NFL: Allegations thrust Rams Steven Jackson into TMZ-induced celebrity obsession
By Bryan Burwell
St. Louis Post-Dispatch
ST. LOUIS — On most occasions, this is a fabulous job. You spend most of your days and nights covering the games people play. You chronicle the victories and the defeats, you record the successes and failures of athletes engaged in the pursuit of human achievement. Sports is supposed to be the fun house, and for the most part, it usually is. But far too often, it’s just not fun anymore.
The happily ever afters keep dwindling, and the unsettling bad dreams keep rising like swelling flood waters. It’s too much shame and scandal, it’s too many stories that begin with bad news then rapidly descend into an even worse, gawdawful mess.
I wish I could tell you that I’ve grown numb to it, but I haven’t.
Thursday was another one of those heartbreaking days that just makes you sick and tired of being sick and tired.
Welcome to the latest episode in the cloudy TMZ-infested celebrity cesspool that has once again crept into the sports world. Steven Jackson, it’s your turn inside the not-so-fun spin cycle.
But before we allow the “He said, she said” brush fire to spread out of control and turn Jackson into a guilty man or his ex-girlfriend into a money-grubbing harlot without a single shred of credible evidence, can we please slow down?
Right now, here’s the only truth that we have:
This is an awful and disturbing story that won’t end well for anyone concerned.
Jackson, the Rams star running back, is caught in the middle of a bad and unfortunate story, being forced to defend himself against the most heinous allegations: His former girlfriend claims the 6-foot-2, 235-pound running back physically abused her while she was nine months pregnant with their child. If this is the ugly and disgusting truth, then Jackson has done something despicable and beyond explanation.
But what if it’s a lie?
If it is a fabrication, then his former girlfriend, Supriya Harris, would be guilty of something equally despicable and beyond explanation. What kind of mother would lower herself to use her famous ex’s reputation as a bargaining chip and their infant son as the means to extract a bigger, better paycheck for child support from this millionaire athlete?
Right now, we have no way of knowing who’s telling the truth. But sadly, the truth isn’t a necessary commodity in scandals like this. Regardless of his ultimate innocence or guilt, Jackson’s image as a high-profile pro athlete — the Pro Bowler who has starred in Nike commercials and is the most recognizable face of this struggling Rams franchise — is about to take a serious beating. The brush fire has already started burning, and it won’t take long before it rages out of control. Less than 24 hours after she submitted a voluntary statement to the police accusing Jackson of assault, Harris’s story and photographs of the wound Jackson allegedly caused popped up on TMZ, the dot-com site that feasts on scandal and salacious tell-alls.
And just like that, this story predictably descended right into the gutter. Internet message boards were hurling insults at Jackson and Harris, too many folks were taking strident positions armed without a single clue. By the time Jackson responsed to the allegations Thursday afternoon, things were already out of hand. “It’s disheartening that I have to address any alleged allegations 10 months later,” Jackson wrote, “but ... they are untrue. The accusations are especially hurtful because those who truly know me know that those actions would be out of character for me. Miss Harris is the mother of my son, a son that I love and that I willingly support emotionally and financially. I will address this matter thoroughly through the appropriate avenues, but not through the media.”
He may not want to address it through the media, but now Jackson is sure to be singed by the heat of the latest TMZ-induced blaze.
Now remind me once again, that Tiger Woods fellow, what exactly did he do?
So this is how it goes.
And by the way, just in case anyone out there tries to reach the wild conclusion that there are parallels to be drawn between how this Jackson story will play out in the media and how the Mark McGwire mess already has been handled let’s say one thing:
Let me state this loud and clear. There’s only one flimsy connection between McGwire’s mess and the Jackson scandal: SJ39’s troubles take the public’s eye off Big Mac and cast the unforgiving public glare on the Rams star. For that, McGwire needs to send out a big “Thank You” to Jackson.
Other than that, there should be little connection or comparison. One guy is an admitted drug cheat who is trying to rehabilitate his image and restart his baseball life with an awkward series of alibis and half-truths that no one with half a brain is buying.
The other guy is a man who has been accused of an awful criminal act but deserves the presumption of innocence until he has his day in court because all we have against him is the word of a woman who accuses Jackson nearly 11 months after the fact with domestic violence.
Anyone who can’t see the difference between the two situations is just looking for something to grumble about.
Now back to reality. Jackson has the right to fight these accusations vigorously through the judicial process. Just because she accused him of beating her up doesn’t mean it happened. It wouldn’t be the first time an angry ex-girlfriend was upset that getting pregnant by a wealthy celebrity athlete didn’t automatically lead to matrimony or a staggering payday for child support.
Yet just because she waited so long to report the alleged incident, it doesn’t automatically mean her accusations of assault weren’t true, either.
Unfortunately, I suspect we are just beginning to discover the sordid details of Jackson saga, and they do seem to be a lot closer to the dilemma facing Tiger Woods’ untidy personal life than demons that McGwire faces in his uncomfortable public life.
The more I think about it, perhaps there is one other common thread between the sad stories of all three of these athletic stars.
Good luck finding a happily ever after.