White likely not long for Falcons’ lineup

July 17, 2013 

The development of Julio Jones gives the Atlanta Falcons the top pair of wide receivers in the National Football League. The ignorance of Roddy White means the duo will likely be split up.

Moments after the George Zimmerman trial verdict became public Saturday evening, White tweeted “All them jurors should go home tonight and kill themselves for letting a grown man get away with killing a kid.”

With more than 160,000 followers, including myself, it wasn’t long before White’s comments were picked up and redistributed over the Internet. By early Sunday morning (which probably included a conversation with Falcons brass), White had backed off: “I understand my tweet last nite was extreme. I never meant for the people to do that. I was shocked and upset about the verdict. I am sorry.”

White was hardly the only individual to react negatively to the verdict. And, no doubt, there were more than a handful of equally crude missives coming from the other side.

“Shocked and upset” is reasonable. Publicly suggesting people kill themselves is not.

Personally, I don’t care that much. I’m from the “Just Win Baby” school of professional football popularized by the Oakland Raiders of the 1970s. An off-color tweet or spoken comment isn’t terribly off-putting in that sense. And it’s been a long time since I thought the players on the team I root for were morally, ethically or intellectually superior to those I despise.

If White catches 10 touchdown passes from Matt Ryan and helps get Atlanta to the Super Bowl, he can say or tweet whatever he wants. I don’t follow White on Twitter expecting Pulitzer Prize-worthy social commentary.

It’s hard to imagine the Falcons’ front office feels the same way, however. Arthur Blank was humbled by the “Mike Vick Experience.” Fielding the publicity that came with possessing the league’s most exciting talent was great for a while. But, of course, it all came crashing down in disgrace and humiliation when Vick went to prison on charges related to dog-fighting.

(White defended Vick. He wore a T-shirt with “Free Mike Vick” written across the chest. In fact, White has been something of a lightning rod for controversy throughout his career but especially in the twitter-verse. He’s taken on NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, the New Orleans Saints and the Boston Celtics.)

Now, Atlanta strives to be the New England Patriots of the NFC: tight-lipped, buttoned down and gracious after victories, of which there have been several during the past five years. That image is endangered every time White reaches for his cell phone.

It’s one thing when White tweets the Celts made a bad coaching hire. It’s completely another when he suggests mass suicide. The organization will not tolerate White’s eccentricities much longer.

Contact Chris Deighan at cdeighan@cox.net.

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