Brandon Marshall, James Blake And The Intersection Of Race And Sports

Think race and sports don’t intersect as much as they used to? Think again.

New York Jets wide receiver Brandon Marshall, no stranger to open and honest dialogue, recently told Showtimes Inside the NFL, that Patriots quarterback Tom Brady escaped suspension for his role in Deflagate because hes white.

Many of my white colleagues have a hard time admitting that they benefit from what they look like, and that they will mostly likely not have to deal with what most African-Americans and Latinos have to deal with in our country.

Issues of race, if were being honest, are too heavy for most people. They would rather discuss something else entirely. But Brandon Marshall is not shying away.

There are a lot of players out there that believe that white players — specifically, at the quarterback position — are treated differently, Marshall said. This is not just from our locker room, this is from locker rooms across the States. This is how guys are feeling; this is not just my opinion. These are conversations I’m having with guys.”

Marshall, who is playing for his fourth team in 10 seasons, went on to say that he believes black players are held to a different standard. He also added that he spoke with white players who echo his sentiments.

Dave Zirin, sports editor at The Nation wrote an article called Do #BlackLivesMatter to White Athletes? Lets Ask Them. In his piece, Zirin calls out those players for staying on the sidelines when their teammates need them.

“Everyone means not just black athletes, Zirin wrote. Peyton Manning, Kevin Love, Tom Brady, Mike Trout, Aaron Rodgers: this is the culture that has made you famous. If you want its blessings, then share its burdens and call for justice for Michael Brown. Either black lives matter or they dont. In other words, either the lives of your teammates matter or they dont. Its time, white athletes: take some of the damn weight.

I get where the reluctance comes from. After all, most people want to dismiss things that make them uncomfortable. However, Marshalls comments were timely since the news broke about how retired tennis pro James Blake was recently treated by the NYPD.

Reportedly, Blake, who is a Harvard graduate and was once the No.4 ranked mens tennis player in the world, was tackled by NYPD officers because he was mistakenly identified as a suspect in a fraudulent credit card ring. He wasn’t acting suspicious or running away; he was waiting outside of his hotel, in crowded midtown Manhattan, to make his way to the US Open. His only crime? “He fit the description,” something Black men have unfortunately become too used to hearing and being subjected to. 

In case you may not have noticed, a disproportionate number of Black men in America have a story about a negative to run-in with the police.

I shared an experience I had on Twitter, when I fit the description in a case that involved a sexual assault:

Black men being stopped, assaulted and unlawfully detained by the police happens more than Marshalls detractors want to admit. Per usual, social media tried its best to call B.S. on Marshalls comments while others believe he was right:

I think his opinion is well-warranted with what he said, Jets Head Coach Todd Bowles told USA Today, referring to Marshalls statements. Back when I played, Ive seen some things, just like he has seen some things. But Im not on that platform and he is. He has got to be smarter.

When answering if he and Marshall had discussed the issue, Bowles said they had, saying, It was a normal conversation. We talked about it in depth like two grown men and let it go. I read the article, understood where he was coming from. He understood where I was coming from and we moved on.

Marshall made a polarizing statement, was dismissed for it, and yet his words were later vindicated when Blake was detained by police officers later that day. Men like Marshall, along the African-American players and coaches in the NFL, arent above the things that continue to divide most Americans.

They have family and friends who deal with racism each and every day. Even though the NYPD issued Blake an apology, we havent heard from the officers who tackled him. Also, its doubtful you or I wouldve received an apology.

Bill Russell, Reggie Jackson, Ernie Banks, Jim Brown, Jackie Robinson, Magic Johnson, along with Val James, the first African-American to play in the NHL, all have stories about how they were treated differently from white players. Some verbalized what happened at the time while others confided in friends and family.

At any rate, fans seem not to care as long as they are being entertained and doing well in their fantasy leagues.

But as soon as someone says something they dont like, as Ohio State quarterback Cardale Jones did when he said in Twitter, You tell me #All lives matter well I say how do you define All?,  theyll say  something similar to the Buckeyes fans who responded, worry about getting us fans another championshipStay out of this bull****.

Jones tongue-in-cheek response was perfect, as he replied, Sorry Mr master, I aints allowed to tweet nothing but foolsball stuff I donts want you to think I more than a foots ball playa sir.

Brandon Marshall and Cardale Jones live lives that are much more complex than a 3-4 defensive scheme. Its time that some folks actually considered what they have to say, and how they feel, as opposed to being reflexively dismissive.

Because when we listen to what others have to say, when we think about how they feel and why they feel the way they do, especially when their life experiences are vastly different, thats when, as Zirin suggests, others can begin to take some of the damn weight.

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