No, Stevie Johnson Was Not Making Fun Of 9/11 With This Airplane Celebration

  • Glenn Davis

The vast majority of the controversy surrounding Bills receiver Stevie Johnson’s over-the-top touchdown celebration against the Jets on Sunday was about the part where Johnson pretended to shoot himself in the leg, thereby making fun of Jets receiver and onetime self-leg-shooter Plaxico Burress. The hand-wringing – none of which, notably, was done by Burress himself – drowned out the fact that this wasn’t the only crazy part of Johnson’s celebration. Johnson finished things off by pretending to fly around (like a…Jet, get it?), only to eventually crash to the ground.

And some Jets didn’t appreciate that aspect of the celebration, either. Well, defensive tackle Sione Pouha didn’t, anyway. And in explaining why he didn’t like it, he opened up a whole new can of controversial worms:

“Us being from New York … that airplane thing, in my opinion, was kind of a dagger a little bit, concerning the circumstances we just remembered — Sept. 11. We all stand for pride in this region and that’s a sacred moment. For a lot of people, it’s a sobering moment.”

A sobering moment, to be sure…but there are a couple problems with assuming Johnson’s celebration was somehow connected to that tragedy. One: the Jets’ Santonio Holmes, for example, does this all the time. Might Johnson’s airplane celebration have a bit more to do with that?

Also important: while Johnson’s been known to say some odd things, he is not the worst person in the world. And that, for all intents and purposes, is what someone would need to be to mock someone else – especially one with close ties to New York or the Pentagon – with a 9/11 reference. We’ll cop to thinking when we first watched it, “Hmm, mimicking a plane crashing against a New York team might not be the best idea,” but you can’t blame Johnson for not considering that, and we definitely don’t believe he intended to make a mockery of such an awful thing.

And so Pouha’s reference, more than anything else, makes us think of the scene in the pilot episode for Community, when John Oliver’s professor character, represented by Joel McHale’s character during the latter’s day as a slick, morally-challenged lawyer, marvels, “I still cannot figure out how you got a jury to connect September the 11th with my DUI.” Pouha’s is a less extreme example, but ultimately, we don’t think it has any more validity. We understand the Jets being miffed at Johnson’s theatrics, but it’s best to save those 9/11 references when you really know they apply.

Getty photo, by Al Bello