Former Philadelphia Eagles offensive lineman Shawn Andrews says his time with the team was a "living hell," and he blames his then-quarterback Donovan McNabb for being part of a group that teased him and spread rumors he was gay. McNabb denied the accusations Andrews made.
In an article in Sync Weekly online in his hometown of Little Rock, Ark., Andrews paints a picture of his time with the Eagles from 2004-2009 when he battled depression, injuries and what he called a culture of being picked on. He stopped short of using the word "bully." One of the main instigators, Andrews said, was McNabb, the man he was paid to guard, and he said the harassment included rumors about Andrews being gay.
"[McNabb] was a big part of it - he was a big part of my issues there. Bully is a strong word, but he was degrading to me and spread rumors. It's bothered me that I haven't really spoken about it."
The rumors regarding Andrew's sexual orientation spread around the Eagles' facility and beyond. Andrews says he received a text message from his stylist one day. The woman worked for several teammates and players on other teams. She warned Andrews that he should be more careful when talking about his personal life with teammates. That was a red flag for Andews, since he rarely talked to his teammates.
"She was talking to one of the guys she was working with, with the Minnesota Vikings. My name came up and he said, ‘I heard ol' boy was .... Then it happened a week later with another guy from another team," Andrews says.
Andrews says he has nothing against gay people, but in the NFL, the rumor could ruin a player's earning potential. ...
Andrews says the questioning and rumors became so great among teammates that he waited until everyone was out of the shower before he entered the shower, so as to not raise suspicion that he was looking at others. Either that, or he raced to a shower in the corner where he could face the wall and not be accused of peeping.
Injuries cut short his Eagles' career and he spent a year with the New York Giants in an atmosphere he described as the opposite of the one in Philadelphia. He now lives in Little Rock with his wife and son and says he is at peace. But the story painted McNabb in a very unflattering light and he answered Andrews' charges in an interview with the Philadelphia Inquirer.
"That is ridiculous," McNabb said. "I don't know what comments you expect to get from me, but that is news to me and completely false. For me to bully anybody, that sounds unbelievable. . . .
"I don't really understand why this would come about, one, and two, how this would even be an accusation. If there's anything I can say, I was more than open to Shawn. I always tried to be open to all the guys. I'd invite them over to my house. I'd have holiday dinners or team functions, especially for the offense, every year. I'd buy all the guys gifts, if I made the Pro Bowl or not, for an appreciation. Shawn was one of the most talented offensive linemen we had. I was always happy to have him. ... I don't believe bullying answers anything. I'm really taken aback by this whole accusation."
Two Eagles at the time -- Briant Westbrook and Reno Mahe -- said they never heard McNabb discuss Andrews' sexual orientation. McNabb's account was bolstered by Jeff Garcia, a backup quarterback with the Eagles at the time and himself the subject of very public rumors he is gay.
Garcia said Wednesday that he "never saw or heard anything along those lines come out of Donovan or where Shawn was unhappy or felt like he was being discriminated against in any sort of way.
"Donovan was a very playful, joking individual," Garcia said. "He always seemed to be goofing around in the locker room. He even took it too far at times, I think, in goofing around on the field during actual games. But that's how Donovan was, and I never saw anything negative or evil come out of him."
Andrews stood by his story and said he made his comments now because, "I did it for my freaking conscience, man. The normal thing to do is deny it, especially if I was in that position. So many people are coming at me, defending him because of his superstar status, but they didn't work with him. Shawn Andrews worked with him and for him. I laid it on the line for him."
Andrews clearly had some troubled times with the Eagles, which included him taking time off to battle mental issues as he contemplated suicide. It's impossible to verify how true his version of events are, but once again, we have a case where a player being considered gay is still the perceived ultimate slur in a locker room.