It’s time to drop the race card on the table when it comes to the constant drama surrounding Washington Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III, and moreover it’s time to deal that card from two different decks.
Now that RG3 is back in the Redskin lineup, he’s again facing the latest round of all-out character attacks. Some media reports say those are from within the locker room, and others dispute that, but there’s no question that the Redskins quarterback is under fire for a lot more than just his play. He’s been called a diva, a prima donna, and worse. And I have a hard time separating race from this constant barrage.
But unlike a lot of circumstances, the racial issue comes from both sides in this drama. I’m going to stress in advance that these deal with attacks on RG3’s character, not his play on the field, which is fair game. Here’s a summation of the landscape…
*RG3 is viewed by some in the African-American community as “not black enough.” One need only recall an infamous ESPN commentary in 2012, when African-American “analyst” Rob Parker called Griffin a “cornball brother”, for marrying a white woman and for unconfirmed rumors of voting Republican. Parker wondered if RG3 was “down with the cause.” Parker was fired, but it makes one wonder how extensively his opinions are shared, particularly by RG3’s African-American teammates. The silence of white liberals was a reminder of how much they rely on African-Americans being emotionally bullied into supporting their causes and candidates.
*On the flip side, let’s consider this. Robert Griffin III is the son of military parents and from a strong family background. He’s never been in a whiff of trouble. He helped turn a struggling college program (Baylor) into a burgeoning powerhouse and…well, there are unconfirmed rumors that he votes Republican. Are you going to tell me that if he were a clean-cut white guy instead of an African-American with braids, that white conservatives wouldn’t be all over him? Fox News might give him his own show. But instead, there’s no support. As one, who’s mostly identified and voted with conservatives since turning 18 in 1988, this is one more cause of my increasing estrangement from the modern Right.
When an NFL quarterback’s team is winning games, none of this matters. But the Washington Redskins are not winning games—as a lifelong fan of the team, I have all the emotional battle scars of a 6-19 record over the last season and a half. And when things go wrong, you need a natural base of support to fall back on. Robert Griffin III does not have one—at least not among organized media and social activists.
I contend that this young man is being whipsawed by both sides of the racial divide in the United States, and it’s the real reason for both the sustained character assault he’s undergone, and the lack of any real support coming to his defense.
What other reason could there be? Let’s run through the litany of alternate explanations and I’ll explain why I’m not persuaded…
*The Redskins have lost 19 of their last 25 games, most of which have been with RG3 at quarterback. Yes, and I don’t consider criticisms about his game to be about race. I don’t necessarily agree with them—the ‘Skins play little defense and less special teams. But I get that it comes with the territory in being an NFL quarterback. But Robert Griffin III has been attacked with a ferocity that goes well beyond on-field performance. He’s had his character emasculated. And that doesn’t go with the territory.
*He clashed with his first head coach, Mike Shanahan. Yes he did. As mentioned, Griffin had no track record of getting in trouble with authority and came from a background that would presumably place great value on respect for leadership. Shanahan’s past track record included being unable to get along with John Elway when he was in Denver, to the point that Elway refused to return to the organization until Shanahan left. However things went down between Shanahan and RG3, their respective backgrounds suggest it’s the quarterback, not the coach, who deserves the benefit of the doubt.
*RG3 does a lot of commercials. He indisputably does. Everything from Adidas to Subway to being on with his parents in support of the military. But it’s not as though he’s kissing his bicep like Colin Kapernick of the 49ers. These ads RG3 does are all benign and non-controversial. The most audacious one was “All In For Week One” in the summer of 2013. So, his most bombastic ad was a vow to recover from an ACL tear and play the first game of the season? It might not be medically prudent, but there’s no way it explains the vitriol that poured out.
*His teammates don’t like him. We have to begin by first pointing out that we really don’t know that. And even if we do, the same questions need to be asked—why? If it’s for any of the reasons above, then the same answers apply. I also need to know exactly who doesn’t like him. Let’s keep in mind, this isn’t exactly the New England Patriots locker room that RG3 walked into. The Redskin locker room is filled with players whom I wouldn’t miss if they were cut tomorrow. Their on-field performance has been terrible, and there’s only a handful I would consider credible on any subject of leadership (Ryan Clark, Santana Moss, Trent Williams). In short, I need to know specifics—who hates RG3 and why? No one seems to want to step forward. Maybe they don’t exist.
That’s all I can think of. If there’s something I missing, I’m happy to consider it. But right now, I would sum this up with three simple propositions…
- Robert Griffin III is being subjected to a character assault well beyond the scope of standard criticism for a quarterback.
- Most reasons put forth don’t hold water when put up to the light of scrutiny.
- The one that’s left is that he’s right in the middle of the racial divide in the United States—a place that invites vitriol.
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