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Tiki Barber stirs up controversy with ‘Anne Frank’ remark

New York Giants runningback Tiki Barber attends a news conference following his final NFL football game in Philadelphia, in this January 7, 2007 file photo. The all-time leading rusher, took the first step towards returning to the NFL on Tuesday and ending a four-year retirement. Barber filed paperwork with the league to remove him from the reserve-retirement list, according to a report on Sports Illustrated magazine’s website, clearing the way for a return. REUTERS/Ray Stubblebine/Files (UNITED STATES – Tags: HEADSHOT SPORT FOOTBALL)

Tiki Barber clearly has fallen on some rough times. It’s because of his own actions that he’s fallen on those rough times, but I digress.

Now, he would like to play football again and he’s trying to repair an image tarnished when he decided to leave his pregnant wife to be with his 23-year-old girlfriend. The problem is that he can’t stop putting his foot in his mouth long enough to repair said image.

While recently trying to explain the media scrutiny that he’s received since leaving his wife (did we mention she was pregnant at the time?), Barber told L. Jon Wertheim of Sports Illustrated that he moved into the attic of his agent, Mark Lepselter, to escape the prying eyes of the public. Doug Farrar of Yahoo! Sports breaks down the comment that has landed Tiki in some hot water.

“Lep’s Jewish,” Barber allegedly said, “and it was like a reverse Anne Frank thing.”

Um, yeah. A millionaire pro football player comparing himself to a teenage Jewish Holocaust victim is going to go over about as well as Adrian Peterson’s recent “modern-day slavery” comment, but at least Peterson had a bit of context with which to defend himself. Barber’s comment was thoughtless at best and asinine at worst. It’s certainly the wrong step to take as Barber tries to rehab his image in the wake of professional and personal failures, and as he tried to convince people that he’s got a legitimate future in the NFL as a comeback story.

“Holocaust trivialization continues to spread and finds new ways and expressions that shock the conscience,” Abraham Foxman of the Anti-Defamation League said. “Tiki Barber’s personal behavior is his business. But our history and experiences are ours and deserve greater respect than being abused or perverted by Tiki Barber.

“The analogy to Anne Frank is not funny, it is outrageous and perverse. Anne Frank was not hiding voluntarily. Before she perished at age 15 in the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp, she hid from the Nazis for more than two years, fearing every day for her life. The Frank family’s experiences, as recorded in Anne’s dairy, are a unique testimonial to the horrors of the Holocaust, and her life should never be debased or degraded by insensitive and offensive analogies.”

I thought Farrar summed up the situation perfectly in his closing paragraph:

…I don’t believe it’s anyone’s contention that Barber was actually trying to compare his situation to Anne Frank’s. But if there’s one thing people need to learn when they’re in the public eye, it’s that the life of a celebrity doesn’t have an “off” switch. If you want your words in the public record, you have to watch what you say at all times. Especially when, like Barber, your history makes you a less than sympathetic character.

What he said.

I’m sure in his down time Barber found a little irony in the situation and thought it was funny. But it’s not funny and as Farrar pointed out, in a day and age when you have to watch everything you say, it’s just not wise for a millionaire athlete to be drawing any similarities between himself and Anne Frank. He probably meant no harm by the comment but this is the problem with Barber – he just doesn’t think. It’s one of the many reasons why he’s in the mess that he’s in.

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Aqib Talib officially indicted on felony charges

Tampa Bay Buccaneers corner back Aqib Talib (R) runs after intercepting a pass meant for Washington Redskins Santana Moss (89) during 4th quarter of their NFL football game in Landover, Maryland October 4, 2009. REUTERS/Andrew Cameron (UNITED STATES SPORT FOOTBALL)

Buccaneers cornerback Aqib Talib was officially indicted Friday morning on felony charges of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon.

From Rotoworld.com:

The next step is to schedule hearings then a trial, where Talib could face 2-20 years in prison if convicted of firing multiple shots at his sister’s boyfriend. If he’s found not guilty, it’s not hard to imagine coach Raheem Morris going to bat for him in the Bucs front office. Considering his history, Talib will face NFL discipline regardless of the outcome.

The key here is that an indictment doesn’t mean Talib is guilty of any crime. It just means that there has been an official charge made and now both sides will build a case.

As I wrote yesterday, the league can’t punish players during the lockout but Roger Goodell is still keeping tabs on legal situations like Talib’s. The cornerback obviously has a much bigger issue on his plate than what kind of punishment Goodell is going to dole out, but it’s worth noting that he’ll probably be disciplined once his trial wraps up.

It’ll be interesting to see if he’ll serve much – if any – jail time. Usually when there’s a time frame of X amount of months/years an athlete is facing in prison (which is 2-20 years in Talib’s case), they usually wind up spending anywhere from zero to about half a second behind bars. Assuming he’s guilty of breaking the law, I doubt Talib’s situation will be any different but I could be wrong.

More trouble for the Ohio State football program

Ohio State head coach Jim Tressel claps after a play during their NCAA football game against Indiana in Columbus, Ohio, October 9, 2010. REUTERS/Matt Sullivan (UNITED STATES – Tags: SPORT FOOTBALL)

Former Ohio State receiver Ray Small says that he sold rings for cash during his playing days as a Buckeye from 2006 to 2010 and also accepted car discounts during that time as well. Not only that, but Small also confirmed that other players accepted similar deals.

In an article on Friday, Doug Lesmerises of the Cleveland Plain Dealer discussed how Small’s admissions could be a big problem for Jim Tressel and the OSU football program.

Where Small’s words matter most is in the scope of the potential violations. When Ohio State announced the player violations and suspensions in December, OSU Athletic Director Gene Smith said: “We’re very fortunate we don’t have a systemic problem. It’s isolated to these young men in this particular instance.”

Bigger problems became known in March, when it was announced that Tressel had committed major NCAA violations by not revealing his previous knowledge about his players’ actions. The cases of the players have been closed, but more players selling merchandise than initially reported could create more serious violations for Ohio State and Tressel. Most troubling for Ohio State is Small’s claim that “everybody was doing it,” and those words in particular set off a firestorm of anger from former Buckeyes who resented and refuted any notion that accepting extra benefits was typical.

“What he said may have been true for him,” said former OSU cornerback Malcolm Jenkins, who played with Small, “but making it seem like it was a culture at Ohio State, that wasn’t the case. This wasn’t the norm.”

Brooks Melchior of SPORTSbyBROOKS.com has a very extensive look at how Small’s confession confirms that Gene Smith had lied to the media about Ohio State’s growing problem. You can read the piece here.

One of the many questions I have is what are Small’s motives for coming forth with this news? Does he want to help blow the lid off the story? Is he seeking attention? Is he sore at Tressel or Ohio State because of how his tenure played out as a Buckeye? Why come out unless you have a reason for doing so? And to the school paper no less.

Of course the bigger question is, and Doug Lesmerises touched on it in his article, is whether or not Ohio State has a major issue on its hands or if these are just several isolated incidents coming to surface. No matter how you slice it, none of this looks good on the program. But it’ll make a difference if the university can isolate the issue the best it can. If it can’t and the problem is widespread, then obviously OSU is in it deep.

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