SportsProf

(Hopefully) good sports essays and observations for good sports by a guy who tries (and can sometimes fail) to be a good sport.

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Monday, March 09, 2009

Defending the Philadelphia Eagles

Because someone has to do it, and because someone has to stand up to what can be one-side journalism from the Philadelphia Inquirer (which is entitled to its own opinion when it represents opinion as opinion, but not its own facts). At any rate, I'm defending the Eagles from this piece by sports columnist John "Gonzo" Gonzalez, who blasts Birds' management for firing a seasonal employee because he posted disparaging words on Facebook about his now-former employer.

The employee, Dan Leone, admitted what he did was a mistake and also told Gonzalez that he apologized to the Eagles, who, nonetheless, terminated him and apparently did so on the phone. The Eagles, wisely by the way, elected not to respond to Gonzalez's entreaties (because anything they would have said could have ended up in litigation). On the face of the article, Gonzalez has a point, that it looks like the Eagles were being overly harsh in responding to an admitted stupid mistake. So, if you read the article and don't dig deeply, the odds are that you'll side with the employee and, if you're down on the Eagles, that you'll dislike them even more.

There are only two problems with that approach. One, you'd have missed the fact that the article is one-sided and doesn't consider the Eagles' point of view at all (yes, Gonzalez did contact the Eagles, and, yes, the Eagles declined comment, but Gonzalez still didn't consider the matter from their vantage point). Two, you'd have missed that Gonzalez apparently failed to ask the employee whether he had any other disciplinary issues during his six years with the Eagles. The latter is very significant, because if the employee had performance-related issues in his record, then this incident could have been the straw that broke the camel's back, so to speak, and an indication that the Eagles determined that after several warnings, it was time to sever ties with the employee. By the way, to be clear on the point, I am not suggesting that the employee had performance issues, just that it would have been a very important fact to know before either the writer or a reader opts to pass judgment on the Eagles.

The bottom line is this -- there are tough times out there all around. Employers might have less of a sense of humor or forgiveness about people who trash their organization publicly. We all need to believe in what we're selling, or otherwise why do our jobs? The employee in question did make a mistake, but the open question is whether the posting on Facebook was an isolated incident or not.

John Gonzalez's reporting on the topic today was incomplete in what otherwise was a well-written article. Gonzalez, though, failed to ask the tough question or, worse, failed to understand that this was an important question to ask. As a result, he stirred up a hornets' nest for the Eagles, who are an easy target because of unpopular personnel decisions and their continued falling short of championships during the Andy Reid era (fans forget that the team's performance was worse during the Ray Rhodes, Rich Kotite and Buddy Ryan eras).

Make no mistake, I don't want anyone to lose a job, let alone someone with a disability such as this particular employee. But I also want fair reporting that addresses all facts before drawing conclusions.

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