It’s amazing how just one word can take a seemingly innocent question and turn it into, at best, an ignorant position of privilege, and at worst, complete and total racism.
In the aftermath of NFL Wide Receiver Henry Ruggs killing a woman and her dog while driving drunk in the early morning hours along the streets of Las Vegas at speeds as high as 156 MPH, a listener sent an email asking the following:
“After reading about Ruggs a couple days ago, and listening to what you reported to us all…it saddens me that the NFL doesn’t have professionals trained to work with these young…men coming into the NFL…could the lives of this girl and her dog have been saved if there was some sort of guidance given to Henry?”
In and of itself, it’s an innocuous question and a good one. The truth of the matter is, that the NFL does, and has for decades, held days-long orientations for rookies entering the league and recently, expanded their program to start mentoring college football players. The potential superstars are taught money management, the trappings of fame, how to stay out of trouble, and given the roadmap to prosperity, all of which is commendable considering so many of the young men who wind up in the NFL find themselves, suddenly, at the age 20-ish, millionaires. https://nflcommunications.com/Pages/NFL-Announces-Expanded-Rookie-Transition-Program.aspx
Sadly, no amount of “education,” will prevent the inevitability of life, as we see with our own eyes daily.
Had that been the end of the email, there’d be no story here, and no soapbox. Sadly, that wasn’t what the email said. Rather it read as follows in its entirety:
“After reading about Ruggs a couple days ago, and listening to what you reported to us all today, It saddens me that the NFL doesn’t have professionals trained to work with these young black men coming into the NFL. Maybe I’m wrong and there is, but if not could the lives of this girl and her dog have been saved if there was some sort of guidance given to Henry? Her family and all that were involved in the accident are grieving. I don’t know much about Henry or how his upbringing was, I just wonder if all this could have been avoided if there were things put in place to help men like Ruggs who recently signed million dollar plus contracts.”
To put it kindly: What the F%*K you say?
Full disclosure; I’m married to a black woman and freely admit that issues of race are a hot button for me. In fact, the RAD Radio show got this email on Thursday, and I intentionally ignored it to give myself time to ruminate on it and make sure I wasn’t overreacting to it. By Sunday morning, I woke up more pissed than when I first read it.
Clearly, based on the insertion of the word “black,” white and Hispanic young men coming into the NFL don’t need any training or guidance because they already have all of the skills needed to “life” in a legal, responsible manner. Just ask Ben Roethlisberger, Ryan Leaf, Aaron Hernandez, Jared Allen, Sebastian Janikowski, Richie Incognito, Matt Prater, Mark Chmura, Barrett Robbins, Todd Sauerbrun, Eric Naposki, and dozens of other non-black NFL players who have beaten their significant others, driven drunk, had sex with underage babysitters, assaulted, sexually assaulted, and even murdered people.
Yet clearly, we need to train and guide only the ignorant and already inherently dangerous black boys. Lovely.
Approximately 70% of NFL players are African American, yet, despite all of the attention that comes with it, the arrest rate for NFL players is lower than the standard arrest rate for the entire American population. That’s odd; you’d think a league dominated by hoodlums with brown skin would be setting the curve. http://www.nflarrest.com/
It’s easy and lazy to say that the letter writer is just naïve and/or that he didn’t mean anything by it. If he didn’t mean anything by it, he wouldn’t have inserted the word “black” into his email. While it’s true that he may be so misinformed that he can only think of black NFL players that he’s heard of that have gotten in trouble, the fact that he then deduces and implies that only black players get in trouble or, put another way all young black men are trouble is nothing short of racist.
Not to mention the very end of his email; having already established that he’s only concerned about young black men coming into the league, his solution is to “put something in place to help men like Ruggs who recently signed million dollar plus contracts.” Like, for example; this year the first two draft picks in the NFL were Trevor Lawrence and Zach Wilson, who received $24 and $22 million each, respectively in signing bonuses. They’re both 22 and white so they’re of no concern. But, uh-oh…That dastardly third pick in the draft was Trey Lance, who at the age of just 21 was given $22 million dollars for signing his contract and…guess what? He’s black! And, by definition, young! Oh my God I can hear the shrieks of horror all around me. Certainly something has been put in place to help him! How in the world can we just hand a grown man that much money when he’s black? That’s just irresponsible. We should probably tell him that we’ll hold onto that $22 million and give him just what he needs for living expenses until he’s say, 30.
Oh wait, his mom is white, so he’s only part black. He probably doesn’t need as much guidance as the other fully black young men.
As we sit in awe at the embarrassing spectacle that is Aaron Rodgers this week and his total loss of credibility and any sort of respect he had left, it’s ironic that people want to focus on those darn ghetto ass black men. And don’t even try moral equivalency arguments like “Aaron Rodgers didn’t kill anyone.” For starters, three of those white NFL players in the earlier list are murderers. Secondly, the truth of the matter is that Aaron Rodgers MAY have been responsible for someone’s death by lying to his teammates and the media about being “immunized” and not following the protocols the NFL has in place for non-vaccinated players. As stupid as so much of our reaction as a nation to Covid has been, it’s still killed more than 700,000 people and is a deadly virus to plenty of players’ parents or immunocompromised relatives. And the most relevant analogy to this story is the fact that short of Tom Brady, there is no player as prolific in the NFL as Aaron Rodgers. He was on the short list to host Jeopardy permanently for God’s sake! The Ruggs story is despicable, but it’s essentially already a memory. His career is over, he’s going to go to jail for a long time and in a couple years, no one will remember his name. Rodgers is a Hall-of-Fame shoo-in who, for 5 days and counting, has been the epicenter of all NFL coverage as we watch him lie, squirm, whine, and make things worse by the day, clearly distracting from the image the league works so hard to maintain. Most importantly, I haven’t gotten any emails asking why the NFL doesn’t train and guide young WHITE men to tell the truth.
Clearly, I’m being hyperbolic and am not suggesting Rodgers and Ruggs are on morally equivalent ground, but I couldn’t resist.
Perhaps the better comparison would be Britt Reid. While not a player, he was a coach in the NFL, and had been since he was 21 years old. Fortunately, though, the trappings of fame and money weren’t a jarring experience for him since his father was already a highly successful multi-millionaire. Plus, talk about a “system put in place,” to help guide a young man in the NFL, Britt Reid spent his entire career in the NFL working for and beside his father, Andy. And of course, they’re both white, so there was no need to worry about anything in the first place. Other than the fact that Reid was involved in a multi-vehicle crash on February 4, 2021, just a few days before Super Bowl LV. Reid was on Adderall and had a blood alcohol concentration of .113. The five-year-old passenger in the car Reid struck was in critical condition and spent ten days in a coma and on April 2, 2021, roughly two months after the crime, the five-year-old girl was released from the hospital, still unable to walk or talk and being fed through a feeding tube.
But hey, let’s make sure we keep an eye on those young black men coming into the NFL.