Our nation has stooped to a new low. We have apparently decided that the image we want to show the world is that of the New York Jets. President-elect Donald Trump announced that Jets owner Woody Johnson will be the new ambassador to the United Kingdom, thus entrusting the handling of our most important international relationship to the man in charge of football’s second-saddest franchise. (Shout-out to the Browns.)
Trump’s insistence that every important government post should be given to either a rich person, a famous person, or a rich famous person is troubling, but honestly, Johnson’s appointment really isn’t an egregious example. Ambassadorships are largely ceremonial, and they typically go to people who donate a lot of money to presidential campaigns. President Obama also handed an ambassadorship to an NFL owner, making Pittsburgh Steelers owner Dan Rooney the ambassador to Ireland. Rooney was an Obama donor; Johnson has been a critical fundraiser for virtually every Republican candidate in recent memory, first John McCain, then Mitt Romney, then Jeb Bush. When Johnson was still Bush’s finance chairman, Trump took a jab at Johnson, saying the Jets would have made the playoffs if Johnson had been a Trump supporter. Johnson began raising funds for Trump in May, and, while the prediction about the Jets didn’t exactly turn out to be true, it did mean that Johnson had finally backed a winner. It’s his turn to get a cushy gig.
That said, Rooney’s appointment kinda made sense — he’s the benefactor of a prize for young Irish authors and founded a philanthropic organization called The Ireland Funds. Johnson’s greatest connection to Britain is that he once invested in an illegal scheme that created shell corporations on the Isle of Man to shield him from having to pay taxes. His team literally wouldn’t even wipe their asses with British products, instead opting to ship 350 rolls of toilet paper overseas when they played in London to avoid having to deal with the distraction of anything being different. On top of that, since America’s relationship with Britain is Special, the ambassadorship to the U.K. is considered to be one of the more distinguished posts.
It’s hard to be unqualified for an ambassadorship, but Johnson comes close. If he takes the task to be merely a ceremonial one — shaking hands, taking pictures, perhaps even attending NFL games in London — he might be good at it. But his task as Jets owner should be ceremonial too, and he’s always liked to meddle with decisions that should be made by people who actually treat football as their life’s work. Remember, this is the guy who demanded his GM trade Darrelle Revis, got fined for tampering with Darrelle Revis after he publicly said he wanted him back when he was still on the Patriots, then felt “betrayed” when Revis turned out to no longer be good at football.
As a Jets fan, I am pleased that his ambassadorship means he will no longer be involved in day-to-day operations of the franchise. As an American, I worry that he’ll treat that job the same way he’s treated the Jets.