For Jets' L. Washington, A Questionable Message

Associated Press
Thursday, November 16, 2006

Leon Washington has done more than merely jump-start the New York Jets' running game. The rookie running back has created a stir among sports trading card collectors with a questionable photograph.

A Bowman "Signs of the Future" autographed card, issued by The Topps Co. Inc., features a photo of Washington from the waist up in his green Jets jersey with his arms folded across his chest -- and appearing to make obscene gestures with each hand.

Washington said yesterday that there was nothing naughty about the photo, which was taken during a shoot with Topps a few months ago. He said he was making an "E" with both hands to honor his home town, but some fingers are hidden under his armpits.

"All it is is that I'm from the east side of Jacksonville -- that's my community," Washington said. "It looks funny, but maybe I should've taken the picture a different way. That's all it really is -- nothing more than that."

The apparent obscenity has increased the popularity of the card, which is fetching nearly $100 on eBay, and Topps is offering collectors the chance to return the card and receive another in its place after saying its release was an oversight by editors.

"I was a little disappointed because I don't want to send that sort of message across to the fans or anybody like that," Washington said. "I'm not that kind of person and that's not even my character."

Washington said he received a handful of calls Tuesday from friends asking about the card.

"People were like, 'What's up with that picture you took shooting the bird?' And I was like, 'Man, I can't even remember the last time I shot the bird -- that's not even me to do anything like that,' " Washington said. "So, I took a look at the picture and remembered taking it. I was coming out of a tunnel or something like that and somebody yelled, 'Hey, take a picture.' So I took it, not thinking it would come out like something like this here."

· TITANS: Not even the co-chairman of the NFL's competition committee is immune from punishment for criticizing an official. Tennessee Coach Jeff Fisher was fined $12,500 for criticizing an official in last weekend's 27-26 loss to Baltimore.

After Sunday's game, Fisher said it was a "bad call by the umpire" that denied the Titans' recovery of a fumble in the third quarter. The Titans had stripped Mike Anderson of the ball while he was upright.

Titans defensive tackle Robaire Smith came out of a pile with the ball, but officials ruled Anderson been down by contact.

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