something - especially police action - would be considered, quote, "excessive force."
MARTIN: the severity of the crime. I don't think, you know, a 17-year-old kid running in his flip flops and khaki shorts on a baseball field would be considered that severe of a crime. Number two: Did they pose an immediate threat to the safety of the officers or other bystanders in question? Well, that's debatable. And number three: Did they - were they actively resisting arrest? I mean, he was running around, but I don't know if he was actively resisting arrest enough...
NAVARRETTE: Was he evading the police officer?
IFTIKHAR: Well, he...
IZRAEL: Yeah, he was running from them. He wasn't running towards them. So...
IFTIKHAR: Listen, you know, I remember the days when, you know, if a streaker ran on the field, you know, during a baseball game, they would just get tackled by the cops. The question is where do you draw the line...
MARTIN: But then with the streaker, presumably, you know he wasn't carrying a weapon, right?
IFTIKHAR: Right. Well, again...
(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)
NAVARRETTE: Thank you.
IZRAEL: Pa dum pum.
ZIRIN: He would say...
NAVARRETTE: That there right there.
IFTIKHAR: He could still be packing heat. Anyway, you know, where do we...
ZIRIN: You better watch that taser, you know.
IFTIKHAR: You know, where do we draw the line? You know, can we - are they going to be firing rubber buck shots?
MARTIN: Where do you? So who gets the redonkulous award?
IFTIKHAR: The redonkulous award goes to the tasering police officer. I think that it was excessive force. I think that it probably will be found to be excessive force by a court of law based on the Supreme Court precedent.
MARTIN: And Ruben, I didn't get where you are on this. Yes or no? Who gets the redonkulous award?
NAVARRETTE: Both. I got to go both. I don't think the fact that you have debatable excessive force excuses the initial infraction that brought this to be, because...
MARTIN: ...this notion somehow that - anybody's whose been to a ballgame, I mean, we all understand boundaries. We understand rules. And the fact that I managed to get through all these different dozen or two dozen ballgames in my life and never once did it occur to me to run on the field, I mean, does that make me morally superior or make this guy a morally defect? I mean, it's not that complicated.
MARTIN: Why is it a moral issue? I have - gosh. I mean...
IZRAEL: You know what?
NAVARRETTE: Well, it's not that complicated. He shouldn't have run on to the field.
MARTIN: Is that immoral?
IZRAEL: I see it as a workplace safety issue. I mean how would you feel, Michel, you sitting at your desk and some yahoo came running through, you know, the TELL ME MORE offices, you know, screaming woo?
MARTIN: But it's not the same. I mean...
ZIRIN: Wait. Isn't that what Arsalan's doing right now?
(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)
MARTIN: No. He's doesn't - he's really inappropriate today. He doesn't have his green pants. It's actually very disappointing. But, I mean, the fact is when I've stand-ups, I've done - I've been stand-ups when I was on television, I had people, you know, run into my space and scream. And I can remember particularly at a convention - one of the political conventions I covered - I won't say which one - people were...
MARTIN: ...I do believe alcohol was involved there, too. Just to follow on a theme but people were interfering with my standup. I mean, it does happen. I don't know.
IZRAEL: That's why you carry brass knuckles Michel, when you're doing standup. You need...
MARTIN: I don't find it - I find it annoying, but I don't find it threatening.
MARTIN: I find it irritating, but I don't find it threatening. I wouldn't want to taser somebody. I'd appreciate if people were more polite.
NAVARRETTE: Apparently, this kid doesn't believe the rules apply to him.
IFTIKHAR: Well, but Ruben, again, what if tomorrow, they start firing rubber buckshots from a shotgun or firing tear gas? You know, these are non- lethal...
IZRAEL: You won't do it again. That'll be last time you can run on the field.
IFTIKHAR: These are non-lethal uses of force, again, like a taser.
ZIRIN: I got to come back on that last one, because the next day...
MARTIN: Yeah, I just have to ask Dave, I forget, where did you come out on this?
ZIRIN: Yeah, because first of all, the next day someone else ran out on the field. So the idea of well, they'll never do that again, when you up it like that, when you up the ante and it adds to the publicity, it actually encourages copycats more than the normal way.
ZIRIN: It doesn't really happen that much, because normally they turn the cameras off - by a rule, the broadcasters don't discuss it. They're tackled and pushed off. This has gotten such publicity, you're going to see more and more of it and see if anybody gets tased.
MARTIN: So Dave, taser? Yes or no?
ZIRIN: Oh no, no, no to the taser. But also no, no, no to the kid for just thinking this is the 1950s "Animal House."
MARTIN: I got you. I got you.
ZIRIN: I mean, come on this is the 21 century. This is the post-9/11 world.
(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)
MARTIN: Stay in your...
ZIRIN: My goodness.
MARTIN: Got it. Got you. All right. Thank you, gentlemen. All right.
ZIRIN: It's dangerous out there.
MARTIN: Dave Zirin is a sportswriter for the Nation - you probably figured that out - and EdgeofSports.com. He joined us from Washington. Jimi Izrael is a freelance journalist and author of the book, "The Denzel Principle." He joined us from WCPN in Cleveland. Ruben Navarrette is a syndicated columnist who writes for the San Diego Union Tribune and CNN.com. He was with us from San Diego. And Arsalan Iftikhar is a civil rights attorney, the founder of themuslimguy.com and a legal fellow at the Institute for Social Policy and Understanding. He was here with us in our D.C. studio.
Thank you so much.
MARTIN: I'm Michel, and you've been listening to TELL ME MORE, from NPR News. We'll talk more on Monday.
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