Skip Bayless brought up race on First Take. Not surprisingly, given the format, he took it to a reductive and counterproductive place.
Bayless, who once claimed he would not draft a white American basketball player in the first round, claimed a majority of Washington Redskins fans were white and that white fans, as a product of “foolishness” and “human nature,” would gravitate toward the white quarterback Kirk Cousins, leaving black quarterback Robert Griffin III in a potentially precarious position.
‘Some foolish Redskins fans – fans, foolish, doesn’t that go together, right? – they’re gonna sit back and say, ‘God, RGIII was struggling. He fumbled, he threw a couple of bad passes. Maybe Kirk Cousins is better right now. Maybe we should go with Kirk.’ NO! I don’t want to see that. I don’t want to set up that dynamic.
‘I’m going to throw it out there,’ Bayless continued. ‘You also have the black/white dynamic and the majority of Redskins fans are white and it’s just human nature if you’re white to root for the white guy. It just happens in sports. Just like the black community will root for the black quarterback.
‘I’m for the black guy. I’m just saying I don’t like the dynamic for RGIII. It could stunt his growth in the NFL.’
Bayless is wrong about Washington. The Redskins have come a long way since the team was a segregated, Civil Rights lightning rod. The team has won Super Bowls with both black and white quarterbacks. The most pressing racial issue – why, in the 21st century, the NFL has a team named “the Redskins.”
Racism is not “human nature.” Humans do “naturally” prefer the familiar and disparage the foreign. However, race itself is an artificial construct. The idea of classifying and inferring attributes based on skin color is a product of history and social economics. Racial dynamics are convoluted and heavily context-dependent. Sweeping generalizations about a racial group are always crude and fallacious. Is Robert Griffin’s fiancee destined to root for the white guy?
Race shapes how sports are perceived. We hear often about Andrew Luck’s poise, leadership, intelligence and work-ethic and very seldom about how he is a ridiculous athlete. Conversely, we are inundated with assessments of Griffin’s “sprinter’s speed” and little about his intangibles beyond his quirky socks. However, at the most base level, sports fans, even “foolish” ones, care about winning.
Kobe Bryant, Ray Lewis and Michael Vick were embraced by fans, white and black, when they began playing well and winning. The same would have happened had Lawrence Phillips taken one of the seemingly endless opportunities he was given to help a team win.
Bayless is right that Cousins’ presence could create a problem for Robert Griffin III. That’s not because Cousins is white and will dazzle white fans with his Aryan good looks. It is because Cousins is there and he’s viable. Having him in the background puts Washington at risk for a situation where Griffin could struggle early and get hurt, allowing Cousins to come in, to win a few games and to create an immediate quarterback controversy and affect RGIII’s development. Drafting Russell Wilson in that spot would have risked the same issue.
There are two reasonable conclusions to draw here. First, Redskins fans, regardless of race, will be rooting for Robert Griffin III to succeed. Second, race in sports should be discussed in a serious fashion but is far too delicate to “throw out there” on a foolish and contrived debate program.
[Photos via Mike, Getty]
Previously: Jalen Rose Called Out Skip Bayless On His Made Up High School Basketball Accomplishments on First Take
Previously: Shocking: Skip Bayless Is Also Wrong About White American Players In the First Round
Previously: Skip Bayless Has Progressed To Racial Trolling, Which is Probably Boosting Ratings