During “Monday Night Football Countdown” from Philadelphia’s Lincoln Financial Field, Robert Griffin III joined along with his fellow analysts Steve Young and Booger McFarland, eating a plate of fried chicken. Although Griffin wasn’t the only man of color eating chicken on the dais, he was the only one called out by his wife, albeit jokingly.
— Grete Griffin (@GGriffinIII) November 14, 2022
Grete Griffin, RGII’s Estonian wife and mother of his children, watched the telecast and tweeted her surprise at her husband eating the chicken live on TV.
“Are you eating chicken on live TV?” Greta Griffin tweeted with crying, laughing emojis during the Eagles’ first season loss to the Washington Commanders game. Later, RGIII replied to the 29-year-old fitness instructor, simply tweeting “Yep” with three crying emojis.
For many fans, the dichotomy was jarring. A successful Black former NFL quarterback with all the accomplishments: Heisman, NFL Rookie of the Year, and Pro Bowl. The question that remained was why is he live on TV eating fried chicken enthusiastically on one of the biggest stages in the sport? One Twitter user had a theory.
@RGIII they did u like this on purpose bro. How do u not see the racism behind this!?!?
— ken (@twinpeeks7) November 14, 2022
“@RGIII they did u like this on purpose bro. How do u not see the racism behind this!?!?”
The polarized topic of a Black man eating fried chicken even as he sat with other white and Black men doing the same is an American trope that goes back to slavery. Racial tropes were created to dehumanize Black masculinity. Although RGIII is not a symbol for all Black men, the platform he has been given comes with expectations from the audience. As RGII’s star rises in media, so do the desires of those in the culture looking to him for balance in the narrative.
Robert Griffin III has gone from an NFL quarterback anti-hero to a blossoming sports analyst doing double duty covering college football and the coveted “Monday Night Football Countdown.” Griffin has stayed true to himself in the broadcast chair, donning his braids and having fun being himself while talking sports or interviewing today’s hottest NFL players, and like all in the spotlight, Griffin will be placed in positions that can be considered compromising.
Eating fried chicken live on a sports show rubs many the wrong way who want television programming to erase the negative imagery of Black men. In sports, top-tier athletes live under the microscope even after they leave the game and switch to becoming analysts.
— Robert Griffin III (@RGIII) November 14, 2022
In mixed martial arts, former two-division champion Daniel Cormier caught the ire of the culture when his famous love for Popeyes chicken spilled over into promo videos for the MMA Awards. Cormier danced in a video that played Meghan Trainor’s “All About That Bass,” and transformed it to “All About That Cake,” eating cupcakes and chicken shirtless and smiling. The parody of his standard untoned shape transformed into a conversation about why one of the most accomplished MMA fighters would ever consider performing this way acceptable.
With RGIII, his wife was surprised that her husband was eating chicken during the show. The two exchanged a light-hearted moment on Twitter, but its innocence is lost on those still traumatized by the stereotypes. Whether RGII has to reject such actions is a personal decision, but the polarization of athletes, when placed in culturally compromising situations, continues.