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The James Harrison Inflammatory Index

Getty Images
Getty Images

James Harrison’s Instagram account is a treasure trove of insane workout videos, unpleasant acupuncture selfies, and, as of late, bold denunciations of the NFL’s probe into his alleged PED use. The league’s investigation, which was announced last Friday, is the result of Harrison being connected to last year’s Al Jazeera America report, and it prompted Harrison to post a string of defiant, anti-NFL messages on Sunday night. That culminated in a rather menacing letter to commissioner Roger Goodell:

There are countless things to marvel at here, from Harrison’s pitch-perfect use of caps lock to the bone-chilling font that conjures up an image of him angrily smashing at keys on a typewriter. There’s also the notion that Harrison considers himself to be a nice guy; if that’s the case, how many helmet-to-helmet hits does one need to deliver to become a villain? Most of all, there’s this: Harrison is still a thorn in the NFL’s side. Two months after his 38th birthday, the Steelers All-Pro linebacker continues to wreak havoc in the league office.

Since Harrison’s history is littered with controversial incidents, we got to thinking: Where does this statement rank among them? Hence, our attempt to retrospectively evaluate some of Harrison’s past remarks and actions, on a scale of one to five fire emoji. Ladies and gentlemen, ballers and ballerinas, welcome to The James Harrison Inflammatory Index.

Mr. Harrison Doesn’t Go to Washington, Pt. 1

Incident: After the Steelers defeated the Seahawks in the dubiously officiated Super Bowl XL, Harrison opted not to accompany the team on its celebratory trip to the White House, seemingly due to his disdain for President George W. Bush.

Rating: Four out of five fire emoji. Harrison was only a backup in the 2005–06 season, so this didn’t cause much of a stir. (Fellow linebacker Joey Porter received significantly more attention for wearing sunglasses to the ceremony.) Still, kudos to him for bucking tradition.

Mr. Harrison Doesn’t Go to Washington, Pt. 2

Incident: After inspiring a Saturday Night Live skit with one of the greatest defensive plays in Super Bowl history, Harrison declined to visit the White House again, this time with President Barack Obama in office.

Rating: One out of five fire emoji. This was a much bigger deal because Harrison was coming off a season in which he earned Defensive Player of the Year honors, making it a letdown when he revealed why he didn’t want to visit the president — he simply didn’t feel like going. “I don’t feel like it’s that big a deal to me,” Harrison told a Pittsburgh radio station.

The Daylong Retirement

Incident: After incurring a $75,000 fine for nearly decapitating Browns wideout Mohamed Massaquoi in 2010, Harrison protested the NFL’s ruling by skipping a practice to contemplate retirement. “We wouldn’t joke about this,” his agent told ESPN’s Adam Schefter. “If James is going to be fined $75,000 for making a legal tackle, then how do you go play football?”

Rating: Two out of five fire emoji. While creative, Harrison returned to practice the next day and ultimately paid his fine (after the NFL reduced it from $75,000 to $50,000).

Harrison Puts Everyone on Blast in ‘Men’s Journal’

Incident: In a 2011 Men’s Journal profile of Harrison, the linebacker put the commish on notice: “Up until last year, there was no word of me being dirty — till Roger Goodell, who’s a crook and a puppet, said I was the dirtiest player in the league. If that man was on fire and I had to piss to put him out, I wouldn’t do it. I hate him and will never respect him.” Harrison also called tailback Rashard Mendenhall a “fumble machine” in the piece and criticized Ben Roethlisberger for throwing two interceptions in the Steelers’ Super Bowl loss to the Packers.

Rating: Five out of five fire emoji. I mean, look at that Goodell quote. That deserves to be printed out and framed and displayed prominently, so future generations can know what Deebo was all about. For real, though: When someone is fining you relentlessly, it’s fair to exercise your right to incredibly mean speech. Also, Roethlisberger and Mendenhall’s turnovers did cost the Steelers Super Bowl XLV.

Harrison Takes a Stand Against Participation Trophies

Incident: Last August, Harrison took a break from Instagramming workout videos to post a lengthy critique of participation trophies:

Rating: 1.5 out of five fire emoji. This is when Harrison went from being an entertaining rabble-rouser to a full-on hot-take artist. The take was very Old Man Yells at Cloud-y (freaking millennials!), but at least it gave us the legendary #harrisonfamilyvalues hashtag.

Harrison Displays Disemboweled Barney on Son’s Birthday Cake

Incident: For his son’s eighth birthday, Harrison got a cake featuring a bloodthirsty dinosaur tearing Barney to shreds. Naturally, he shared it on Instagram:

Rating: Five out of five fire emoji. Barney deserves to be treated like an opposing quarterback, and in the Harrison household, that means ripping Barney’s guts out.

Harrison’s Instagram Note to Goodell

Incident: In case you suffer from short-term memory loss, here it is again, in all of its glory.

Rating: Infinity fire emoji. Who cares if Harrison is totally on PEDs? (Just look at him.) My only wish is that he had taken a page out of Martin Luther’s playbook and nailed this note to the door of the NFL’s Park Avenue headquarters.