The Eagles' Terrell Owens has a new supporter in his quest to get his job back: Ralph Nader.
The two-time presidential candidate and consumer advocate asked the NFL and the Eagles to reinstate Owens, who was dropped for the season after he complained that the team didn't celebrate his 100th career touchdown catch and said the Eagles would be better off with a different quarterback.
While calling Owens' comments "boorish and unwarranted," Nader said the receiver should be reinstated because the ban runs counter to the American tradition of free speech and deprives fans of the chance to watch the five-time Pro Bowl player.
"There is a great tradition in this country of respecting free speech, and the Eagles and NFL should express those values in handling even churlish speech," Nader wrote in a letter to commissioner Paul Tagliabue and Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie.
Even though free-speech protection doesn't usually extend to the workplace, employees shouldn't be penalized for speaking out, Nader said.
NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said he was unaware of the letter. Team spokesman Derek Boyko said Lurie hasn't received the letter and declined to comment. Owens's agent, Drew Rosenhaus, didn't return a message left on his cell phone.
Nader signed the letter as the founder of League of Fans, an advocacy group that says its core principles include opposing public money for stadiums, scaling back sports advertising and developing a fan base with lower ticket, concession and parking prices. The letter is posted on the group's and Nader's Web sites.
In other news, Owens received a mixed reaction of cheers and boos from fans at the Atlanta Hawks' home game against the Clippers on Thursday night. Owens, whose six-bedroom Atlanta home was recently put up for sale, had a courtside seat near the Clippers' bench, and was shown on the Philips Arena video board in the first half. After the public address announcer said "Terrell Owens is in the house!" there was a loud and mixed response from the fans. Owens wouldn't say why he was attending the NBA game. His publicist, Kim Etheredge, said Owens "is still a Georgia resident, so why not?"
Courson dies in accident
PITTSBURGH - Steve Courson, the former offensive lineman for the Steelers and Bucs who developed a heart problem after becoming one of the first NFL players to acknowledge using steroids, was killed when a tree he was cutting fell on him.
Courson, 50, was using a chain saw to cut down a dead 44-foot tall tree with a circumference of 5 feet when it fell on him, according to state police.
Roger Victor, an investigator for the Fayette County coroner, said Courson was apparently trying get his dog out of the tree's way. "The wind was blowing, the tree snapped and it fell on him and his dog," Victor said. The dog was injured and taken to a vet.
Courson made the Steelers in 1978 as a free-agent guard from South Carolina. He started more than half of the Steelers' games before he was traded to Tampa Bay in 1984, where he played another two seasons before being waived. He ended his career after the 1985 season, having played on the Steelers' Super Bowl championship teams in 1978 and 1979.
RETURN TO L.A.?: The NFL and city officials have reached a preliminary agreement on terms to bring a team back to the Los Angeles Coliseum, but didn't identify a potential tenant or speculate when Los Angeles might get the team.
Commissioner Paul Tagliabue spoke positively about a team playing at a facility proposed for the Angel Stadium parking lot in Anaheim and didn't rule out the Rose Bowl in Pasadena as a possible home field.
Tagliabue said significant progress has been made in the past year regarding the Coliseum. His statement came after a meeting with Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and before a session with Anaheim Mayor Curt Pringle.
"I think the critical thing now is we're at the point where it's recognized, certainly by us, that the time is right," Tagliabue said. "We have to get agreements finalized. We'll be pursuing agreements in Anaheim. We're going to work with both communities for an agreement."
Tentative plans call for the NFL to finance construction of a $500-million stadium inside the Coliseum, home to the Rams from 1946-79 and the Raiders from 1982-94.
BILINGUAL BROADCAST: Sunday's 4 p.m. AFC West game between the Broncos and Raiders will be broadcast in Navajo through an agreement with radio station KTNN-FM, which has a 50,000-watt signal operating out of Window Rock, Ariz.
LIONS: With Jeff Garcia still bothered by a sore leg, coach Steve Mariucci said Joey Harrington will start at quarterback in Sunday's game against the Cardinals.
PATRIOTS: Cornerback Duane Starks will miss the remainder of the season with a shoulder injury. The 1998 Ravens' first-round pick out of Miami was benched for the second half of Monday night's 40-21 loss and was beaten for five touchdowns over the past five games. He also allowed nonscoring passing plays of 72 and 55 yards in a loss Oct. 16 at Denver.
REDSKINS: Running back Clinton Portis and safety Sean Taylor were fined by the NFL for uniform violations in Sunday's game against Philadelphia. Portis was fined $20,000 for wearing black shoes, which did not match the rest of the team, and for wearing striped socks and an unapproved eye shield. Taylor was fined $5,000 for striped socks. Both were fined twice for uniform violations (socks) last season.