If ABC hoped to generate a little bit more buzz for Monday
Night Football and "Desperate Housewives," its risqué intro to
the Dallas-Philadelphia game sure did the trick.
Two days after the network aired the segment featuring Eagles
star receiver Terrell Owens and actress Nicollette Sheridan,
coaches and players were still talking about it.
Reaction ranged from amusement to anger. Indianapolis Colts
coach Tony Dungy found it racially offensive.
"To me that's the first thing I thought of as an
African-American," Dungy said Wednesday.
"I think it's stereotypical in looking at the players, and on
the heels of the Kobe Bryant incident I think it's very
insensitive. I don't think that they would have had Bill Parcells
or Andy Reid or one of the owners involved in that," he added, a
reference to the coaches in the game.
Bears coach Lovie Smith said he thought the skit was "in bad taste."
"I thought it was in bad taste also," Smith said. "You could
say that it was pretty close to pornographic, so any time that
happens on prime time, something is wrong."
ABC's intro showed Sheridan wearing only a towel and
provocatively asking Owens to skip the game for her as the two
stood alone in a locker room. She drops the towel and jumps into
Owens' arms. Owens is black and Sheridan is white.
"If that's what we have to do to get ratings, I'd rather not
get them," Dungy said. "I realize that ratings pays us in this
league, but if that's what we have to do, I'm willing to take a pay
Eagles owner Jeff Lurie said after the game he had no problem with it.
"I loved it," Lurie told the Bucks County Courier Times outside Philadelphia's locker room at Texas Stadium. "I thought it was great."
But by Tuesday, the Eagles released a statement that read: "After seeing the final piece, we wish it hadn't aired."
There were viewers -- one of them Steelers chairman Dan Rooney -- outraged with the skit. He called it "an out-and-out disgrace."
"We took a lot of heat from the public because of what CBS and MTV did during the Janet Jackson halftime Super Bowl fiasco," Rooney told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. "Now, this was Disney and ABC's Monday Night Football! This is NFL football -- we don't do those things. We did not know it was coming. We had no idea."
Philadelphia quarterback Donovan McNabb wasn't quite as vocal,
saying he didn't find the segment offensive and believed people
were overreacting. (Owens wasn't at practice Wednesday, excused for
what the team said were personal reasons.)
"Some people do different things," McNabb said. "Not saying
that my wife would allow me to do that, but it's just something
that was done, and you move on."
Michael Powell, chairman of the Federal Communications
Commission, had a different view, questioning ABC's judgment in
airing the scene.
"I wonder if Walt Disney would be proud," he said.
ABC is owned by The Walt Disney Co. The FCC will review
complaints and decide whether or not to open an investigation that
could result in a fine against the network.
"It would seem to me that while we get a lot of broadcasting
companies complaining about indecency enforcement, they seem to be
continuing to be willing to keep the issue at the forefront, keep
it hot and steamy in order to get financial gains and the free
advertising it provides," Powell told CNBC.
The segment drew complaints from viewers and the NFL. ABC Sports
apologized for using the introduction to promote its show,
"Desperate Housewives." Dungy's comment, however, was the first
that mentioned race. He also said the segment played off
stereotypes of athletes.
"That athletes are sexual predators and that that stuff is more
important than what's going on on the field. That a guy was more
concerned with that than the game, that's a terrible message to
send," Dungy said. "I'm particularly sensitive to that. It could
have been any player and I would have been outraged, but being an
African-American, it particularly hurt me."
A decade ago Dungy was outspoken about the lack of black coaches
in the NFL. There are currently five, including Dungy and Smith, whose Bears will face Dungy's Colts on Sunday.
But Smith didn't find the skit racially offensive.
"I really can't go that far," he said. "I saw a naked lady
with an athlete, period. Black, white, that doesn't really matter
an awful lot to me."
Dungy said ABC had asked the Colts, who played on Monday night
last week, "to do some things I thought would make our players
look a little bit silly [although] nothing like that."
"We kind of declined," he said.
Some players were also shocked.
"My mouth dropped when I saw that," said Washington tight end
Mike Sellers, who was watching the game with his wife. "I said,
'Did they actually plan this on TV?' "
Owens caught three touchdowns in the Eagles' 49-21 win over Dallas. Afterward, he said, "I don't know how my acting skills were, but I can't play football forever."
Asked if he has ever watched "Desperate Housewives," Owens said, "I will now."
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.