Criticism of MNF skit continues to smolder

Updated: November 20, 2004, 11:05 AM ET
ESPN.com news services

Negative reaction to the risque MNF skit featuring Philadelphia Eagles star Terrell Owens and actress Nicollette Sheridan continues to pour in from NFL leaders, including New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick's comment that the NFL needs to avoid turning in to the XFL.

Terrell Owens
Owens

"I am in 1,000 percent agreement with Tony Dungy," Belichick told the media Thursday, according to a Boston Herald report. "That's 1,000 percent."

Belichick didn't address Dungy's assertion that the locker room skit with the actress from "Desperate Housewives" had racially offensive overtones, but he did wholeheartedly back the Colts coach's stand that integrity is more important than ratings.

"If preserving the integrity of the game and presenting it in the right way involves getting lower ratings, then that's what we're going to have to accept," Belichick told reporters. "If that's what we have to do to, if that's the deal, then that's the deal. This can't become the XFL."

The coach's remarks echoed what Dungy said Wednesday, "I realize that ratings pay us in this league, but if that's what we have to do, I'm willing to take a pay cut."

On Friday, The New York Times published an op-ed piece ("Out of Bounds") by Dan Rooney in which the Pittsburgh Steelers owner called the skit "disgraceful" and lambasted ABC for its "miserable" judgment in airing it.

Rooney and Denver Broncos owner Pat Bowlen concurred that the racy intro had no place in a football broadcast.

"The opening was out of place and should not have been part of the broadcast," Rooney wrote. "I thought it was disgraceful."

"Worst was that it used one of our players in uniform in the locker room -- who claimed that 'the team's going to have to win without me.' That is not NFL football," continued Rooney, whose family has owned the Steelers since 1933.

Bowlen, longtime chairman of the NFL's broadcasting committee, told the Rocky Mountain News the intro "has no real place in the ABC Monday Night Football broadcast" and repeatedly used words such as "dumb" and "stupid."

"A lot of people were offended for different reasons," he told the newspaper. "I was offended because it was really dumb to have that kind of an intro into a Monday night, prime-time broadcast.

Patriots safety Rodney Harrison told reporters that he didn't think the skit was racist when he saw it but that he did think it was tasteless and that TO's antics "take away from what [Owens] does as a football player."

"[W]hen you see probably the most recognizable player in the National Football League doing something like that, what message are you [sending]?" Harrison said.

ABC and Owens apologized for the segment this week, and the Eagles said they wished the piece hadn't aired.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

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