Friday, December 16, 2005

Fallen Eagle

Like I've said before, sports often serve as a microcosm of life and culture here in America. Often more so in terms of racial relations than any other aspect of society. Sports have often served as some of the greatest triumphs and setbacks in the history of race relations. Jackie Robinson breaking the color barrier in major league baseball was a defining moment in the history of this country. He was the perfect man to be the first African American to break the segregation barrier because he was able to do so with pride and class.

But each step forward is difficult. Progress is often met with resistance. Although African Americans have been playing professional football since before the second world war, as late as the 1980's there was a common belief in the NFL that black players were not smart enough to play quarterback. It wasn't until the 1987 Super Bowl when Doug Williams led the Washington Redskins to a victory over the Denver Broncos that the myth was dispelled. Since then there have been a plethora of black quarterbacks to enter and compete in the league, although Williams is still the only African American to lead his team to a Super Bowl victory as a quarterback.

In some sense, there is still a misconception out there that black athletes just aren't as smart as their white counterparts. Black quarterbacks to this day are still fighting those stereotypes. Many people believe they cannot be effective passers. Many believe they are best utilized as scramblers (quarterbacks who run a lot instead of throwing) like Michael Vick and Randal Cunningham. This week that stereotype is being debated in bloody fashion on the pages of the newspapers in Philadelphia.

When Donovan McNabb was first drafted by the Eagles he was booed because his name wasn't Ricky Williams. But it didn't take long for him to gain the faith of the City of Brotherly Love. He electrified the crowd with his ability to will his team down the field. He led the Philadelphia Eagles to four straight NFC Championship Games and ultimately made it to the Super Bowl last year where they lost to the New England Patriots. One of his greatest weapons when he was first drafted was his ability to run with the ball. But as the years went on McNabb took a beating from all those scrambles and hits. He started running less and throwing more. Over the past six years, his number of rushing attempts have decreased each year.

Since being put in as the starting quarterback, McNabb has been considered the leader of the team. He has always been the team spokesman. He's always been the guy to pick up his teammates when things looked bad. But this year has been a horrible year for McNabb. Injuries have plagued him and his team. His star wide receiver has been banned from the team. Now there are grumblings that McNabb has lost his team in the locker room.

This past weekend, J. Whyatt Mondesire, President of the Philadelphia chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), wrote a scathing article about McNabb in the Philadelphia Sun Newspaper. In the article (sorry I could not find a link), Mondesire analyzes the drop off in McNabb's rushing production and concludes that McNabb is trying to fight the stereotype of the scrambling quarterback that is too dumb to run a passing offense even though McNabb has made no such claim. Mondesire accuses McNabb of "playing the race card" and selling out "by claiming that 'everybody expects black quarterbacks to scramble' (which) not only amounts to a breach of faith but also belittles the real struggles of black athletes who've had to overcome real racial stereotype casting in addition to downright segregation." Mondesire also attacks McNabb by calling him "mediocre at best" and went on to say "And trying to disguise that fact behind some concocted reasoning that African American quarterbacks who can scramble and who can run the ball are somehow lesser field generals ... is more insulting off the field than on."

McNabb responded to these comments in the Philadelphia Inquirer saying, "Obviously if it's someone else who is not African American, it's racism. But when someone of the same race talks about you because you're selling out because you're not running the ball, it goes back to: What are we really talking about here? "If you talk about my play, that's one thing. When you talk about my race, now we've got problems. If you're trying to make a name off my name, again, I hope your closet is clean because something is going to come out about you ... I always thought the NAACP supported African Americans and didn't talk bad about them. Now you learn a little bit more."

Donny, Donny, Donny. I'm sorry you had to learn this lesson the hard way, but the NAACP does not look out for you just because you're black. Ask Clarence Thomas, Condoleeza Rice, Michael Steele, and Thomas Sowell. These are all prominent African Americans who the NAACP has either at one time opposed or refused to support. Their message is clear if you know how to read between the lines. They are not for the "Advancement of Colored People". They are for the uniformity of "colored people". You see Donny, they like to have all African Americans fit into one mold, or stereotype if you will. That way it's easier to control them. You broke that policy by starting to act more like a white quarterback in their eyes. Remember these are the same people who sanctioned an event where Oreo cookies were thrown at Michael Steele because he is a "black republican".

Normally the NAACP doesn't concern themselves with these types of issues. Normally they are too busy convincing African Americans they are disenfranchised at the polls and the white man won't let them go to college and make good money. The problem that organizations like the NAACP and Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton have is with each generation more and more African Americans start to achieve the American dream and the scars of slavery and segregation heal a little bit more. As African Americans become more diversified and some of them start to make it in this country, others will start to wake up and realize they can make it too. People who embrace freedom feel a sense of self-governance and responsibility. People like this are less likely to look to social crutches like the NAACP. It's time the NAACP get with the 21st Century. For goodness sakes, the title of their organization still refers to African Americans as "colored people".


Blogger Grimacer said...

There is no other book that should be read by young African Americans more than Booker T. Washington's book [em]Up from Slavery[/em]. It talks about how personal responsibility (hint, hint: ascension of individual) is the key to African American success in the post-slavery era. That kind of philosophy is still relevant today.

I personally like McNabb. It is a shame he's taken so many hits, both physical and verbal. The NAACP has outlived its purpose because this country now more than ever rates a person on his or her individual merits.

4:38 PM  

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