Thursday, August 12, 2004 Updated: August 13, 12:19 PM ET
T.O. needs to hit the books
By Jason Whitlock Special to Page 2
Terrell Owens' celebrated comments in the September issue of Playboy Magazine bring to mind a saying my father is fond of repeating: "If it talks like an idiot and acts like an idiot, by golly, it is a spoiled modern-day professional athlete whose fame and riches have warped his brain."
If the money Terrell Owens is getting is servitude, then sign us up.
There is absolutely no news in the fact that Owens, the former 49ers receiver and now Philadelphia Eagles rabble-rouser, is homophobic and takes great pleasure in running "gay smack" on his old teammate, current Cleveland quarterback Jeff Garcia.
Owens' intellectual capacity is so obviously limited that I'm surprised he didn't throw out another well-worn diss -- that Garcia's "mama wears combat boots."
A debate about Garcia's lifestyle is pointless and would only serve Owens' misguided motives. But there is fertile territory for discussion in Owens' throwaway line in Playboy about NFL players being treated like "slaves and robots." This is becoming a popular refrain among oppressed African-American NFL players. My favorite NFL star, Warren Sapp, popularized this riff last season after being disciplined by the league office for alleged violations of sportsmanship.
Before these claims of new-millennium slavery get too out of hand, I feel it's necessary to call B.S. on the entire concept.
It's perfectly legitimate for black NFL players to complain about league rules that limit free expression. That is their Constitutional right. In this country, we can complain about anything. But it is borderline insane and totally irresponsible for African-American athletes to toss slavery into the debate. It trivializes one of the great crimes in the history of mankind.
Can you imagine a Jewish person, forbidden from doing the "electric slide" in the end zone or grabbing pom-poms after a big play, claiming rules against taunting and excessive celebrations are akin to the persecution Jews faced during the Holocaust? Can you imagine the uproar in the Jewish community if someone were to trivialize the Holocaust in such a manner?
Terrell Owens quacks like an idiot and acts like one as well.
This offseason, the Eagles signed Owens to a seven-year, $42 million deal with a $10 million signing bonus. T.O. needs to rent the movie "Roots" and get an understanding of the type of lifetime contract that Kunta Kinte signed with Massa Reynolds' family.
When slave hunters declared Kunta eligible for the draft shortly after manhood training, I believe he received deluxe accommodations on a one-way slave ship headed for the States, along with gold chains to wear around his neck, ankles and wrists at the combine; a new name; regular ass-whippings; free cotton-picking training; lessons in Ebonics from Fiddler; and discounted foot surgery. Quite a deal. You can easily see the similarities between the plights of Kunta and T.O.
Thankfully, T.O. was liberated from his West Coast oppressors.
Commissioner Tagliabue and his gaggle of henchmen should be ashamed of themselves for overseeing the type of oppression being forced upon NFL players each season. Denying these well-paid men the right to dance, pick up hidden cell phones, snatch off their helmets and draw attention to themselves is a form of slavery more insidious than anything Jefferson Davis had in mind.
Combating and coping with this sort of fascism from the commissioner's office explains why T.O. and others can't see the flip side of the argument. They can't see that the stringent rules governing sportsmanship in professional football might be a contributing factor in why the NFL is so marketable.
T.O. and Sapp pointed to the freedom of expression that NBA players have. Well, the NBA wishes it was as strong financially as the NFL. The NBA would kill to have the worldwide image that the NFL has with its fan base. NBA teams seem to be constantly relocating in comparison to the NFL, and NBA franchises don't have near the value that NFL teams do. The NBA employs about one-fifth the number of players that the NFL does.
Yes, Shaq, Kobe and the NBA elite make far more money than the NFL elite. But there are far more professional football players than basketball players making good livings in the United States.
And guess what? The NFL harvests almost all of its talent from U.S. soil, and the majority of it is black U.S. soil. The NBA scours the globe looking for young men to make rich.
T.O. is so stupid, he's willing to bite the very hand that is feeding him and others just like him.
Jason Whitlock is a columnist for the Kansas City Star and a regular contributor on ESPN The Magazine's Sunday morning edition of "The Sports Reporters." He also hosts an afternoon radio show, "The Doghouse," on Kansas City's 61 Sports KCSP. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.