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Monday, July 15, 2019

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

Running with bulls constitutes a bad look for Josh Norman

If you’re a Washington fan — or one of the team’s executives, coaches, or players — you can’t be thrilled after viewing a recent video clip from Pamplona, Spain.


There was starting cornerback Norman, whose $14.5 million salary cap number is the team’s third highest, engaging in behavior that’s downright dangerous and arguably reckless. “I had to face the bull straight on,” Norman said on Instagram. “It was fun. It was worth it.”

Running with the bulls seems hazardous enough by itself; hurdling the bulls seems like a borderline death wish.

In case you missed it, Norman was at the famed San Fermin annual festival that draws hundreds of thousands of international visitors. They run through the city streets, with fighting bulls alongside or behind them, for what surely must be a massive adrenaline rush.

Norman was recorded leaping over one of the animals in a bullring.

Not once, but twice.

In the first jump, Norman approaches head-on and barely clears the horns as the bull tries to gore him. The second jump appears less perilous, with Norman approaching from the side and vaulting a bull’s back.

Other participants were less fortunate. A San Francisco public defender, Jaime Alvarez, was gored in the neck as he filmed a video selfie after completing the 875-meter course through the city to the bullring.

“The joy and excitement of being in the bullring quickly turned into a scare, into real fear for my life,” Alvarez told the Associated Press after undergoing 21/2 hours of surgery. “In the course of a few seconds, a million thoughts came to my mind, and that of dying was definitely one of them.”

(Not to wish death on anyone, but is it wrong to root for the bulls during these events? Is it cruel to laugh at pictures of a runner being gored, like the hapless Ole Miss student who a few years ago was hooked in — among other body parts — his sphincter? Is it OK to oppose torturing and killing bulls for entertainment purposes, while agreeing wholeheartedly that injured participants get what they deserve?)

I understand that thrill-seekers are wired differently than the rest of us. I also understand that “danger” is a relative concept with a multiplicity of degrees. A team can’t expect its players to go through life in bubble-wrapped safety boxes during their free time, but requesting a modicum of discretion isn’t unreasonable.

The standard NBA contract prohibits players from engaging “in any activity that a reasonable person would recognize as involving or exposing the participant to a substantial risk of bodily injury.” The pastimes, which include sky diving, hang gliding, mountain climbing and motorcycle riding, were updated in the last collective bargaining agreement with additions such as hoverboards, trampolines, and jet skis.

The NFL uniform player contract is much less explicit, disallowing nothing specifically but “any activity other than football which may involve a significant risk of personal injury.”

Most reasonable people would include, say, racing on motor vehicles and bungee jumping, which that are mentioned in NBA contracts. Presumably, most everyone also would agree that running with bulls — or jumping over them — should be prohibited, too.

But if anyone in Ashburn has a problem with Norman’s offseason to-do list, they have kept it to themselves.

Contrast that silence with the reaction from Kansas City Chiefs general manager Brett Veach in February when he saw video of MVP Patrick Mahomes playing pickup basketball. “As soon as I saw it, it probably took me about two seconds to call his agent and tell him that was a big no-no,” Veach said in a radio interview. “The kingdom can rest assure that we have that under control; no more basketball for Pat.”

Except upholding that ban could prove challenging. San Francisco cornerback Richard Sherman, a vice president of the NFL Players’ Association executive committee, said Mahomes has a right to partake in pickup basketball. “If they don’t want him hooping then put it in the contract,” Sherman tweeted. “It’s not there so he can do as he pleases. Most players do.”

I wonder how many also test themselves against 1,500-pound animals.

According to San Fermin’s organizers, 95 % of the runners come out “victorious and unharmed.” The festival’s website further states that “1 in every 800 receives blows and serious traumatisms — particularly to the head — involving transfer to hospital; 1 in every 2,500 runners is gored and 1 in every 100,000 dies.”

So, perhaps the danger Norman faced wasn’t as bad as it seemed.

But it made for a bad look, nonetheless, a look that NFL teams shouldn’t want to see repeated.

Deron Snyder writes his award-winning column for The Washington Times on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Follow him on Twitter @DeronSnyder.


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