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FTR #304 Illegal Procedure: Organized Crime in the NFL

MP3 Side 1 [1] | Side 2 [2]
RealAu­dio [3]

[4]This pro­gram is part of a series about “the pol­i­tics of illu­sion.” The real­i­ty of the Nation­al Foot­ball League (like the real­i­ty of film pio­neer Walt Dis­ney) con­trasts sharply with the care­ful­ly con­struct­ed, rig­or­ous­ly mar­ket­ed illu­sion with which it is iden­ti­fied in the minds of the Amer­i­can peo­ple.

1. In the book Inter­fer­ence: How Orga­nized Crime Influ­ences Pro­fes­sion­al Foot­ball [5], author Dan Mold­ea [6] illus­trates the con­trast between the Hol­ly­wood leg­end of foot­ball and the real­i­ty of the game by ana­lyz­ing Ronald Rea­gan’s role as Notre Dame star George Gipp in the movie Knute Rockne: All Amer­i­can [7]. This role pro­vid­ed Rea­gan with his polit­i­cal per­sona of “the Gipp­per.” (This was Gip­p’s nick­name and is the cen­ter­piece of an ongo­ing myth about the play­er and Rockne, a cel­e­brat­ed foot­ball coach at Notre Dame, played by actor Pat O’Brien in the movie.)

2. Gipp, dying of pneu­mo­nia, sup­pos­ed­ly gave Rockne a deathbed request. “His [Gip­p’s] pur­port­ed deathbed request to Rockne, ‘Win just one for the Gip­per,’ was used dur­ing a lock­er room pep talk and helped to inspire Rock­ne’s 1928 team in its upset vic­to­ry against Army. And, as the Gip­per incar­nate, Rea­gan used the line to inspire vot­ers to elect him to the Cal­i­for­nia gov­er­nor’s man­sion and lat­er the White House. To those who saw the movie and lis­tened to Rea­gan utter those now-famous words, Gipp epit­o­mized the virtues of good char­ac­ter, sports­man­ship, and ‘the right way of liv­ing.’

3. “His­to­ry, how­ev­er, now shows that Gipp, a man of tru­ly ques­tion­able moral val­ues, prob­a­bly nev­er made any such request on or off his deathbed; that Rockne, who was known for grasp­ing at any­thing to incite his play­ers, had fab­ri­cat­ed the inci­dent and that Rea­gan’s movie fur­ther embell­ished the Gipp/Rockne cha­rade. . . . Regard­less of the facts, the Amer­i­can pub­lic con­tin­ues to believe the leg­end of George Gip­p’s deathbed request to Knute Rockne.

4. “The dif­fi­cul­ties in debunk­ing the myth about one col­lege coach and one of his play­ers is an indi­ca­tion of the prob­lems in dis­pelling the leg­ends about an entire insti­tu­tion, par­tic­u­lar­ly one as pop­u­lar as foot­ball. Pow­er­ful forces in Amer­i­ca have built empires around these myths; and the preser­va­tion of these empires and the per­son­al wealth of those who own them depend upon the main­te­nance of the leg­ends.

5. “In the Rea­gan movie myth of the lives of Rockne and Gipp, there is one scene in which Rockne chas­es away a gam­bler who is look­ing for an edge. Rockne, played by actor Pat O’Brien, tells him, ‘We haven’t got any use for gam­blers around here. You’ve done your best to ruin base­ball and horse rac­ing. This is one game that’s clean and it’s going to stay clean.’ Con­sid­er­ing that Gipp, with the knowl­edge of Rockne, was a noto­ri­ous sports gam­bler, the O’Brien quote per­haps best illus­trates my point.

6. “To a large degree, the Nation­al Foot­ball League (the NFL) has become the embod­i­ment of the Gipp/Rockne myth. It has wrapped itself around the Amer­i­can flag and strut­ted into Amer­i­ca’s homes to the thrilling stir of brass and per­cus­sion music as the chore­og­ra­phy of bone-crush­ing tack­les in dra­mat­ic slow motion flash­es across the nation’s tele­vi­sion screens. Based upon the illu­sion, the coun­try’s love affair with pro­fes­sion­al foot­ball has giv­en sports fans con­fi­dence that the NFL is an insti­tu­tion unen­cum­bered by cor­rup­tion.” (Inter­fer­ence: How Orga­nized Crime Influ­ences Pro­fes­sion­al Foot­ball; Dan Mold­ea; copy­right 1989 by William Mor­row and Com­pa­ny [HC]; ISBN 0–688-08303‑X; pp.19–20.)

7. Mold­ea lat­er points out that, when being chas­tised by Rockne for being unmo­ti­vat­ed, Gipp explained that he had $500.00 bet on the game and was, as a result, very moti­vat­ed. (Ibid.; p. 437.)

8. The focus turns to orga­nized crime con­nec­tions of some NFL team own­ers, past and present. Par­tic­u­lar empha­sis is on NFL own­ers con­nect­ed to the orga­nized crime forces involved with the JFK assas­si­na­tion. Also high­light­ed are the con­nec­tions of this milieu to that of Richard Nixon and the Water­gate scan­dal.

9. The dis­cus­sion sets forth the involve­ment of Clint Murchi­son, Jr. (own­er of the Dal­las Cow­boys) with orga­nized crime fig­ures such as Car­los Mar­cel­lo, a focal point of the JFK assas­si­na­tion inves­ti­ga­tion. (Ibid.; pp. 104–105.)

10. Mar­cel­lo asso­ciate Joe Camp­isi, a fix­ture around the Dal­las Cow­boys, vis­it­ed Jack Ruby by request (in jail) five days after Ruby killed Oswald. (Ibid.; p. 447.)

11. Murchi­son was very close to Nixon. (Ibid.; p. 103.)

12. Murchi­son was also close to Mar­cel­lo asso­ciate I. Irv­ing David­son. (Ibid.; p. 295.)

13. David­son was rep­re­sent­ed by Pla­to Cacheris dur­ing the inves­ti­ga­tion of a scheme involv­ing the Team­sters’ Cen­tral States Pen­sion Fund. (Ibid.; p. 295.)

14. Cacheris has also rep­re­sent­ed peo­ple involved in the Iran-Con­tra affair and Mon­i­ca Lewin­sky. He was also the law part­ner of for­mer NFL secu­ri­ty chief Bill Hund­ley. (Idem.)

15. Next, the pro­gram exam­ines Hugh Cul­ver­house, the for­mer own­er of the Tam­pa Bay Buc­ca­neers. Cul­ver­house was alleged to have deal­ings with San­tos Traf­fi­cante, anoth­er orga­nized crime fig­ure with con­nec­tions to the JFK assas­si­na­tion. Cul­ver­house rep­re­sent­ed Nixon inti­mate Bebe Rebo­zo dur­ing the Water­gate hear­ings and his son (Hugh Cul­ver­house, Jr.) rep­re­sent­ed Nixon Attor­ney Gen­er­al John Mitchell, along with the afore­men­tioned Bill Hund­ley. (Ibid.; pp. 285–286.)

16. Cul­ver­house was also deeply involved with asso­ciates of syn­di­cate boss Mey­er Lan­sky in a real estate project called Major Real­ty. (Ibid.; 286.)

17. Hugh Cul­ver­house was pro­fes­sion­al­ly involved with the De Bar­to­lo fam­i­ly, long-believed to have orga­nized crime con­nec­tions. (Eddie De Bar­to­lo, Jr. was the own­er of the San Fran­cis­co 49ers. His sis­ter owns the team now.) Cul­ver­house was the attor­ney for the sale of the team to De Bar­to­lo. (Ibid.; p. 289.)

18. Oak­land Raiders own­er Al Davis, him­self con­nect­ed to orga­nized crime, helped bro­ker the sale of the 49ers to De Bar­to­lo. (Idem.)

19. A 1982 Cus­toms Depart­ment report alleged that the De Bar­to­lo orga­ni­za­tion had suc­ceed­ed Mey­er Lan­sky as the finan­cial wiz­ard or orga­nized crime. (Ibid.; pp. 352–353.)

20. De Bar­to­lo, Jr. was defi­ant about an appar­ent con­flict of inter­est between his own­er­ship of the 49ers and his father’s pro­pri­etor­ship of the Pitts­burgh Maulers of the now-defunct USFL. (Ibid.; 354.)

21. Much of the rest of the pro­gram is devot­ed to an exam­i­na­tion of the busi­ness rela­tion­ship of mob asso­ciate Allen Glick and Raiders’ boss Al Davis. (Ibid.; pp. 274–277.)

22. When Glick­’s deal­ings became the focus of a law­suit by Davis busi­ness con­tact Tama­ra Rand, see was mur­dered in a gang­land-style killing. (Ibid.; pp. 275–276.)

23. The pro­gram con­cludes with dis­cus­sion of Las Vegas odds-mak­er Jim­my “The Greek” Sny­der’s par­don by Pres­i­dent Ger­ald Ford. (Ibid.; p. 460.)

24. Con­vict­ed on gam­bling offens­es, he claims to have met Ford through Robert Maheu, who helped recruit Mafia killers to help kill Fidel Cas­tro. (Idem.)