Ed Garvey, executive director of the NFL Players Association, yesterday called Pete Rozelle "irresponsible" for the pro football commissioner's remarks about players' publicized offenses reflecting on the league's image.
Rozelle talked of about "20 types of offenses" at a meeting of league executives Tuesday in Atlanta. NFL Executive Director Don Weiss noted that the league's drug control program had been expanded to include a warning about the danger of excessive use of alcohol.
"It's unbelievable that Rozelle and Weiss, who are totally out of touch with the players, would make comments like that," Garvey said. "Rozelle hasn't visited an NFL training camp since 1968.
"We have 1,400 players who are model citizens. To take a few isolated incidents and make it appear that they are all misfits is irresponsible."
"I have trouble understanding why Rozelle is saying something like that. Maybe he's trying to divert attention away from the huge profits the club owners are making. Maybe it's their opening shot in negotiations (for the next collective bargaining agreement).
"I don't see any big problem. In fact, I've been around an awful lot of owners and an awful lot of players. The players treat alcohol pretty seriously. They've got to keep their bodies on the field; they've got to be alert.
"This is not to say that there aren't problems, but for him to say something like this gives people the impression there's an epidemic.
"We've just had a press conference with Rep. George Miller (D-Calif.) and Rep. Barbara Mikulski (D.-Md.) supporting a bill to protect wives and other family members from abuse. We have a 30-man steering committee to push for legislation and serve as an example for other members of society."
(One of the offenses of players mentioned by Rozelle as being reported by the media was wife beating.)
"We've had 300 NFL players visiting Job Corps centers," Garvey went on, "working as morale boosters and hopefully serving as role models. Our players are involved in hundreds of charities and fund-raising events. Sunday night we'll have a banquet in Chicago that will generate $600,000 for the Greater Boys Club of Chicago.
"We can't counter it (what Rozelle says). If we hold a press conference to say in Washington, San Francisco, Cleveland, Atlanta, that we're having summer camps for underprivileged kids, it's not news. But if the commissioner says we've got a problem here with players drinking, it sure doesn't help our efforts any.
"I'm not trying to bury my head in the sand. I know there are problems. But they are isolated, and certainly not representative."
Joe Theismann, Resdkin quarterback, said, "I've always felt very responsible to the youth of the country. I think every player, in all sports, has that responsibility. A lot of guys disagree. I think in a player's actions he should keep that in mind.
"I have three kids. Joe is 8 years old. He's becoming very aware. When a derogatory action is reported, and a youngster sees it, he might think it's okay, because his favorite athlete is doing it. I wouldn't want one of my kids looking up to someone like that. I speak as a professional athlete and as a father.
"As a pro athlete or other people in the public eye, one has to watch himself; whether he might be in politics, or even be the brother of the president.
"I'm not telling anyone how to live his life. It's just my opinion. Some guys feel they have a life to live and can do what they want. I cherish the opportunity to be an athlete; I wouldn't want to risk a great way of life."
Theismann emphasized, "I never get behind the bar in my place of business, it's a restaurant."
Tex Schramm, general manager of the Dallas Cowboys, said, "I think these things go in cycles. In the late 1960s and early 1970s we had a different type of athlete. That was when the Vietnam issue and the drug culture reached their peak. The athletes are coming out of that rebel attitude. Players are a lot more responsible, better balanced, now.
"These things (the reported offenses) might be a reflection of unrest in our society. They're not unique. The players are going to mirror what is happening in society. The difference is the athletes get a lot more publicity.
"If you took trends for age groups you might find less offenses among athletes. We (the NFL) are going to have to be more alert to help, counsel and prevent these trends. People are entitled to a private life. There's only a certain degree to which an organization (such as the NFL) can impinge on private life."
As to whether there is more alcoholism now among athletes, Schramm said, "If it's a question of them using drugs or alcohol, I'd rather get back to alcohol. I don't think there is more alcohol being used than when I was that age. People recognize alcoholism as a problem these days and do something about it."