By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — The NFL has loosened its overly strict rules on celebrations and touchdown dances.
This is a development that has Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis feeling quite perturbed.
“I’m not for that at all,” Lewis told ESPN. “We had a good standard, and the whole standard has always been, you want to teach people how to play the game the correct way and go about it the correct way, and that’s not a very good example for young people.”
We’re going to bring “young people” into this? And setting an example? And taking a stand against bad role models?
We’re really going to go there?
Well. OK then. Here goes.
Last month, Lewis and the Bengals drafted Joe Mixon, a man who was captured on video as he punched a woman in the face and knocked her unconscious.
The Bengals currently employ cornerback Adam Jones, who is entering his eighth season with Cincinnati — all under Lewis, who has been the head coach since 2003. Prior to signing with the Bengals, he had been arrested for assault and vandalism, had pleaded guilty to a charge of obstructing justice, had been arrested for disorderly conduct and public intoxication after allegedly spitting on a woman in a club, and had been charged with felony coercion regarding a shooting in a strip club which left a bodyguard paralyzed. After becoming a member of the Bengals, Jones was twice arrested for disorderly conduct, was accused of punching a woman outside of a bar, and just this past January was accused of head-butting a police officer and spitting on a nurse.
Lewis and the Bengals also signed Tank Johnson in 2009. Prior to the Bengals giving Johnson millions of dollars to play football, he had been arrested for carrying a concealed weapon, and then was arrested for aggravated assault and resisting arrest while on probation. That arrest came after he allegedly threatened a police officer by reportedly saying, “You ain’t the only one with a Glock. If it wasn’t for your gun and your badge, I’d kick your ass.”He was also found to have been in violation of his probation when authorities found six guns — some loaded — in his home. Johnson spent time in jail for his offenses.
Lewis and the Bengals also jumped at the opportunity to sign Cedric Benson after the running back had been arrested for boating while intoxicated and driving while intoxicated in two separate incidents. As a member of the Bengals, Benson served jail time for misdemeanor assault. Lewis kept Benson for a full season after that arrest.
Lewis also drafted Chris Henry after the receiver was suspended in college for unsportsmanlike conduct. As a member of the Bengals, he was arrested for carrying a concealed weapon and was charged with assault. He pleaded guilty to the weapon charge. He was arrested three months later for providing alcohol to underage women. Two months after that, he was arrested for DUI. He remained a member of the Bengals for three more years, was arrested again, and he unfortunately died at age 26.
In 2012, Lewis drafted Orson Charles less than two months after he had been arrested for DUI. Two years later, after Charles was arrested for allegedly brandishing a firearm in a case of road rage, the Bengals released Charles.
In 2013, Bengals offensive lineman Andre Smith was arrested for accidentally bringing a handgun to an airport. Lewis said it was “a dumb situation that caused [Smith] an embarrassment for a moment.”
From 2000-2014, the Bengals reportedly had the second-most arrests in the NFL.
And that’s only off-the-field behavior. On the field, Lewis signed Vontaze Burfict after every team passed on him in the draft. Since then, Burfict has been fined several times for repeatedly committing unnecessary roughness penalties. Burfict was named a team captain in 2015.
As a team in the past three years, the Bengals have been in the top five for most unnecessary roughness penalties. That lack of control was never on display more than it was late in Cincinnati’s playoff collapse against Pittsburgh in January 2016, when Burfict was penalized for unnecessary roughness, Wallace Gilberry bumped Steelers assistant coach Joey Porter in an effort to intimidate him, and Jones was flagged for a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct for trying to hit Porter. After the loss, Jones posted an expletive-filled rant online in which he blamed the referees for the incident.
Lewis’ comments after the incident seemed to indicate that while he did believe his players needed to behave better, he still placed blame on Porter for being on the field.
“The message to the players is that they are privileged to play in the National Football League, and we have to win with class,” Lewis said. “We have to control us and not worry about the other team or other circumstances. We’ve had to reinforce that at an unfortunate moment.”
Look, it’s the NFL. Every team has hired some unsavory characters over the years. Every team has taken a flier on a “high-risk” player with a questionable past. But over the past decade-and-a-half, the Bengals have gotten a well-earned reputation of standing out in a league already built on questionable ethics.
The 58-year-old Lewis may be concerned about the message his league sends to children, but perhaps he should first worry about his own impact. Enabling criminals who endanger the lives of other members of society is a much worse offense than performing a brief celebratory dance after scoring a touchdown. Even young people know that.