Marshawn Lynch’s Upside-Down Example
As Marshawn Lynch made a mockery of his Super Bowl interviews last week, he also became the symbol of the persecuted black man.
In a day and age where all of us have the responsibility of thought to real racial issues, I found the Lynch caper to be a waste of some really good energy.
With Marshawn Lynch, where was the cause? He didn’t want to talk to the media. Apparently his attitude for not talking goes back to his days as a running back with the Buffalo Bills, where the press excoriated him for some off-the-field transgressions. OK, I got that. Lynch wanted to get back at the press. But where else was there a racial cause?
Why was it that at least 95 percent of the black callers I heard on this issue on sports talk radio last week defended Marshawn Lynch as if they were defending Rosa Parks, who courageously stood up to racist and archaic Jim Crow laws by not going to the back of a bus. Or the group that stood in front of a municipal building in Selma, AL, and absorbed physical beatings in the name of black voting rights.
I am not black and I am told by black folks that I therefore can never understand the struggle of the black man in America. It is true that I am not black. But I give thought every day to fundamental unfairness in society as it involves race, creed, color, sexual orientation and poor people. I try to use my radio platform as a forum for discussion, education and change in these areas (when we’re not talking, say, about how much Chip Kelly sucks). I believe it is the responsibility of white people to effect such change by opening their mind to understand.
When we worship Marshawn Lynch not talking to the media as fighting back against The Man, the rich, white authority that has ruled this country for centuries, we tragically miss the point. If in the NFL we had a situation where black athletes were being forced to speak to the media and white athletes weren’t, THEN we would have a cause. But this was an interchangeable issue. Had a white running back acted like Marshawn Lynch, and made such a spectacle about talking to the press, then the press would be piling on him just as much as Lynch. I know I would have been.
Can everything be a cause? Maybe. But I know this: When we waste time with the frivolous issues, we dilute our attention from the real issues. That’s a nice way of saying that white people pull back and won’t put their energies into making a difference if they’re going to get blamed for every little thing.
I heard at least a hundred times last week that Marshawn Lynch doesn’t have to talk if he didn’t want to. (In other words, Marshawn Lynch didn’t have to talk to white people if he didn’t want to), Oh, but he did. It says so in the NFL’s standard player’s contract that all athletes must talk to the media. The rationale behind that rule is that the NFL is a business and this corporation has set down rules of employment whereby its employees are expected to reach out that way to their customers. Moreover, this rule was not unilaterally imposed. It came to fruition through collective bargaining, where the other side, the employees, the players, agreed to it. Marshawn Lynch was part of the process that agreed.
Even with that, no American is compelled to do anything he doesn’t want to do. So Marshawn, if you didn’t want to talk; if it was so distasteful to you to speak to the media, you didn’t have to so long as you would have taken a fine. You weren’t willing to sacrifice your money for the cause, though, right?
The other day, there were two interesting perspectives from two prominent black athletic figures on the Marshawn Lynch issue. (If you’re black, you are saying right now, “Great, you found the two black folks who agree with your viewpoint.” I get that. Just indulge me).
Larry Foote, a linebacker for the Arizona Cardinals, wondered about Lynch’s effect on youths. “The biggest message he has given these kids is ‘I don’t care, fine me, I’m going to grab my crotch, I’m going to do it my way.’ In the real world, it doesn’t work that way. It just doesn’t. I mean, how can you keep a job. I mean you got these inner city kids, they don’t listen to teachers, they don’t listen to police officers or principals. And they can’t even keep a job because they say ‘F Authority.’ And he needs to really check himself and understand that he is hurting these kids.”
Meanwhile, Rodney Harrison said this: “Coming from an African-American man, for years, black people didn’t have a voice in this world and you finally have a voice and to talk, and you…make a mockery of it, like it’s a joke, and I don’t agree with it.
“We worked hard to be educated and to do things. He has an opportunity that a lot of young African-American kids look up to and when they see him acting like that, and people applaud it and support it, it’s just not right.”
As Marshawn Lynch was standing up for black rights in America at the Super Bowl, I started reading a story where a pair black men got questioned by police in Lower Merion, a township that is 85 percent white, as they were going door-to-door to solicit snow shoveling jobs.
I thought this was a much bigger issue. But what do I know?
Follow Mike Missanelli on Twitter.