I don't know if it's his injured knee or what, but RGIII does a really bad job in Friday's Detroit Free Press of attempting to sidestep the controversy over the Washington Redskins' arrantly racist nickname:
Washington quarterback Robert Griffin III said in a conference call with Detroit reporters Wednesday that players have been advised not to speak about the issue, and for that reason, it hasn’t been a distraction in the locker room.
“I can’t really dive into that,” he said. “That’s something that’s way above my understanding and the bottom line for me at least, I’m not Native American. I’m sure I have a little bit of blood in me, as my parents have told me. I’m sure a lot of you guys in that room have some Native American blood in you as well. But we’re not at that authority to know what to do in that situation so I just leave that to those who know a little bit more about the situation.”
The star quarterback did not say who advised him to stay mum. NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said it wasn’t the league. Team spokesman Tony Wylie said it wasn’t the team.
Lame No Comment
Well, no matter who it was, Griffin apparently wasn't paying any attention. Not only did RGIII not manage to avoid comment, his "no comment" comment comes off as not just silly and disingenuous, but breathtakingly spineless. Better if he'd have just shut his mouth after the "can't dive into that" dodge.
Instead, though, Griffin felt compelled to keep going, to explain his reticence. And rather than just hew to the time-honored bullshit about not wanting to create a "locker room distraction" -- because God forbid that a team packed with black players lose five minutes preparing for the Wide 9 defense to weigh the implications of balling for an organization that might as well be dubbed the "DC Niggers" — Griffin decided instead to play (at least I hope he was playing) the worst kind of stupid.
Never mind that he seems to contradict himself about his own Native American heritage. Far more damning is this attempt to pretend as if Native American ancestry has anything at all to do with RGIII's claim that the nickname issue is "above my head."
What in the name of Viola Liuzzo is that nonsense? Since when do you need to be part of a particular ethnic group to know that racist slurs -- against anyone -- are wrong? How do you deem the capacity to make a basic value judgment -- racist nickname, bad -- as an act that's outside your wheelhouse? Why do you need any more "authority" in order for you to man up and not pretend as if this whole racist nickname thing is beyond you and doesn't do anything but make your tiny brain hurt?
(And while we're at it, to a point made by a former 'Skins player now with the Lions, it doesn't wash to suggest that Redskins' name is OK because it's "tradition." Yeah, well, so was sending black folks through service-entrance doors, Rocky McIntosh. Sometimes, tradition needs to get kicked to the curb in the name of progress.)
Pressure Should Be on Owner Dan Snyder
My criticism isn't meant to suggest that this issue hinges on a single word that Griffin or other players have to utter. It doesn't. The heavy pressure needs to be applied to the Redskins' hard-hearted little owner, Dan Snyder, not to his employees. Plus, I've always believed that Americans put way too much stock in what pro athletes, singers, actors and other celebs have to say about real-world issues anyway.
No, I'm more than happy to let Griffin duck the subject if that's what he wants to do because I know that there are trained social science professionals who study these sorts of things 'round the clock. And I'd much rather hear what they think about the impact of stereotypes in sports branding than I would the quarterback for the standard-bearer for racist team nicknames.
But I also can't bear to watch an obviously intelligent man play dumb just to avoid taking a stance on something so serious.
I realize that Griffin, who endorses everything from adidas shoes to Subway sandwiches, doesn't want the fallout that would inevitably follow him no matter what position he took on the controversy. There are a lot of passionate sports fans on both sides of the issue, and Griffin surely doesn't want his Q-rating to suffer on either side.
Further, the willful ignorance and outright dishonesty this country reflexively relies on to maintain racial inequality make it more difficult for athletes to articulate race concerns than to discuss even other hot-button issues such as labor rights issues (Scott Fujita) and same-sex equality (Brendon Ayanbadejo).
Do that and you risk complaints of "bringing politics into sports" -- despite the fact that big-money sports are as thoroughly politicized as any other major industry in this country.
So yes, RGIII is well within his rights to avoid commenting on such a charged issue.
All I ask is that the man please stop acting as if he's too stupid to know what it's really about.