Bernard Hopkins, Donovan McNabb and Race: Was Hopkins Bashing McNabb Justified?

Dexter RogersCorrespondent IMay 18, 2011

LAS VEGAS - JULY 30:  Boxer Bernard Hopkins appears during the official weigh-in for WBA/WBO lightweight champion Juan Manuel Marquez and Juan Diaz at the Mandalay Bay Events Center July 30, 2010 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Marquez will defend his titles against Diaz on July 31 in Las Vegas.  (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
Ethan Miller/Getty Images

Bernard Hopkins has raised many eyebrows with his recent statements that questioned Washington Redskins’ quarterback Donovan McNabb's blackness.  In a recent press conference, Hopkins issued the following, "Forget this," Hopkins said, pointing to his own dark skin. "He's got a suntan. That's all."

Hopkins continues,"Why do you think McNabb felt he was betrayed? Because McNabb is the guy in the house, while everybody else is on the field. He's the one who got the extra coat. The extra servings. 'You're our boy,'" Hopkins said, patting a reporter on the back in illustration. "He thought he was one of them."

Hopkins went on to infer that former Philadelphia Eagle Terrell Owens and current Eagle quarterback Michael Vick maintain their blackness by remaining true to who they are.

For the most part, Hopkins has taken a beating for his comments.  Essentially, he is suggesting McNabb is an Uncle Tom.  He’s suggesting he’s a complicit, docile individual who comes from a somewhat privileged background who never rocks the boat out of fear of ruffling the establishment’s feathers.

Does what Hopkins assert have any level of credence?

When Donovan McNabb was the subject of what many deemed a racist rant by Rush Limbaugh in 2004, many felt McNabb should have used his platform to bring light to the level of racism that exists in society as well as sports.  More specifically, he should have pointed the negative stereotypes that go along with being an African American quarterback.

It goes without saying the way McNabb was shipped out of Philadelphia was utterly disrespectful.  Head coach Andy Reid suggested McNabb was his guy only to hand the keys to the franchise to an unproven Kevin Kolb.   To throw more salt on the wounds of McNabb, he was traded within the division to a rival team.

McNabb, true to form, took the high road.  He praised the fans of Philadelphia and thanked Any Reid for a great ride.

Last season, McNabb was pulled from a game against the Detroit Lions during waning moments of a close game by head coach Mike Shanahan in favor or Rex Grossman.  Shanahan suggested McNabb didn’t have the “cardiovascular endurance” to run the two-minute drill.  He also alluded McNabb didn’t have what it takes upstairs to grasp his complex offense. 

True to form, McNabb did not ruffle any feathers.  He simply took the high road and took the disrespectful act in stride.

Wait, there is more.

Shanahan didn’t like the direction the team was going toward the end of the season.  McNabb was benched permanently in favor of Rex Grossman.  He was told there was nothing he could do to regain the starting position as Shanahan wanted to “evaluate the quarterback position” for the future.

True to form McNabb had very little to say.  This came after McNabb was given bogus contract extension where it was reported $40 million would be guaranteed yet in actuality the Redskins would be on the hook for only $3.75 million if they cut him.

Now that Hopkins has blasted him, his agent, not McNabb himself mind you, released the following statement, “"Ill-informed statements such as the perplexing one Mr. Hopkins muttered recently are dangerous and irresponsible. It perpetuates a maliciously inaccurate stereotype that insinuates those African Americans who have access to a wider variety of resources are somehow culturally different than their brethren.”

Here’s my take: I think Hopkins touches on issues that are worthy of discussion.  I also agree with a great deal of what he said regarding McNabb and how he has handled controversial situations.

I don’t know McNabb personally.  Nor do most of the people who read stories written by a largely biased media know many of the athletes they cover personally.  However, one thing has a consistent theme: McNabb typically evades controversial issues such as race with the same methodical precision as President Barack Obama does.

There are times when one must take the high road then there are times when one must buck up and speak what’s really on your mind and let the chips fall.  It is of my opinion one should speak their mind irrespective of potential consequences regarding matters that are considered controversial and otherwise.

McNabb has spoken candidly, well at least for him, about race and the African American quarterback in the NFL.  McNabb once stated on HBO’s Real Sports that African American quarterbacks “have to do a little extra” to please fans.

When asked specifically about how the likes of Peyton Manning and Tom Brady are scrutinized like African American quarterbacks he stated, “Let me start by saying I love those guys. But they don’t get criticized as much as we do. They don’t.”

McNabb has shown the racial consciousness is there: Why won’t he simply step up on a consistent basis and address the issues as they arise?

The likes of ESPN’s Stephen Bardo, who is a Chicago native, took the opportunity to side with the masses against Hopkins.  Bardo recently stated on ESPN’s First Take, "Now I wanna see his brains get beat in" based on what Hopkins stated about McNabb.

That is very interesting.  Bardo finds it easy to bash an African American like Hopkins for stating his opinion yet do not bash the likes of Ben Roethlisberger for his erratic behavior.

In my opinion, a segment of the African American media contingent badger African American athletes like Barry Bonds, Michael Vick and Terrell Owens yet restrain from such scrutiny when it comes to the likes of Roethlisberger, Brett Favre or a Roger Clemens.  In short, I have no issue with Bardo’s assessment of Hopkins: Just be consistent when the time comes to bash white athletes as well.

In closing, I don’t like the fact McNabb doesn’t speak up.  I don’t like the fact he allows the likes of Reid and Shanahan embarrass and simply roll with the punches. 

I personally will not fix my mouth to call McNabb an Uncle Tom yet simultaneously I totally understand Hopkins' vantage point.  I will also assert I agree with a lot of what he stated.  But I will not fix my mouth to suggest McNabb is an Uncle Tom just out of respect.  I will strongly assert he is quite the accommodating type who could make a difference by speaking rather than having others like his agent do it for him. 

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