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Roger may be commissioner, but Marshawn is king

As some of you may or may not know (*cough*Saul*cough*), there’s a bit of an important football game on Sunday. Usually, the two weeks before the Super Bowl are spent pouring over the Xs and Os, player injuries, and the interesting match ups for the championship game. But not this year. Something else has been dominating the news this year (and, no, it’s not the fact that the Patriots got caught cheating…again). Marshawn Lynch, Seattle’s star Running Back, has been the story–whether it’s about his reticence to answer questions from the media, his crotch-grabbing or the fines he may be facing for wearing his “Beast Mode” hat to media day.

These may seem like inane little stories, but there’s something more significant going on. The Seahawks are launching an assault on the league, itself, and just like on the field, Lynch is leading the assault.

Lynch’s troubles began last year. He’s never been one to speak much to the media, and for most of his time in Seattle, that was fine. Local beat reporters didn’t bother Marshawn, and why would they, when you have people like Richard Sherman, Michael Bennett and Doug Baldwin to talk to?

But during the playoffs last year, someone complained. If the media requests to speak with a certain player, the player is contractually obligated to do so. At first, Lynch refused, but the NFL has ways of forcing players to conform, and Lynch eventually participated in media sessions as little as possible. But leading up to last year’s Super Bowl, Lynch decided he didn’t play the NFL’s game.

Interestingly, his unwillingness to conform led to the most (only?) memorable interview from last year, when he told Deion Sanders he’s just “‘bout that action, boss.

This year, Lynch wasn’t even doing that. He showed up to Media Day, answering every question with, “I’m here so I won’t get fined”. He said it 29 times during five minutes. When the five minutes was up, he left. The NFL, locked in a power struggle with Lynch declared that he had done enough to fulfill his media obligations. (Never willing to lose control, though, the league has now said they’re going to investigate the situation and might still fine him.)

The next day, Lynch responded to questions with, “you know why I’m here.”

The NFL establishment–including Commissioner Roger Goodell–doesn’t take too well to a player who refuses to dance once they’ve begun grinding the organ, and so we have complaints from sports writers and analysts decrying Lynch’s unprofessionalism. It’s insulting and juvenile, apparently. It ignores who really pays his salary. It disrespects the game and the fans. (Even though fans clearly love him all the more.)

There are layers to this story, and they get nastier the more you peel them back.

First, it’s just stupid. No one, other than hack sports reporters and analysts, really cares whether or not Lynch talks. There’s no shortage for soundbites coming out of players. Most of them are on Twitter and Instagram, so fans have tremendous access to players. The guy who needs a player to spout a handful of cliches to fill his word count for his print column is a relic of a dying industry. He’s a gnat screaming into a thunderstorm.

And, of course, all these Very Important Sports Writers are raging hypocrites. There are so many stories about Marshawn Lynch either not talking, or not talking appropriately. They’ve filled dozens of columns and generated thousands of clicks. Make no mistake, Marshawn Lynch is the storyline, and there has been no scarcity of material.

But this isn’t really about media accessibility, it’s about power. Certain members of the media want control over the players. The league, too, wants control. Roger Goodell is locked in a power struggle with Lynch, one he cannot actually win, and he can’t let down. Because the players belong to the league.

When you watch the NFL, you see a number of young (or young-ish) men mortgage their physical well-being for a game whose primary purpose is to make (even more) millions for 30-odd (predominantly old white male) billionaires. That’s the purpose of everything that happens Sunday afternoon, and the owners don’t want anyone to forget who is really in charge. So, through their commissioner, they’ve picked a fight with Marshawn Lynch.

A quick aside, Goodell, himself, is an interesting case study. He’s the commissioner, but he’s not really in charge. He works for the owners, and his job is to make sure they keep making as much money as possible. It is not his job to do what is best for the game, the players or the fans. He must Protect The Shield, as they say.

The Patriots were caught cheating…again. Sure, it doesn’t detract from their ability as a team, but they have a track record for cheating. It is what it is. So, after all this comes out, the Patriots’ owner, Robert Kraft, heads to a press conference and gives just an absolutely disgusting performance. He lashed out at the media and the league and anyone who would dare to think that the saintly Patriots would ever do something so underhanded as steal opposing teams’ signals record opposing teams’ practices record opposing teams’ line calls deflate footballs, and demanded that everyone apologize after his league does an investigation of his team.

This, of course, is a warning to Goodell, who tends to leap tall buildings when Kraft yells “jump”. Goodell may get paid $44 million a year, but he needs to know his place, just like those players.

There’s more to this issue, though, than just toeing the line. What the NFL establishment is telling Lynch–and what they’ve been telling many players–is that there is a proper way to comport oneself. There are ways to speak and ways to behave, and it just won’t do to violate NFL etiquette.

It shouldn’t be surprising that this dynamic is playing out between the uber-affluent (again white male) ownership class and the predominantly black workers. There’s a whole lot of respectability politics wrapped up in the dictums of Goodell, Kraft and their cronies.

Take Lynch’s crotch, he sure does. Lynch is being fined for the inappropriate gesture. You see, we wouldn’t want anyone to see that, especially not the kids out there. But Lynch’s crotch-grab occurred during a telecast that generally features multiple up-skirt shots of cheerleaders and violence-packed adds for UFC fights. The NFL partners with beer companies at the same time as they suspend people for (legally) consuming alcohol. They woo the female demographic with pink ribbons and Katy Perry, while the NFL Network runs a fantasy football ad talking about bikini models getting into men’s underwear.

I am, of course, incredibly late to the party when it comes to the hypocrisy of the NFL. Earlier this season, Lynch’s teammates (the Stanford-educated) Richard Sherman and (the Stanford-educated) Doug Baldwin put on a little skit for the press, pointing out all the ways the league tries to control them, and all the hypocrisy tied into it.

You may remember Sherman from last year’s pre-Super Bowl controversy when he acted like a “thug” by yelling into a microphone after winning the conference championship. As Sherman, himself, noted, calling him a thug wasn’t really what people were doing. They were calling him something else.

Interestingly, Lynch was not the only person fined for his crotch grab. Teammate Chris Matthews was fined, also. For shaking Lynch’s hand. The league didn’t like it. I guess it was a little too close for Goodell’s comfort. Seattle Defensive End Michael Bennett had this to say about the second crotch-related fine:

“They just made that up, man,” Bennett said. “It’s funny because the NFL, you’ll see a guy say something to the ref and he won’t get fined or something. But if another guy says it, he’ll get fined.

“So it’s all about who they like and who they don’t want to fine to me, I think. But I told [Matthews] he was guilty by association and sometimes that happens, especially when you’re black.”

And he were at the crux of what’s going on during these last two weeks. The Seattle Seahawks are taking on the league. They’re taking on Goodell. They’re taking on sports writers. And they’re taking on a lot of the ugliness that hides just under the surface. It’s an amazing sight to behold.

There has been no team or player that has taken on the league in this way since Jim McMahon, Quarterback for the Chicago Bears in the 1980s, of course, McMahon’s rebellion tended to take the form of sporting a mohawk and wearing a head band. Also, the Bears were a storied franchise, owned by the legendary George Halas and coached by respected Mike Ditka.

The Seahawks have no such cover. Paul Allen isn’t a giant in the NFL. He’s not the “assistant commissioner” that Kraft is. Pete Carroll was (unfairly) laughed out of the league a couple of decades ago, then laughed at again when he returned. And that team from Southern Alaska has only been around since the 70s. They have no Paytons or Butkuses or Starrs or Bradshaws in their history.They’re not a darling of the establishment. They don’t get the favourable treatment that teams like the Patriots or Giants get.

And that’s part of this whole story. The establishment is threatened because the Seahawks don’ t toe the party line. They’re brash. They talk trash. They do yoga. They play music at practice. Snoop and Macklemore and Drake hang out with them. Their coach is too nice and too new-agey. Some people still think Bear Bryant is the only acceptable coach.

So this team of outsiders, with insufficient pedigree and insufficient deference to the establishment, aren’t willing to just roll over to the petty demands of a would-be tyrant. They see the truth and they speak the truth. And, in doing so, they have exposed a lot of the ugly racism that resides just below the surface*:

I’m not saying you should root for the Seahawks (but you should). I’m not saying they’re the better team (but they are). I’m not even saying they’re going to win (but they probably will). I’m saying that regardless of your on-field allegiances, this is a group of players–a group of people–who are fighting the good fight against the NFL.

Whether it’s Lynch not talking to the media (and then calling them out when he does), whether it’s Sherman highlighting the cozy relationship between Goodell and Kraft, whether it’s Bennett and Sherman decrying the corrupt nature of the NCAA, these players are using the spotlight to make some important statements, and that’s worth rooting for.

Even if they don’t say a damned thing.

Image by Keith Allsion.

*One thing that I find interesting in all of this is the way so many established NFL voices rally around the Patriots, while denigrating the Seahawks. Tell me, who are the biggest stars on the Patriots? Brady, Gronkowski, Edelman and Revis–three white players and one black player. Who are the biggest stars on the Seahawks? Lynch, Sherman, Wilson and Thomas–all black. The closest thing Seattle has to a white star player is their punter, Jon Ryan**. I don’t believe this is just coincidence.

Take Patriots Center Bryan Stork, who doesn’t like talking to the media, either…but he gets glowing praise for it. You know, he’s just a blue-collar, lunch pail guy doing all the grunt work. We should appreciate that.

Or take Tom Brady, the NFL’s golden boy. What do you think would be said about Cam Newton or Colin Kaepernick if they adopted Brady’s procreative habits?

**Whom you should all love, not only because of the superior spelling of “Jon”, but also because he’s Canadian.

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70 thoughts on “Roger may be commissioner, but Marshawn is king

  1. Narrative is one of the strongest forces in the media and public perception. And race plays heavily into narrative.

    Brady is a “gamer”. So when he shoves a Ravens player because he took exception to being tackled, then jumps up shouting in his face and then the ref’s, we talk about his “competitive spirit”. And when Sherman — relatively unknown at the time — yells into a mic, he becomes a thug.

    It’s disgusting, really.

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  2. As a fan and a near-local boy, it’s been interesting to note that the reporters/pundits/talk show hosts who are upset about Lynch’s unprofessional behavior of not talking to the media overlap almost 100% with the reporters/pundits/talk show hosts who are upset about Richard Sherman’s unprofessional behavior of talking to much.

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  3. So, I take it the argument is…

    If the media requests to speak with a certain player, the player is contractually obligated to do so.

    this should change? (Among other things, I presume, but let’s just take this.) There is a process for doing that that: that contract is collectively bargained. Come to think of it, every regulation to which they are subject has been bargained (or the opportunity to change it bargained away) for them by their representatives. Are the stars of the most successful sports league on the planet at some kind of unique disadvantage in their negotiations over the terms of their employment? Why would that be?

    Generally, if Lynch doesn;t want to speak, I’m inclined to want him to be able to not speak. But is it so over-controlling for the league to want to be able to assure the media – which is what make these franchises a money-making enterprise – will be able to speak to the players who are the biggest part of each individual game. If someone makes the wining play, you want to be able to ensure they’ll be available to talk about it afterward. That’s controlling, but it’s also reasonable when you;re trying to make money. Lynch’s discomfort in public makes me want them to make an exception for him. But I can certainly understand the concern that if they do, essentially they’ll no longer be able to provide that guarantee to the media. What basis would they have to deny the exception to anyone else? At tht point, there’s no rule.

    If this is something players don’t want, they can make it a sticking point when they next negotiate their contract.

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      • I’m not sure who’s complaining the most, but it doesn’t indicate why the rule is in place anyway. If one local press pool is experiencing effectively an exemption to the rule, they’ll complain very loudly because relatively speaking they’re losing the most, and they’re also being denied something all their peers are being granted. But that doesn’t mean it’s their concerns that are driving the league’s actions. The national networks can deal with an exception here or there; it’s if in general they won’t be able to get the interviews they want that they’ll let the league know what they need, and their dollars are what get a response.

        If it’s not worth money to the league to enforce these availabilities, what is your theory on why the league is so adamant that it happens?

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    • Plus I think Jon’s point is not just about contractually negotiated job requirements, but the expectation and perception of control when exercised by black folks and white folks. See the link to a standoffish white player. I mean, how long before someone uses the word “uppity”?

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  4. There is a game that is played:

    “Hey, Player X! What do you think about going up against the Podunk Crabs on Sunday?”
    “I’m honored to be part of this great sport and I thank my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, every day that I can be in this League at this level, and I know that the Podunk Crabs are great competitors and it’s an honor to be going up against them and I’m really looking forward to our matchup because I respect them so much.”

    (What a drab interview! What crap! Ugh! Gag me with a spoon!)

    “Hey, Player X! What do you think about going up against the Podunk Crabs on Sunday?”
    “Their last 4 seasons were 1-15, 2-14, and 1-15. Right now, they’re 0-12 and we’re going into them at 11-1 at home. I’m pretty sure that the fans out there who have me on their fantasy football team are going to be laughing all week at the poor saps who have to lose to them. Allow me to summarize by saying I AM THE MEANEST! I AM THE BADDEST! I AM THE PRETTIEST!”

    (Oh, man, I am soooo going to enjoy writing this column!)

    Roger Ebert said something to the effect of “it’s a lot more fun to write a bad review than a good review”. Speaking personally, it’s a lot more fun to read a bad review than a good review.

    This is yet another example of journalists (well, sports journalists anyway) delighting that they get to not only write a bad review, but a bad review on a topic that even people who care nothing for football might find interesting.

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  5. As some of you may or may not know (*cough*Saul*cough*), there’s a bit of an important football game on Sunday.

    The Grey Cup? Cool, thanks for letting us know. That gives me something to watch besides the Cheaters-Assholes thing we have that day.

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  6. (Never willing to lose control, though, the league has now said they’re going to investigate the situation and might still fine him.)

    Of course, it’ll take them a year to find a tape of Lynch’s interview.

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  7. Close but not completely on target. I want the Hawks to win and would love to have to see Goodell hand the trophy to Lynch. That would be a solid win. But while the owners are billionaires the players all here in question are millionaires so some of the talk about their being forced to do things is a bit weak. The players have immensely privileged and desired positions. They are rich and widely admired with immense social power and for Lynch and Sherman and the better players they are set for life if they manage their money.

    However lots of the NFL rules are petty and silly. Part of that is trying to curb some excesses like stupid touchdown/sack dances or taunting but then deal with borderline issues. ( yes i know some people like choreographed or special TD/sack dances). Football in general is very control oriented sport given the intense level of scripting of each play and move, mirco planning and lack of continuous play. Coaches are control freaks and the owners are mostly controlling jerks who expect to get everything single thing they want. Everybody knows 99. 9% of interviews are worthless babble filled with the beyond obvious and stupid catchphrases, but the NFL lacks the ability to focus on what is important.

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  8. Usually, the two weeks before the Super Bowl are spent pouring over the Xs and Os, player injuries, and the interesting match ups for the championship game.

    Poring, not “pouring”.

    Also, the Bears were a storied franchise, owned by the legendary George Halas and coached by respected Mike Ditka.

    At that point the Bears were (and still are) owned by Halas’ widow.

    Paul Allen isn’t a giant in the NFL.

    Ironically he is the richest owner in the NFL. Ironically, he isn’t the richest owner in the NBA.

    They don’t get the favourable treatment that teams like the Patriots or Giants get.

    What do the Giants have to do with this?

    Bart Hubbuch: Looking forward to the Marshawn-to-English translation from this morning’s press conference.

    1) Hubbuch writes for the New York Post, which is owned by Rupert Murdoch.

    2) Nevertheless, pointing out Lynch’s tenuous grasp of spoken English doesn’t make Hubbuch racist per se.

    As for me, I will be rooting for the Patriots tomorrow.

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  9. The NBA seems to be able to get away with imposing much tougher restrictions on its players — game day media access, dress codes, etc. Is part of that the severity of punishments? I don’t remember the current NBA arrangement, but my impression is Lynch is well out into what would be “next game suspension without pay, whether it’s game seven of the finals or not” territory.

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    • Part of it is that David Stern was a much tougher commissioner and more importantly, even though the NFL union ain’t that great, the NBA union was a complete mess until recently, so Stern was able to run over them.

      Throw in the fact that the early 2000’s Iverson era had led to a lot of the media and fans thinking of NBA players as “thugs” (we all know what they really meant), which gave Stern et al leverage to push the dress code and such.

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  10. I couldn’t disagree more with the race-and-power angle of this article. We can agree on the following:

    – that it’d be better if athletes who didn’t want to talk were allowed to skip the interviews
    – that sportswriters love simple storylines and easy controversies
    – and I think there was something else you said that I agreed with, but I can’t find it right now

    But Lynch is being a jerk. The NFL is trying to keep its product consumer-friendly, and he’s working against them. Yeah, they’re fighting the NFL (I think that was the other thing I agreed with), but they’re fighting one of the few good things about it. As you noted, this is just Jim McMahon stuff thirty years late. He wasn’t black, he was trashy. The Seahawks (at least some of them) are trying to trash up the league.

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    • I just checked out that Daily Beast link. I don’t know if I’ve ever used the word “thug”, but if I did, I’d use it to describe something I thought was thuggish or thug-like. I wouldn’t use it to imply anything about skin color. I resent it when someone uses the racism decoder ring to tell me what I really meant when I used a word according to its dictionary definition. And even if I didn’t resent it, it’d be inaccurate, and that makes communication harder.

      I don’t think I’ve ever used the word “thug”, but I use the word “bully”. Telling me what words I’m not allowed to say is bullying.

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      • I get what you’re saying, Pinky, but my alma mater was among the first in the South to integrate its football program, and the “thug” tag immediately followed and among our old rivals follows to this day. That and the “joke” about how when we come to town liquor stores get robbed.

        So I have to admit that I am actually kind of sensitive to that characterization.

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      • Thinking about this some more, I probably avoid the word “thug” because of its racial connotation, but those are South Asian, not black. Looking at that footage of Sherman, I know that the stadium must be really loud, so I’d be inclined to cut him some slack, but the reporter’s startled reaction argues against that. Was he thuggish? I’d say rude and stupid.

        I see under Gifts of Gab that there’s a discussion going on about commenters’ skin colors.

        I’ve never been called a racist, and I’ve never broken anyone’s jaw, but I’m increasingly feeling like those statements will no longer be true some day, with the latter following the former by a matter of seconds. The former would not be justified; the latter would. I hate that we’re moving in this direction.

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      • And while I’m venting: I have no idea what color any football player is, except by accident. Their interviews stink, so the only time I ever see them, they’re in full uniform, with helmets on. McNair? McNabb? McLeod? My assumption is Scots-Irish, but it doesn’t matter to me at all.

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      • I’m from Texas, and I can assure you that the word “thug” is, in fact, often used as a substitute for the n-word.

        You can tell, because it’s used EXACTLY where the n-word would have been, in exactly the same tone of derision and disdain.

        On the upside, it’s very versatile for racists. You can insert ‘hispanic’ right in front of it, and get the same thing but for a different race. Two-fer, as it were. Plus, it’s got a lot of cover. Normal people use the word, it’s got a common and accepted definition, so it’s socially acceptable.

        After all, the word “thug” in print — divorced of the tone and expression used when uttering it — seems quite harmless. No racial animus at all.

        Won’t last, though. To be blunt about if, if the average oblivious white guy is catching onto the fact that ‘thug’ seems to be popping up for ‘black guy acting uppity and/or making me uncomfortable by existing’ then the problem’s got to be ugly underneath.

        People who aren’t using it as a substitute for racial slurs that will get them social disapproval will switch to other words, because they don’t want to even be accidentally grouped with racists.

        In the meantime, it’s still got plenty of cover.

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      • “What’s worse: being wrongly called a racist? Or racism?”

        Interesting question. My first few thoughts (unsorted):

        – Falsely accusing someone of a thing is bad to the degree that the thing itself is bad. We agree that racism is really bad; therefore calling someone a racist is really bad.

        – Are we shame-based or guilt-based? I know I’m not a racist, so I pass the guilt-based test. I shouldn’t overindulge my anger at an accusation.

        – There’s something disturbing about the implication of this question. No, implication is the wrong word; I should say something about inferring rather than implying. I infer a “better ten innocent men in prison than a guilty man goes free” mindset behind the question. I hope I’m wrong.

        – I believe that as a society we’re doing more damage to ourselves with accusations of racism than we are with racism. I know that good people can disagree on this. We’re definitely moving in that direction, whether we’ve crossed the line or not. There’s a line, I don’t remember who from, that society is most on guard against the fault it’s least guilty of.

        My dad was a pilot. I enjoy playing the occasional flight simulation game, but I know it’s not real. My dad also helped integrate neighborhoods and workplaces. What we do online with articles like this is an easy, consequence-free simulation game of civil rights.

        OK, that was a little more free-form than usual, but I’m going to post it as-is.

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      • I believe that as a society we’re doing more damage to ourselves with accusations of racism than we are with racism
        I’d love to poll that question, then break it out by race and wealth.

        I’m pretty sure you’d get lots of white agreement, and very little black, hispanic, or native american agreement.

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      • Rationally, no; instinctively, yes.

        Maybe the real difference between acting racist and accusing someone of racism is that in the first case the initiator is being obviously malicious and stupid, but in the second it’s less transparent. No one walks away from the first conversation thinking, hmm, maybe he was right.

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      • “No one walks away from the first conversation thinking, hmm, maybe he was right.”

        First off, who determines if an accusation of racism is unjust?

        Second, why is encouraging someone to reflect on their words/actions a BAD thing?

        But let’s get back to the original argument: Is Marshawn Lynch — or anyone else on the Seattle Seahawks — a thug? Do any of them act in a thuggish manner? When answering, please give your definition of thug/thuggish manner.

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      • If you are not actually going to make an intelligent argument, I ask that you not respond to my comments. I will cease responding to yours unless or until you offer anything substantive.

        Demonstrate how I’m “doubling down”. Articulate how the Seahawks — individually or collectively — were “thugs” or acting in a “thuggish manner” and, ask I asked of Pinky, offer a definition for each of those terms.

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      • Dude, you could learn something from about the difference between respectfully (if emotionally) stating your case and trolling. Your comments here in this thread wouldn’t be an issue but for the one of yours we had to delete last night. That comment makes these look like you’re dancing on the edge to see what we’ll let you get away with. And as you know, the comment we deleted last night makes three comments of yours in the past three days that we’ve had to delete.

        All of this falls under the category of S**T I Have Neither the Time Nor Desire to Deal With.

        So seriously, last warning before commenting privileges are revoked.

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      • Falsely accusing someone of a thing is bad to the degree that the thing itself is bad. We agree that racism is really bad; therefore calling someone a racist is really bad.

        wHat?

        Being dead is bad. If I accuse you of being dead is it just as bad as you being dead?

        I believe that as a society we’re doing more damage to ourselves with accusations of racism than we are with racism.

        Again, wHat?

        We can begin from the earliest interactions of Europeans with Native Americans and with the first occurrence of enslaved Africans in what was to become the United States. And we can compile an inexhaustible list of crimes and horrors wrought by racism. What’s the harm being done “with accusations of racism?”

        Using racism as a blanket smear against ideological and political opponents is wrong, but let’s not start making claims that have no basis in reality. It should be enough just to make the claim without trying to ascribe all sort of nonexistent societal damage.

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      • I have more than a little sympathy with your point of view here, for a variety of reasons. So let me see if I can come at this from a different angle.

        “Thug” and “thuggish” are words that until recently, I have never had much of a problem with — although to be honest I don’t know that I used them that much either. In fact, the first time I heard someone snark about someone using the word I’m pretty sure I rolled my eyes. But over time I’ve decided not to use the word, for a number of reasons:

        ** Like “n**ger” or “c**t,” which are also just descriptive words, the word “thug” clearly offends a group of people. And unlike other words which, by my observation, are objected to mostly by white people in the name of minorities, “thug” is one that really, really rankles my friends who are black. So even if someone who says “that guy’s a thug” means nothing racial at all, it’s definitely heard that way by people who are black — in the same way “n**ger”is heard that way, even if you’re talking about a white dude.

        ** Since being told by black friends that it’s “always” used against black men, I have noticed even if “always” is an overstatement, it actually does seem to be used that way the vast preponderance of the time.

        You mentioned Vince McMahon earlier, I believe, who I think is not a bad comparison to someone like Brian Bosworth, Doug Baldwin, or Richard Sherman in terms of players whose behavior makes them love-’em-or-hate-’em characters. The thing is, I have noticed since it’s been pointed out to me that I only heard two of those four ever called a thug. All four are called an ass, but only Baldwin and Sherman are labeled thug.

        So while I might not have meant to say anything racial if I called, say, Kevin Garnett a thug, I do get why black people hear it that way.

        ** On top of all of this, thanks to Rufus I actually found out just a few weeks ago that the word “thug” actually started out as a slur against colored people. Of Indian descent rather than African descent, sure, but knowing that now makes me a little bit more empathetic to why people might take it as having racial implications, regardless of the intent.

        Now, none of this is to say that you are a racist for having ever used the word, or that you’re a racist for continuing to use the word. You very clearly don’t have to be.

        And it’s quite possible that I myself may pull the word out myself some day, either in a conversation or even a post here; I do like to be provocative upon occasion, after all. But knowing in advance how people hear that word — and knowing why they hear it that way — I won’t demand that they hear it differently. There are too many other good words to use in its place if I want to avoid being heard that way.

        Of course, as I said above, that’s just my own thoughts. YMMV, obviously.

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      • J R – I didn’t say that a false accusation of something is equally bad as that thing, or at least I didn’t mean to say that. A false accusation of something is bad for two reasons: firstly, to the extent that it’s incorrect; secondly, to the extent that the thing accused is bad. I could have made that “a false accusation of an act”.

        Also, I’m talking about now. No amount of anti-racism is going to negate the tragedies experienced by racial minorities in the history of our society. The question I’m interested in is whether the things we’re doing to root out racism are currently more damaging than the effect of current racism.

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      • Its interesting for me to witness the outrage and cries of pain from my fellow white people over being unjustly accused and scorned by society.

        No, it isn’t right, and its unjust by definition.

        But rather than arching our back and adopting a defensive posture, its probably more beneficial to pause to consider that virtually every group other than white men has for most of our lifetimes suffered with this very same issue.

        What makes it beneficial is that it allows us to have a better grasp of it when, for example, a Native American complains about the Redskins, or a black person reacts angrily to a stern lecture on the work ethic.

        Oftentimes we just hear these complaints as the whining of an overly sensitive victim mentality.
        Other people’s pain is easy to dismiss, unless we link it to our own.

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      • First of all, I’ve never tried to use the link before, so I’m sorry if it doesn’t work.

        “First off, who determines if an accusation of racism is unjust?”

        Any time an accusation is made, it’s the responsibility of the accuser to present his case. The accused has the right to respond if he chooses. Any listener may make his mind up based on what he hears. All of the participants have a responsibility to think and act in good will. I don’t think that Jonathan McLeod presents his argument sufficiently well, and to me that smacks of bad will, but I reserve judgment on it. Note the Straw Dogs scenario is possible, in which everyone acts in bad will.

        “Second, why is encouraging someone to reflect on their words/actions a BAD thing?”

        I don’t think that’s what’s taking place here. I see how it could, though.

        “But let’s get back to the original argument: Is Marshawn Lynch — or anyone else on the Seattle Seahawks — a thug? Do any of them act in a thuggish manner? When answering, please give your definition of thug/thuggish manner.”

        I haven’t used the word. I used the word “jerk”. To me, “thug” implies criminal activity. I have no reason to apply that word to Lynch. Sherman’s clip from last year did seem thuggish to me, in that he was acting intimidating to a person who wasn’t the object of his emotion.

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      • Also, I’m talking about now. No amount of anti-racism is going to negate the tragedies experienced by racial minorities in the history of our society. The question I’m interested in is whether the things we’re doing to root out racism are currently more damaging than the effect of current racism.

        OK, so answer that question. Tell me what the enumerated damage of “what we’re doing to root out racism” is and then we can compare it to the enumerated damage of racism.

        Do you really think that the two of those things are even close to comparable?

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      • (You used the function perfectly)

        I would say that if someone walked away from the exchange thinking, “Maybe I was wrong…” than it necessarily follows that they engaged in some form of self-reflection. If they said, “That guy said I was wrong so I must be,” not necessarily so. But if they are thinking, “Hm… I should reconsider what I said in light of what that other person said,” that it sounds to me like a constructive dialogue was had, even if the person ultimately decides his comment/action was justified.

        I agree with you that unjustified accusations of racism are problematic. Not only can they be harmful to the target, but they often serve to undermine anti-racism in general. I also think we need to consider the difference between unjustified accusations (which I take to mean accusations for which no basis exists… i.e., unfounded accusations) and false accusations (which may have evidence to support them even if it ultimately falls flat). I would say — largely for the reasons lays out — that questioning the racial animus behind use of the term “thug” is always justified if not always true.

        Also, for the record, I do my very, very best to respond to actions and not individual. I work really hard to say, “That’s racist,” and not “You’re racist.” The former is often mistaken for the latter but there is an important distinction: one refers to controllable behavior which can A) be changed and B) does not necessarily define a person; the other speaks to someone’s character and risks being perceived as an assessment of who they are inherently. On my very best days, I will say, “What you said/did has potential racial overtones. Have you considered…”

        CASE IN POINT… (I’m trying really hard to be good today)… Your comment about Sherman “acting intimidating to a person who wasn’t the object of his emotion…” I wonder if that assessment is at all influenced by the fact that the person he was talking to was a woman (who said after the fact that she did not feel at all intimidated and that her reaction was largely confusion/caught-off-guard). Do you think you’d look at it the same way if he acted the exact same way to Rich Eisen? Or to Ray Lewis conducting the interview?

        (Note: I’m genuinely curious to hear your response to that. But I’m also trying to point out how I might attempt to explore the potential for sex/gender to play a role in your perception of the event without levying an accusation. Would you consider my approach here to be making an accusation?)

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      • Sometimes, the internet just…works. I looked over your comment and realized that my mental picture of a scenario I gave was very different from yours. So let me state it more clearly.

        “Maybe the real difference between acting racist and accusing someone of racism is that in the first case the initiator is being obviously malicious and stupid, but in the second it’s less transparent. No one walks away from the first conversation thinking, hmm, maybe he was right.”

        Scenario One – Two people in the middle of a conversation. One says, “…but that’s the kind of thing you’d expect to see, because blacks are lazy”. If the second guy doesn’t walk away right then, he’s at least not going to bother talking to Guy 1 ever again, or considering him to be anything but a jerk.

        Scenario Two – Two people in the middle of a conversation. One says, “…but that’s the kind of thing you’d expect to see, because Tom is a racist”. Guy 2 thinks, “hmm, maybe he was right about Tom. I don’t know him that well, but I’ll have to watch out for that.”

        Scenario Three, what I think you thought I was describing as Scenario Two – Two people in the middle of a conversation. One says, “…but that’s the kind of thing you’d expect to see, because blacks are lazy”. Two says, “I can’t tell if you’re joking or not, but you really shouldn’t say things like that. It’s offensive, and it’s wrong.” Guy 1 walks away saying to himself, “hmm, maybe he was right”.

        So, I was discussing conversations 1 & 2. I just don’t think that 3 happens that often. I don’t hear people talking like the first guy in real life, making racist comments. I don’t see people responding like the second guy in real life, face to face, to an actual racist comment. I see a lot of people smearing people behind their backs, or shouting things online or on the streets.

        Long comment. I’m going to take a break.

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      • And yes, I find it ironic that someone who is transgendered would refer to others as weird.

        If you don’t that is your right, but you didn’t “have to delete” anything.

        Also, the fact that you have to use the s-word in your post shows your lack of class.

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      • (Tod, if I may take this?)

        ScarletNumbers, it is my belief that there are people who escalate situations and people who de-escalate them. Whether we call it thuggery, lack of class, whatever. You’re taunting commenters, and you’re making things worse. De-escalate.

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      • I think the reason we don’t often see substantive dialogue that leads to self-reflection (for either party) is because the two sides do not engage. People do say things like, “Black folks are lazy.” But they’re usually smart enough to know the “proper” (i.e., one in which they won’t get called out) venue in which to say it. If and when it gets out that they said it, they may get roasted but never actually engaged with. People then dig in their heals and any hope for growth is gone.

        This then poisons the well so even when you do have a venue where in people do dialogue and seek growth (e.g., here), people are often to here, “Hey, can we talk about that thing you said,” as “ZOMG, they called me a racist Hitler monster!” And, again, all hope for dialogue is lost.

        I’m guilty of this myself in referring to you as a “thug”. While I strongly object to your stance that being called a racist — rightly or wrongly — justified breaking someone’s jaw, that was uncalled for. For that, I apologize. I’m glad you were able to see past that and continue to engage with the substance of my ideas.

        In short: People should speak to racism (and other ideas/thoughts/actions they find offensive) in a manner which is constructive, bearing in mind that they may be wrong about that which they consider as such. When engaged about their own potential racism (or other offensive ideas/thoughts/actions), people should be willing to listen and reflect. There is little if any gain from false accusations of racism but also little if any gain from failing to resist racism.

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      • “I would say — largely for the reasons@RTodlays out — that questioning the racial animus behind use of the term “thug” is always justified if not always true.”

        It’s acceptable to ponder whether there’s racial animus behind words or actions (although it’s not healthy beyond a certain point). It is wrong to accuse someone of something without sufficient evidence or certainty that the accusation is true. What about the middle ground, between idly wondering and outright accusing? You use the word “questioning”: what does that entail?

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  11. Just out of curiosity, does the NFL publish coach and team fines for the year? Belichick and the Patriots will pay whatever for the low air pressure; Pete Carroll was fined $100,000 and the Seahawks another $200,000 for a rule violation early in the season (a repeat of a previous incident, as I understand it). Has there ever been a Super Bowl before this where both head coaches had incurred 6-digit fines?

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  12. The thing that Lynch and other players need to understand is that the NFL is about the athletics a distant third, right behind “popular entertainment” and “advertising revenue”. If Lynch thinks he’s going to get anywhere by pretending like PR is not a big part of his job then he’s kidding himself.

    The NFL could do just about as well if it hired 350 actors and kaybafed everything–maybe even better because actors would deliver their lines better and hit their marks reliably.

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