I never expected to write an op-ed, published on the penultimate day of 2020. Yet, there are issues, circumstances that literally reach out and grab attention. This week, NFL analyst Anthony McFarland became one of those people. Now, I understand that he calls himself Booger, but I refuse to. I defer to this classic line from ” Coming to America” What McFarland said wasn’t new, or revolutionary. However, the context, arena, and audience he geared this to, bothered me. Bothered to the point of writing all of this. As much as the seething, scathing petty that resides in me wants to turn this into a name-calling extravaganza, I’ll take a different tact and show a modicum of restraint.
This week, the Washington Football Team (WFT) released former first-rounder, QB Dwayne Haskins. Haskins, on video, appeared maskless at a strip club, apparently doing the most with the least amount of common sense. In any situation, making the WFT look logical boggles the mind. Haskins’ inattention to detail, coupled with an otherwordly lack of awareness cost him a roster spot in Washington.
Makes sense. If you can’t trust a player to conduct themselves in a composed manner in the club, you can’t trust him in the pocket. Now, this has zero to do with the location of Haskins’ foolery. It was a strip club. Those are legal. He wasn’t engaged in any illegal activity, so stow that morality. The problem? During a pandemic, why is he out there, maskless? He runs a high risk of infecting his teammates. On top of that, the WFT sits one win away from actually winning the walking oops, known as the NFC East. If the most inopportune time arose, Haskins just took it.
McFarland’s Comments, Part One
On an episode of Monday Night Countdown, McFarland took Haskins to task, which is deserved. However, instead of singularly focusing on the actions of one player, the analyst used the broadest of brush:
“Often times young players, especially — I’m gonna go ahead — especially young African-American players, because they make up 70 percent of this league — they come into this league and ask themselves the wrong thing,” McFarland said.
With a restaurant-quality lack of nuance, McFarland lumped Haskins in with every young Black player in the NFL? How? In a league that remains nearly three-quarters Black, is grouping everyone called for? You don’t see Deshaun Watson or Patrick Mahomes out at Tassle Hut, acting the fool? This issue should have remained specific to Haskins, and him alone. McFarland snapped a labrum with this reach. Worse, it feeds into the archaic, and frankly, the bigoted narrative of distrusting Black players. Whether under center as a quarterback or coaching a team, the NFL shows a woefully inadequate approach to embracing diversity. The first part of the comment illustrates that McFarland believes some of these musings of yesteryear to be accurate.
McFarland’s Comments, Part Two
To his credit, whatever that amounts to, McFarland dug in and articulated further:
“They come into the league saying not ‘how can I be a better player?’ McFarland continued. They don’t say ‘how can I be a better teammate?’ They don’t say ‘how can I be a better person; how can get my organization over the hump?’
Do they? Each Black player, regardless of draft position, enters the NFL, with the ingrained thought of being selfish? I remember Johnny Manziel getting arrested for domestic abuse. Additionally, former Jacksonville Jaguar WR Matt Jones fought the law (the law won) in regards to cocaine possession, washing him out of the league. Above all of that, the patron saint of team destructive, Richie Incognito, despite multiple infractions from violence, to racism, still managed to find employment. He’s been this guy before he entered the league, and the NFL still employed him. Where’s McFarland’s excoriation of him?
McFarland’s Comments, Part Three
“Here’s what they come in saying. They come in saying ‘how can I build my brand better?
From the time, Black athletes can grip a ball, someone, somewhere attempts to parlay their gifts into success. From abusive Pop Warner coaches to colleges swimming in money, the Black player becomes an athletic ATM for so many others. Why shouldn’t they cash in on their talent? The NCAA, NFL, coaches, agents, and networks pocket billions while the individual athlete has to wait on their money. If a player wants to build their brand, let them. If a shoe company wants to throw cash at them, embrace. Celebrate success. Many of these athletes started in the most humble, desperate of circumstances. This is legal money. The end of McFarland’s quote unraveled his entire thought.
They come in and they don’t take this as a business.” So, when Black players take the NFL as a business, by branding, that is a problem? Baker Mayfield makes commercials. At first blush, he doesn’t look Black.
Media Mentality and Community
Anthony McFarland isn’t new to this. The Whitlockian effect casts a negative pall over the Black athlete. When Colin Cowherd said former WFT safety Sean Taylor was murdered because of his history, few outside of DC seemed to bat an eyelash. The narrative of the Black athlete always existed. Cowherd made it palatable to utter without supportive evidence. Home invaders broke into Sean Taylor’s home and killed him, a robbery gone wrong. Colin Cowherd’s wallet never suffered an inch. Why? Simple. There is a bigoted section of NFL fans that want to believe the worst of Black players. In their minds, Black athletes, people in general, have an ulterior motive and sketchy background. Google all the hot takes regarding kneeling for the anthem. While you are there, Google the third verse of the song and understand the anger.
As a Black man, we owe the younger generations, those that follow, the strength of our knowledge. However, what we should not engage in is the stereotyping of the younger athletes, Black men in general. As we’ve seen, America shows its outright hate and visceral hostility to those non-Black athletes. Anthony McFarland botched the opportunity to look in the camera and talk directly to and about Dwayne Haskins. By his actions, Haskins needs that correction and stern words. McFarland fell into the incorrect notion of all Black athletes are monolithic when entering the NFL. Instead of offering keen insight, you could say ” Booger” picked the wrong one. Being a Black man, in my 40s, I have an obligation, a duty to mentor and provide whatever wisdom I can muster. Anthony McFarland failed Dwayne Haskins, disrespected Black NFL players, and bringing embarrassment to the Black community.