As blogs become more and more mainstream, comment sections have been invaded by some higher-profile participants. (See: Wilfork, Bianca.) But Ex-Viking Robert Smith has taken his beef with PFT's Mike Florio even further.
Last night, Deadspin received this email from one Robert Smith. No, not the lead singer of The Cure (which would have been awesome), but former Minnesota Viking Robert Smith:
I've been trying to post comments on some of Florio's stories and he is censoring out my posts ( as well as others I'm sure ). I have a problem with the way he has been presenting information in the NFLPA saga with Troy Vincent and it's clear that Mike is in Troy's pocket. It bothers me that someone who claims to have an "open forum" for these discussions is going out of his way to keep what he perceives as negative comments off of his website. Obviously, the blogs are not regulated like the regular media, but it's frustrating and disappointing that someone like Mike, who has so much respect in the industry, is manipulating information. I don't know what can be done about it, but I thought that a site like yours would be a good place to start to expose frauds in your industry.
Now, we have a very collegial relationship with the Italian fella and like and respect the work he does over at PFT, regardless of what one bearded idiot at WIP seems to think. So I forwarded the email over to Florio to get his thoughts on it and he said that he and Smith have had conversations about his complaints in the past and that Smith's accusations of him purposely deleting Smith's comments are a "crock of shit." But here's Florio's formal response to Deadspin:
I have always admired Robert Smith as a player and as a person, and I'm flattered by (though I'm not sure I agree with) his statement that I am respected in the industry. Robert has contacted me in the past when he has had questions or concerns about things posted on my site, and I am disappointed and confused by the fact that he chose not to raise his current complaint with me directly before instigating an effort with Deadspin and possibly others to expose me as a "fraud."
As to Robert's contention that I'm "in Troy's pocket," let me be clear on this (and I'm wagging my finger, Bill Clinton style, as I articulate it). I don't know Troy Vincent. I've never spoken to him, never heard from him, and never been contacted by him or by any intermediaries who support his candidacy for Executive Director of the NFLPA.
Frankly, I don't care whether Vincent or Trace Armstrong or someone else gets the job. (However, I do believe that DeMaurice Smith is grossly unqualified to be a finalist, and I've articulated that view on the web site.)
As to Robert's allegations regarding the deletion of comments, I reserve the right to do so whenever and however I see fit. I assume that any other web site that incorporates reader comments, from the smallest to the largest, applies the same approach. There is no real rhyme or reason to the process, other than looking for grossly offensive words or phrases. I routinely allow comments critical of me, especially when they are funny.
In this specific case, I believe Robert is referring to a couple of comments that included a link to the recent New York Post item attacking Vincent. I deleted those comments because I intended to write (and I did write) a separate item focusing on the New York Post article in question.
In my estimation, the most eye-opening revelation here is that Smith and possibly others with ties to current union leadership are using the comments section of ProFootballTalk.com as a vehicle for posting in anonymous fashion their opinions and beliefs regarding the process. I have since invited Robert to write an article to be published at PFT — not anonymously but with his name attached to it — addressing any issues that are on his mind regarding the current state of the NFLPA.
He has declined to do so.
The search for the next NFLPA executive to replace Gene Upshaw is turning into a very contentious one, especially since there appears to be a very strong Anti-Vincent movement amongst some of the current NFL player reps. But could Smith's email be an attempt at a Vincent smear campaign which Florio hinted at in a January post? The way this is headed, it almost seems like we could expect to see a Hoffa-like angry mob descend upon Hawaii this March where the Board of Player Reps meeting will formally select the new leader.
UPDATE: Robert Smith responds to Florio's comments:
First of all I want to apologize to Mike, because I forgot that we had corresponded previously on other union issues and I should have gone to him directly instead of trying to post a comment questioning his fairness in his presentation of the information in this story. As I said earlier to Mike, I trust the process and the players involved to do what is right for the NFLPA. I know Executive committee members like Tony Richardson, Brian Dawkins, Mike Vrabel and union president Kevin Mawae personally and have a great deal of respect for them, both as players and as members of the board of representatives of the NFLPA.
Mike has questioned the motives of people like NFLPA employee Mary Moran and her father Representative Jim Moran. These individuals were not looking for information to get Troy out of the running for the Executive Director position, they were simply trying to find out why members of congress wrote a letter questioning the fairness of a process that is ultimately run by the players themselves, not the union heads. Any organization would have wanted that information, it seems that people were upset because of where that information pointed ( Troy Vincent ). Troy has been given extra time in this process to explain this and other negative information and I feel he deserved that extra time because he served with the union so recently and his knowledge of all the issues still made him a strong candidate.
The information that has come forward about some of his business dealings as mentioned in the New York Post article earlier this week have made it clear that troy has some issues that seem to harm his strength as a candidate, but that is not for me, Mike Florio or any one else to decide. We should let the players use the information they have to make the the best possible decision.