ESPN’s “The Undefeated” Ignores Facts to Play Race Card

Recent comments made by Cleveland Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield regarding former head coach Hue Jackson have made some headlines. Jackson had recently been fired as Mayfield’s head coach and almost immediately took a job with the division rival Cincinnati Bengals. Following the Brown’s win over the Bengals that came in the aftermath of Jackson’s firing and hiring, Mayfield was asked about the situation. He responded by saying:

“He left Cleveland and goes down to Cincinnati? I don’t know. It’s just somebody that was in our locker room asking for us to play for him, and then goes to a different team we play twice a year. Everybody can have their spin on it, but that’s how I feel.”

One writer who certainly had a problem with this was William C. Rhoden, who writes for the ESPN owned site theundefeated.com. Rhoden’s article criticizing Mayfield is entitled “Who does Baker Mayfield think he is?” The first part of his criticism focuses on the young quarterback not being in the league long enough to call out a veteran coach like Jackson. If Rhoden simply believes that Mayfield’s comments toward Jackson were in bad taste, that would be one thing. But since Mayfield is white and Jackson is black, a racial spin had to be injected to satisfy the criteria for The Undefeated. Thus, Rhoden proceeds with the following bizarre and unfounded quotes.

“Mayfield, the latest Heisman Trophy winner, was touted as a hero and matinee idol since his college days. This follows a pattern for just about every major white college quarterback who has talent.”

As if this isn’t the case for major black quarterbacks coming out of college who have talent. Somehow Rhoden was oblivious to the hero and idol status of recently great black college quarterbacks like Cam Newton, Vince Young, Deshaun Watson, Robert Griffin III and Jameis Winston. Some of these quarterbacks have been successful at the NFL level, some were not, and others are a little too young to make an official judgement on. But Rhoden is either completely ignorant of the hype surrounding these black quarterbacks coming out of college or he’s dismissing it out of convenience.

“Black quarterbacks like Lamar Jackson, on the other hand, play under the ever-present cloud of being told they should switch to wide receiver. Even today, if you listen closely to the language around black quarterbacks, they are praised for exceptional athletic ability but not their throwing accuracy…When is the last time an elite white college quarterback was advised to switch to wide receiver?”

It now appears that Rhoden is oblivious to the brief professional football career of Tim Tebow. Numerous journalists and analysts expresses the belief that Tebow had to change positions from quarterback if he wanted to stay in the NFL. It seems rather impossible that anyone with even a basic knowledge of football would be capable of not remembering Tebow’s collegiate and professional quarterbacking. It appears that Rhoden is most likely hoping his audience has erased the quarterback’s career from their memories.

As far as Lamar Jackson goes, perhaps the reason that the Ravens’ rookie starter has been praised for his athletic ability rather than his throwing accuracy has to do with what has transpired on the field. As of Rhoden’s writing, Jackson had run for 188 yards in just two games. However, he had also passed for one touchdown and three interceptions during the same time. Is an assessment of ability still racially coded if it proves to be accurate?

“Earlier this season, after the Houston Texans suffered a loss to Tennessee, Onalaska (Texas) Independent School District superintendent Lynn Redden posted this comment about Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson:

‘That may have been the most inept quarterback decision I have seen in the NFL. When you need precision decision-making, you can’t count on a black quarterback.’

Clearly not everyone feels this way, but enough people still do to raise concerns.”

Unsurprisingly, Rhoden doesn’t mention that this superintendent resigned over these comments. He also apologized directly to Watson in his resignation letter. So why doesn’t Rhoden mention this? Probably because it shows that the country is far less tolerant of racism that his main thesis implies that it is. Racist comments making someone an unemployable pariah don’t exactly mesh with an author and a website that attempts to drive home the idea that race and racism is still an overwhelming presence in our society.

Perhaps what’s even more unfortunate than this article from Rhoden is what it reveals about the agenda of his website. Sports journalists who live and breathe statistics, information and sports history are conveniently omitting actual facts to push certain ideas. It’s a sad state of affairs when these types of issues take precedence over reality. An informed public and critical thinking remain the best antidotes to this kind of selective truth.

ESPN’s Hill has a History of Race-Baiting

Controversial ESPN personality Jemele Hill recently got into some hot water regarding a tweet she sent out conveying her opinion of President Donald Trump. In her tweet, Hill said:

“Donald Trump is a white supremacist who has largely surrounded himself w/ other white supremacists.”

ESPN has responded by saying that her remarks do not represent the network. No action was taken against Hill for the statement.

Although many have felt that some sort of penalty should have been enforced against Hill, ESPN not taking action against her should not come as a surprise. Hill has had a significant recent history of making baseless and outlandish racial remarks while employed at the network. Several of her past columns reflect either an inability to look outside of race as a situational factor or just a blatant desire to race-bait. No action was taken against her for those things as well.

During the 2010 NFL season, Hill wrote an article entitled “Is race still an issue for NFL QBs?” The three black quarterbacks that Hill chose as examples of “unfair” treatment were Vince Young, Jason Campbell and Donovan McNabb. When examining these three QB’s with the timeframe in which the article is written, the baselessness of Hill’s claims becomes apparent. Young would have his final regular season start in the NFL just one season later. His career was also marked by immaturity and conflict with his head coach. Campbell was in the midst of a wildly inconsistent season for the Oakland Raiders in which the team ended up going 8-8. McNabb was almost completely washed-up by this point in his career and was attempting to lead a mediocre Redskins team while having only marginal success. Clearly none of these examples are cases of some sort of stellar QB being blatantly spurned by a racist coach.

Nearly a year after writing that article, Hill doubled down on her playing of the race card when comparing quarterbacks Michael Vick and Tim Tebow. In that article, Hill stated that:

“When Tim Tebow bowls over a couple of defensive players for a touchdown in a meaningless preseason game, it’s considered a display of his toughness and leadership. But when Vick launches himself at Troy Polamalu after throwing a costly interception, it’s considered risky and stupid.”

Looking into the professional status of the two quarterbacks at this time, it becomes apparent that this comparison is absurd. Vick was the established starting QB for the Eagles and was about to sign a huge contract. Tebow was still backing up Kyle Orton on the Broncos at the time and was playing under a rookie contract. But of course, Hill doesn’t want to see these types of differences. She only sees race as the source of differing narratives.

Perhaps the most egregious of Hill’s race-baiting articles came after O.J. Simpson was found guilty of orchestrating an armed robbery in 2008. When questioning how fair the case’s jury was, Hill writes in her article:

“There are also serious questions about whether the jury was unbiased. According to an Associated Press report, five of the 12 jurors — all of whom were white — wrote in their questionnaires they disagreed with the 1995 verdict…so much for an unbiased jury of one’s peers.”

So apparently according to Hill, in order to accurately and unbiasedly serve on the jury of a man accused of a crime, you must have thought he was not guilty of a previous crime he was tried for. Why is this some sort of standard for being fair and objective in an unrelated case? Also, why even mention the race of those on this jury who thought Simson was guilty back in 1995? Certainly there were blacks (and other non-whites) who thought the jury decided Simpson’s 1995 double murder case incorrectly. Would it be “biased” to allow them to serve on this jury as well? Or is it only whites who thought this way who weren’t able to decide a fair verdict for the 2008 trial?

Given that Hill has been able to voice all of these opinions in ESPN columns without consequence, it becomes apparent that any reprimand for her tweets about Donald Trump should not be expected. The network has no problem giving her a platform for her views no matter how baseless or race-obsessed they are. It’s best to keep this in mind with regard to any of her statements going forward. Getting upset with someone who has the track record of Jemele Hill just isn’t worth it.