By Mike Bires
James Harrison didn’t want to talk to the media Wednesday. He’s apparently tired of explaining why he’s not accompanying his teammates to the White House on Thursday.
The star linebacker probably also wanted to avoid questions about his uneasiness when flying in an air plane.
That angle was brought up in some media reports Tuesday when trying to figure out why Harrison was so adamant about skipping the ceremony with U.S. president Barack Obama.
But some of Harrison’s teammates just laughed when asked if Harrison really is afraid of flying.
“Yeah, when we fly, he closes his eyes,” tackle Max Starks said tongue-in cheek. “Really, no, he’s not afraid of flying. He’s just fooling you guys (in the media).”
Actually, Harrison never said he’s afraid of flying. But someone from the Steelers’ organization told a handful of reporters Tuesday that Harrison is terrified when he has to fly with the team. That in effect is the reason Harrison isn’t going to Washington, D.C.
However, that theory is incorrect.
“If James really wanted to go, he’d go,” said Bill Parise, Harrison’s agent. “He just doesn’t want to go.”
“No, I don’t believe James is afraid of flying,” added nose tackle Chris Hoke. “That’s just James being James. I just don’t think he wants to go.”
While there may be some truth to Harrison’s dislike of flying, he has never been known to skip a Steelers’ team flight. And he did make long flights to Hawaii the last two years for the Pro Bowl, the NFL’s all-star game.
And when asked if his White House snub was a show of disrespect for team chairman Dan Rooney, Harrison said, “If Mr. Rooney wanted me to go to Ireland, I’d go.”
Rooney, who campaigned for Obama in the 2008 presidential election, has been nominated by Obama as the U.S. ambassador to Ireland.
* For running back Mewelde Moore and tackle Max Starks, Thursday’s White House visit by the reigning Super Bowl champs has added significance.
Starks’ great grandfather Homer D. Coke was one of the first black radio broadcasters in Birmingham, Ala. He was a personal friend of Martin Luther King, the civil rights leader who was assassinated in 1968. Coke was also a civil rights activist.
Moore’s grandfather M.C. Moore, too, was involved in the civil rights movement. Years ago, he orchestrated a law in Hammond, La., that required every high school in Tangipahoa Parish to hire at least one African American head coach.
So Moore and Starks are thrilled to be meeting with Obama, our country’s first African-American president.
* While in Washington, D.C. for their White House appearance in honor of their victory in Super Bowl XL, some Steelers visited wounded military personnel at Walter Reed Army Medical Center.
This time, however, the plan is to bring a number of wounded soldiers to the White House. Before or after Obama’s remarks, the Steelers will be able to meet with them.
“From what I understand, they’re bringing them to us this time,” Hoke said. “That’ll be really cool. I have so much respect for those men and women. They’re the ones who really take the hits. They’re out there on the front line, protecting us here in the United States by putting their lives on the line. They’re the real heroes.”
* After missing Tuesday’s organized team activity workout, reserve wide receiver Dallas Baker was back on the practice field Wednesday.
*While the Steelers who were part of last year’s Super Bowl team will be in Washington, D.C., rookies and other first-year members of the team will practice Thursday. Among them may be Harrison.
OTAs for the full squad resume next week on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday.
Photo courtesy of SteelcityHobbies