Tuesday, November 14, 2006

McNair: Did you say Favre and Manning??

Steve McNair being shut out of Tennessee has been in the news again, because of the off handed introduction of race into the equation. For some reason Ray Lewis was asked about his thoughts on this matter and he said, "I don't ever want to turn it into a black-white issue. But it would really puzzle me, seriously, if anybody would ever tell Brett Favre ... if anybody would ever tell Peyton Manning not to walk into the Indianapolis facility.” Why it is important to get Ray Lewis’ view on this, I don’t know. But he clearly hints that in his mind, race played a factor. And, by making such a statement, he turns it into a black-white issue. Nicely done, Ray.

The argument has been made that race could not be a factor, based on the Titans’ franchise history of employing and drafting black QB’s. When they were the Oilers, they brought in Warren Moon from the CFL. They drafted McNair. They drafted Vince Young. Is there another franchise that has played as large a role in the rise of the black QB? Mike Wilbon addressed this by saying, “Bigotry isn't always obvious or overt and it's very, very often something people aren't aware they're doing. But I reject the notion that because the Titans have had three black quarterbacks (Warren Moon in Houston when they were the Oilers), McNair and Vince Young means the organization is free of bigotry. Black people have always been accepted as performers for white people...For 200 years, it's been okay to entertain or perform...that doesn't mean the same people were treated equally.”

While certainly there is a truth in Wilbon’s comments, he also said (in reference to Lewis’ remarks about Favre or Manning ever being treated like McNair), “I agree with him. I couldn't see that happening with those guys either.”

Bringing Favre and Manning into the discussion is a losing proposition. McNair had a great career with the Titans and brought them to the Super Bowl. He played through incredible pain and gave himself to the organization. That is not in question. But to compare him to a guy that won a Super Bowl for a team that has one of the most loyal followings and richest histories in the NFL; a guy that has set numerous records and has literally BEEN the franchise for close to 15 years, seems a bit of a stretch. To compare him to the current poster boy of the NFL also seems beyond a fair reference.

McNair is a very good quarterback and has had an outstanding career. That can’t be argued. It also can’t be argued that McNair was completely disrespected by the Titans. The franchise showed no compassion or loyalty for his years of service. But the suggestion that this was done based on skin color, or the suggestion that McNair should expect the same treatment as Favre or Manning is irrational.

The only color of concern here was green. The franchise put the bottom line ahead of one of their great players. And they went on to handle it and communicate it very poorly. Black players and black columnists won’t, and maybe can’t say it. But it has to be said: McNair ain’t in the same league as Favre and Manning and his not being treated as they might be isn’t so much a commentary on race as it is on ability and dollars.

The only racial bias here is the notion that because McNair was a very good black QB he should be held in the same regard as two of THE greatest QB’s of all time. McNair was wronged, no doubt. But let’s keep expectations and comparisons in line with ability.

To do otherwise might be perceived as preferential treatment based on race, and Ray Lewis and Mike Wilbon have clearly stated that would be wrong.

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