In the wake of America’s first black president in office, plus the many advances made by African-Americans since the Civil Rights Movement in the 1950s and '60s, you would think that in the year 2009, approaching the 90th season of NFL play, I would have much more on and off the field positive stories to write about than something called the “Black Olympics.”
But after viewing Cowboys tight end Martellus Bennett’s egregious video, I thought it was only proper that I join Kansas City Star columnist Jason Whitlock and many others in setting the record straight for another NFL player that “Just Doesn’t Seem to Get It!”
Let me state that I love some good humor just as much as the next individual—my tastes span from Richard Pryor to Chris Rock—but I can’t imagine how in his right mind that Bennett thought the “Black Olympics” was a good idea or even funny.
In an era where, sad to say, some African-Americans are still struggling for equality, the Bennett brothers, Martellus and Michael—a Seattle rookie—thought it would be fun to emphasize offensive racial stereotypes of African-Americans and then broadcast them to the world via YouTube. The video shows the pair chowing on fried chicken and watermelon, plus drinking Kool-Aid, all in a timed fashion.
Bennett recently said on Hall of Famer Michael Irvin’s Dallas radio show that he thought the spoof was not racially insensitive, and Irvin being Irvin, he agreed with him.
“I don’t really think it’s offensive,” the second-year tight end told Irvin. “It depends on your sense of humor and how you look at things. We were just having fun, and it was very funny for me and my brothers. When I look at it, I just can’t stop laughing. If someone takes offense, I apologize. That wasn’t my intention. It was just us having fun.”
But the Bennetts were dead wrong! I was already surprised that Martellus Bennett was involved again in these types of shenanigans after he had been fined $22,000 earlier this year by the Cowboys for insulting blacks and gays in another YouTube video.
But you would think someone in the Pro Football Hall of Fame like Irvin would understand and convey to the young tight end that being role models and representatives of “America’s Team”—like it or not—requires much more.
Bennett needs to understand that the news around the NFL already has enough negative player stories—Michael Vick’s dogfighting case, Donte' Stallworth’s drunk driving manslaughter situation, the many misdeeds of Pacman Jones, and many more; that kids, particularly those in urban communities without male role models, do not need more fodder to tear down their self-esteem, especially from their so-called NFL "heroes."
The Cowboys had “no comment” on the video, but I am hoping NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell will meet with the Bennett brothers and possibly hand down some kind of disciplinary action for their behavior.
Some people may think that this line of thought is too heavy-handed and everyone should just “lighten up.” Plus, what right does the NFL have to interlope into a player’s private work during the offseason?
But in today’s world, where the NFL wants to be a global marketing entity, this type of behavior cannot be tolerated. Already, the NFL’s head man has used the open-ended NFL Player Conduct Policy associated with the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) to administer discipline in all kinds of situations.
All Goodell has to do to find a similar example from the sports pages to support this type of action is go back to October 2000.
Do you remember the firestorm around the NBA when former Sixers guard Allen Iverson released a hip-hop rap single off his debut CD filled with NBA fan-unfriendly lyrics? League officials met immediately with Iverson, causing the want-to-be rapper to shelve his 40 Bars CD for the betterment of the league and to give a half-hearted apology, like only Allen Iverson can do.
The NFL, the Dallas Cowboys, owner Jerry Jones, and any other person/entity affiliated with the league do not need the “Black Olympics” video and the problems that it brings. I can only imagine what prominent former NFL players and trailblazers like Mel Blount, Doug Williams, James “Shack” Harris, and others think of Bennett’s tasteless video.
Sadly, Bennett, like every other rookie in the 2008 NFL Draft class, visited the Pro Football Hall of Fame last summer in a program that Irvin encouraged Goodell to implement to teach youngsters coming into the league about respect for the legacy of the National Football League.
I guess Bennett kept his eyes and ears shut during his tour, as he neither understands nor appreciates the history of the NFL, especially the plight of men like Charles Follis (first black player in professional football), Fritz Pollard, and the four men that helped to re-open the NFL to blacks in 1946 (Woody Strode, Kenny Washington, Bill Willis, and Marion Motley).
If Bennett needs something constructive to do until training camp, I have an idea...read a book. My suggestion is Outside the Lines: African Americans and the Integration of the National Football League, by Charles K. Ross.
Maybe, just maybe, Bennett, in all of his wisdom at age 22, will learn something about the “journey” of the black football player in the NFL and the legacy that he needs to help preserve.
Lloyd Vance is a Sr. NFL Writer for Taking It to the House and an award-winning member of the Pro Football Writers of America (PFWA).