At a time where there’s a heightened level of sensitivity to police brutality, Black NFL quarterbacks are being accused of being great runners — from the law.
The outlandish and shocking comment was made by former Washington Redskins star defensive end and two-time Super Bowl champion Dexter Manley.
Manley was providing commentary on CBS’s “Game On” and a discussion on the status of the Washington Redskins organization and quarterbacks Kirk Cousins and Robert Griffin III quickly went sour with one cringeworthy sound bite.
“Robert as a quarterback … most of the Black quarterbacks, they like running, because they’re probably used to running from the law. So I think more importantly this guy, this guy goes through his progression — he just plays,” Manley said Saturday night.
There has always been a fine line in the Black community when it comes to criticizing one’s own. The person criticizing has to walk a proverbial tightrope, remembering to remain objective, without ‘ruffling too many feathers’ or appearing too insensitive. But Manley’s comment was just flat out ignorant.
Two of the most polarizing characters linked to Black culture happen to be fictitious: Uncle Tom and Uncle Ruckus. According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, an Uncle Tom is a Black person who is eager to win the approval of Whites, (as by obsequious behavior or uncritical acceptance of white values and goals). Uncle Ruckus, the main antagonist from the comic strip “The Boondocks” and the television series based on it has an outspoken nature and tendency to disassociate himself from everything related to African Americans, which has made him one of the most controversial characters in cartoon history.
The stigma of being an ‘Uncle Tom’ typically gets attached to people in our culture who have reached a certain level of success and ‘forgot’ to give back to our community, or in the process ‘sold out’ in the name of achieving success.
Now the reason I bring up these two characters is because Manley’s comments came in a room full of his white counterparts. Not sure if he thought it would be humorous, but it turns out the joke was on him. His White counterparts tried to shift gears quickly once they realized the racial undertone of his statement. Not only did his statement undermine Black quarterbacks as players and humans, but if he said it with the intent of generating a few laughs then that truly makes him an Uncle Tom — shucking and jiving his way up the corporate ladder.
Black quarterbacks have notoriously dealt with the reputation of being labeled as run-first pass-second quarterbacks, with an inability to succeed from the pocket. Warren Moon, Randall Cunningham, Steve McNair, Marlin Briscoe — the laundry list of quarterbacks who have endured scrutiny throughout their playing careers is well documented. Doug Williams, the only Black quarterback to win a Super Bowl and a Super Bowl MVP, Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Michael Vick, and former Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb served as pioneers, helping to revolutionize the position for people of color.
Vick is number three on the all-time rushing list for quarterbacks and McNabb led the Eagles to four consecutive NFC East championships, five NFC championship games and one Super Bowl. They helped pave the way for Carolina Panthers’ Cam Newton; Seattle Seahawks’ Russell Wilson; San Francisco 49’ers’ Colin Kaepernick, at one point; and Minnesota Vikings quarterback Teddy Bridgewater to accomplish what they have in the league.
Manley picked the wrong time to disrespect Black quarterbacks as they are enjoying unprecedented success more than ever before.
Wilson was one play away from winning consecutive Super Bowls, Newton is having a MVP-caliber season and Bridgewater has his team in the playoffs in just his second season. In one way or another the Black quarterbacks of yesterday helped mold the Black quarterbacks of today.
The irony of Manley’s comments is that he spent a portion of his career playing alongside Williams, one of the most famous Black quarterbacks in NFL history.
Williams helped Manley win one of his two Super Bowl rings in 1987. During his days as a Redskin, Manley was notorious for chasing down players inbounds. His comments, however, were clearly out of bounds. He knew he said something wrong, as his co-host half-heartedly grimaced at his remarks.
Of course, social media was in a frenzy, prompting Manley to issue an immediate apology. In his on-air apology, Manley said, “I say some things I don’t think about sometimes.”
Sure. That’s what it was.
Two years ago Manley called former Dallas Cowboys quarterback Troy Aikman a “queer” on live radio. His track record with saying what ‘comes to mind’ or ‘keeping it real’ is not something foreign to us. On second thought ‘keeping it real’ is probably too Black for Manley.
If Manley is going to continue in his current role, he has to be more cognizant of what he says.
We don’t need Black people trying to portray other Black people in a negative light — especially on television.
There’s enough of that going around already.
Marcus Lamar is a New York-based sports journalist. Read more from his blog at letsaddressthis.blogspot.com Follow him on Twitter @iam_marcuslamar.