“No Dad at Home:”
James Harrison, Colin Cowherd and the Case Against the Black Family
by David J. Leonard | NewBlackMan
In a recently published article in Men’s Journal, James Harrison questions the fairness and the administrative philosophy adopted by commissioner Roger Goodell. Referring to Goodell as a “crook,” “puppet,” “dictator” and a “punk” (among others things), Harrison problematizes the ways in which race operates within the NFL. “Clay Matthews, who’s all hype — he had a couple of three-sack games in the first four weeks and was never heard from again — I’m quite sure I saw him put his helmet on Michael Vick and never paid a dime,” notes Harrison. “But if I hit Peyton Manning or Tom Brady high, they’d have fucked around and kicked me out of the league.” And: “I slammed Vince Young on his head and paid five grand, but just touched Drew Brees and that was 20. You think black players don’t see this shit and lose all respect for Goodell?”
In a lengthy piece, entitled “Confessions of a Hitman,” Harrison discusses a myriad of issues. Yet, his comments about the commissioner, and his references to racial inequality in the punishment of players, have not surprisingly prompted the most widespread media commentary and condemnation. For example, Gregg Doyel, with “Goodell is a strict disciplinarian, but he’s no racist,” scoffed at the claim the Goodell is a racist or even that he treats black players differently/unfairly (he and others may want to read the work of Herbert Simmons and Vernon Andrews – here is a second piece by Andrews).
Goodell runs his league the way strong parents run their family: With rules, with parameters, with discipline. No shortcuts. No excuses. Tough love all the way, and if the players don’t like it, well, it happens. Does a 16-year-old like it when he sneaks out for a night of drinking, gets busted, then gets grounded for three months? No, the teenager doesn’t like it. Shocking
Building upon this argument during a discussion about Doyel’s piece, ESPN’s Colin Cowherd took to the air to recycle longstanding arguments about black families, single-mothers, absentee fathers, and the purported cultural shortcomings of black America.
Here is something that is interesting, if you look at basic metrics or numbers in this country. 71% of African Americans no Dad at home; no disciplinarian. Fathers are often louder voice, the disciplinarian. Many of those kids don’t grow up with a dad, raised by mom, sister, aunts, nieces, uncles whatever.
They go to college where they are stars. And basically even their college coach, as we saw with Ohio State, pretty much lets the stars run the program. The NFL is one of the first places where many star players finally see discipline. Finally have an authoritative male figure – buck stops here, I will make all the calls, you will not get an opinion.
This was not the first time Cowherd talked about black families in relationship to sports, having questioned John Wall’s leadership abilities because of his limited relationship to his father (his father was incarcerated during Wall’s childhood, dying of liver disease when Wall was age 9).
Let me tell you something: I’m a big believer, when it comes to quarterbacks and point guards. Who’s your dad? Who’s your dad? Because I like confrontational players, I don’t like passive aggressive. Strong families equal strong leaders. Talent? Overrated. Leadership? Underrated. And you can say, well, Colin, can you just go out and say anything crazy and get people to e-mail. That’s not the point. You wouldn’t e-mail if I was an idiot, because you wouldn’t listen to the show. You listen to the show because we make good points.
I simply have a different opinion than you do on John Wall. I like the character of Derek Fisher, the rebounding and distribution ability of Rajon Rondo, that’s what I like. That’s what I want from my point guards. You celebrate the assists more than the buckets…..I know he’s great. So don’t confuse [me saying] John Wall’s no good. No, John Wall’s an A+ talent. I don’t think he’s ever gonna be an A+ win-championships point guard.
In both instances, the efforts to recycle the Moynihan report, to define father as natural disciplinarian and mother’s nurturing, to link cultural values to family structures, and to otherwise play upon longstanding racial stereotypes, is striking. However, I would like to reflect on his recent comments in a substantive way.
First and foremost, the idea that 71% of black children grow up without fathers is at one level the result of a misunderstanding of facts and at another level the mere erasure of facts. It would seem that Mr. Cowherd is invoking the often-cited statistics that 72% of African American children were born to unwed mothers, which is significantly higher than the national average of 40 %. Yet, this statistic is misleading and misused as part of a historically-defined white racial project.