Cris Carter takes heat for speech to rookies

Cris Carter’s speech to the 2014 rookie class has him apologizing and taking on criticism.

Former Vikings and Hall of Famer receiver Cris Carter is in the doghouse with both his employer (ESPN) and his former employer (NFL), as archived footage from the league’s website not only showed Carter at the annual Rookie Symposium telling players that if they have a crew of hangers-on, one should be designated as “the fall guy.” In in his example of polling a player, he pulled Vikings quarterback Teddy Bridgewater to the stage to be embarrassed.

The video was in the NFL.com archives and, apparently at the time, nobody made the connection as to how offensive the candid chatter between Carter and the rookie Class of 2014. Carter was initially made famous by being cut by Buddy Ryan for being a party hound who brought a lot of his young teammates with him –

What brought the situation to light was an ESPN interview with Chris Borland, the rookie linebacker for the 49ers who abruptly retired at the end of last season, citing concussion concerns and being disillusioned by life in the NFL. One of the things he cited that turned him off early was the Rookie Symposium, where he said two prominent players (Carter and Warren Sapp) told rookies they should have an insider to take the fall in the event of legal problems that could be serious.

The video was taken off NFL.com Sunday, but it’s still out there. It’s not difficult to find.

Perhaps the most galling to the NFL is that Carter was wearing his Hall of Fame jacket as he made his “fall guy” remarks and, to prove his point, he became something akin to a motivational speaker preaching to the youngsters and called Bridgewater up on the stage.

Carter asserted to the rest of the rookies that each of them is a corporation, calling Bridgewater “Teddy Bridgewater Inc.” He made it clear that a posse of high school and college friends will be looking to get financed by money that Bridgewater earned.

On the video, Bridgewater seems immediately uncomfortable – hands in pockets and not maintaining eye contact with Carter for long stretches. But Carter starts to preach and makes it crystal clear that, if you’re paying your old-school friends’ bills, they had better remain loyal – even if it means taking the legal heat for something the player did.

“I let my homeboys know, if you want to keep rolling like this, I need to know who’s going to be the fall guy, who’s going to be driving, because you all aren’t going to be doing the right stuff,” Carter said. “I’ve got to teach you how to get around all this stuff, too. If you’re going to have a crew, one of those fools has got to know he’s going to jail. We’ll get him out.”

Carter then incorporated Bridgewater as his test case for explaining what he was talking about. Because Bridgewater grew up in Miami – a part of the country known for both producing elite athletes and where gun deaths in Dade County are commonplace – Carter invoked Bridgewater’s hometown to incorporate him into the conspiracy theory

“You from Miami,” Carter told Bridgewater. “You all take care of each other. Don’t you got a guy that would take care of you and that would be a good deal?”

Bridgewater sheepishly smiled and nodded his headed, quietly saying “yes” – although he seemed more uncomfortable than anything else by being dragged up into the sea of inappropriateness that was taking place on stage with a couple of Hall of Famers looking to stand and deliver an old-school speech.

“Seeing that video has made me realize how wrong I was,” Carter wrote on his Twitter page Sunday. “I was brought there to educate young people and instead I gave them very bad advice. Every person should take responsibility for his own actions. I’m sorry and I truly regret what I said that day.”

For a lot of players in that room that day in 2014, it was cause for pause. In many ways, Carter and Sapp were giving a Scared Straight speech. Both had their issues but became Hall of Famers.

Both the NFL and ESPN have distanced themselves from Carter’s remarks. As Sapp told the players, you ask questions to Google, you get the answers from him and Carter.

In the age of political correctness, what C.C. said was far from politically correct. It was reality TV at its essence.


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