If there was a gold medal to be had for the 200 meter race-baiting competition this year, it would be a photo finish between The Nation and Deadspin, both digging in to kick up Brent Musburger quotes from decades ago — the perfect liberal guilt trip of a beloved sportscaster just before the summer Olympics. The Nation was first out of the gates, demanding he “apologize” for comments he made 44 years ago about John Carlos and Tommie Smith’s clench-fisted medal stand protest at the 1968 Games. Too lazy to do their own research, Deadspin drafted the lead runner, piggy-backed off his liberal tripe and then lunged for the tape with a tired cliché (i.e., Musburger belongs to an “old boys club”).
Instead of covering Iranian men who practice their shot-putting skills by stoning women, Dave Zirin spends his time sifting through the sands of time to smear Brent Musburger. Here’s some of what he found:
Smith and Carlos looked like a couple of black-skinned storm troopers, holding aloft their black-gloved hands during the playing of the National Anthem. They sprinkled their symbolism with black track shoes and black scarfs and black power medals. It’s destined to go down as the most unsubtle demonstration in the history of protest.
But you’ve got to give Smith and Carlos credit for one thing. They knew how to deliver whatever it was they were trying to deliver on international television, thus insuring maximum embarrassment for the country that is picking up the tab for their room and board here in Mexico City. One gets a little tired of having the United States run down by athletes who are enjoying themselves at the expense of their country.
The 60’s were a tumultuous time in American history. There was race and war and cultural upheaval, drugs and sex and all sorts of other madness, sprayed with high-powered fire hoses and washed away with hallucinogenic drugs. You had the dueling visions of Martin Luther King (recently assassinated) and Malcolm X fighting for the hearts and minds of black America, itself an extension of the disagreements between Booker T. Washington and W. E. B. Du Bois.
In one corner you have men who sought to work within the system to gain acceptance and respect, and in the other you had (in many ways) a rejection of the system and a predilection for in-your-face confrontation. A large percentage of black culture was decided upon during the 60’s, and the pivot was much more Malcolm X/Du Bois and a lot less Booker T. Washington/Martin Luther King — a conversation The Nation and Deadspin would rather not have because it’s one where they can’t avoid intellectual body blows. It’s much easier to insinuate racism and demand apologies than to have honest, frank discussions on race.
The point is, one could make the argument that Musburger erred in referencing Nazi shock troops to describe John Carlos and Tommie Smith’s form of protest, but he should never apologize for believing:
- An awards ceremony at the Olympic Games is generally the wrong forum to take up a political fight.
- A philosophy of in-your-face defiance might actually fan the flames of racial animus instead of extinguishing them.
Perhaps this Olympic Games, two male swimmers will make out on the medal stand in support of gay marriage. Perhaps an Olympic sympathizer with “the 99 percent” will take a massive dump off the high dive. Perhaps a critic of President Obama’s relentless drone attacks on Pakistani tribal areas (that put Bush’s to shame) will crawl into a giant body bag during the national anthem. Who knows. And years from now Tom Cruise will narrate an ESPN awards show moment just for them, and we’ll clap and laugh and pretend it’s all so much more clear cut than it really is.
Or perhaps not, because if every Olympian who had a cause that was near and dear to their heart held a creative protest, things would get really weird, really fast.
Instead of looking exclusively to the past, let us return to 2012 and ask the question: What has become of the philosophical offspring of Malcolm X and the Black Panther Party? One could make the case that they exist as … The New Black Panthers — guys who resort to vigilantism and 10k bounties on the head of a man going through the justice system (i.e., George Zimmerman). They have friends like Spike Lee, who uses his Twitter account to foment lawlessness, only to have to apologize soon afterward because he mistakenly encourages violent dopes to harass innocent elderly couples.
To liberals, it’s always 1868, or 1968 or any racial flashpoint that allows them to act as if the United States is static, stuck in a level of bygone bigotry like it was Han Solo in carbonite. And when their racist-baiting puzzle pieces don’t fit, they smash them together like a little kid, hoping to will it so.
There is something sad about a society that goes around demanding apologies from people with the fervency of a meth head looking to score, and there’s something even more depressing about publications that spend their limited time and resources trying to destroy a good man with a sterling career — all for the sake of racial politics.
Think all of this isn’t relevant to today? Perhaps. But then again, our own President was “constantly reading” Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man back in college (indeed, a classic and a thought-provoking book). But I digress…
This isn’t a time for Brent Musburger to issue an apology. However he handles it, I’m sure it will be done with class.