Reggie White was honored at halftime of Sunday's Packer-Buccaneer game, and most deservedly so, but the ceremony was preceded by some controversy.
Reggie had been quoted as saying that he would have preferred a Monday night audience. While he didn't feel there was anything racial about the Packers' decision, there was still a double standard in the way black and white athletes have been honored after their careers.
Those remarks were greeted with criticism on the editorial page, the airwaves, even in the Packer locker room, and now if you'd permit, a little editorializing from this quarter:
I firmly believe Reggie's heart is in the right place and that he truly wants to help people. I also believe that, at times, he can say the darndest things. Actions, however, speak louder than words and that's why judging Reggie strictly on some of his rhetoric is a mistake.
During his time as a Packer, it was no secret that Reggie did not approve of females in the locker room. Now the league can have all the mandates it wants to, but if a team leader decides to be just a little less than cooperative, to raise just a little fuss, the consequences can be rather profound.
It so happened that my photographer for a good portion of Reggie's Green Bay career, was female. As matter of fact, Kelly was very tall and very blonde – the type who never got lost in the crowd.
Considering his stature on the team, Reggie, with very little effort, could have made doing our job next to impossible. The impact of his leadership was such that he could have established an invisible barrier that other players would be sure to honor.
But he never did. Not a word, not a glance, nothing. In fact, if Kelly's presence did make him uncomfortable, it was Reggie who would leave the locker room, his domain, instead of us.
I work in Green Bay, not New York, and we're going to cover the Packers every day. Could you imagine how difficult that would have been had Reggie decided to make an issue of it? But like I said, he never did, and I still have a mouthful of unspoken than yous to prove it.
There's also lots of players who raise money, but very few donate it as well, at least not to the extent that Reggie White does. He gave a million dollars of his own money to one of the projects he was working on. A MILLION DOLLARS! Talk the talk, walk the walk, you name it, that's doing it.
Think back to some of the big wins at Lambeau Field that Reggie was a part of and the times he'd stay out afterward taking a lap around the stands and interacting with the crowd.
He did the same thing during the Return to Titletown, the celebration after the Packers' victory in Super Bowl XXXI, and that was after hours on a bus in sub-freezing temperatures.
The thousands who had waited all day were hungry for and deserved some acknowledgment from one of the game's stars, and Reggie gave it to them.
It wasn't the size of the venue that motivated Reggie in this regard, either. He appeared on my local television show in Green Bay, in front of a few hundred people at best, and still took the time to mingle, walk through the crowd, and shake as many hands as possible.
Actually, some of Reggie's kindest moments are the kind that are totally out of the limelight. He's helped out former players who've fallen on hard times, even to the point of giving them a place to live – and we're not talking on the other side of town or even down the street. We're talking in Reggie's house with him and his family.
This isn't the first time Reggie's opinions have riled folks up and probably won't be the last, but from a personal point of view, what he says runs a very distant second to what he does.
The football career he was honored for Sunday night, that of course, is second to none. I could list his sack totals, the Pro Bowls, and all the honors, but they're just part of the Reggie White story.