Rex Ryan has said a lot of things since taking over as Jets coach, many of which elicited howls from a football world used to a more circumspect public persona from their coaches.
Personal opinions will vary, but it has been hard to get too torn up about Ryan choosing to treat the game of football as something less sacred than the funeral that his peers seem to think that it is. His other headline grabbers -- giving the finger to Miami fans at a UFC event and the foot fetish videos -- have generated plenty of attention, but again, it's hard to feel like Ryan crossed any kind of a line.
That changed on Wednesday, though. Ryan was speaking with reporters on Wednesday when he was asked about Cowboys fans coming to the game on Sunday night.
"I don’t know why they’d be here. They’re coming into our stadium, it’s probably not recommended that you wear Cowboys stuff, I would think."
There's absolutely no reason to think that Ryan is calling for anything violent or untoward to happen to people wearing Cowboys gear. That said, he isn't really making it sound like he would be too upset if something did happen along those lines and that is a terrible message to send.
It is a terrible message to send in a year that's seen a San Francisco Giants fan beaten into a coma at a Dodgers game as well as shooting between Raiders and 49ers fans at a preseason game. It's a terrible message to send to a fan base that has historically had a hard time behaving itself at the stadium, especially when they are playing night games that allow them extra time to fuel up with alcohol.
And it is particularly terrible to send the message in advance of a game being played on the 10th anniversary of 9/11. The NFL and the Jets might be going a bit overboard in their attempt to tie themselves into the national remembrance of the day, but if they are going to go that route they should, at the very least, insist that the spirit be carried out throughout the event.
That means making it abundantly clear that there are far more important things in life than what football team you root for and whether or not you choose to advertise that fact on your t-shirt or hat. It's disturbing that the NFL and the Jets are going to ask a national television audience to embrace the memory of what happened on 9/11 and then turn around thirty seconds later and tell you it is okay to spit on the guy a few rows in front of you because he roots for the Cowboys.
Ryan had no malicious intent, but he still should have been more measured in his words. The NFL and the Jets should tell him so in no uncertain terms.