Dexter Rogers

Dexter Rogers

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Murder in Mississippi: Lynching or Suicide?

President Barack Obama being elected the first African-American President of the United States was viewed as significant forward along racial lines.  President Obama’s rapid ascent towards oval office glory was supposed to signify we’ve officially embarked upon a post-racial society.    

While there may be an element of truth regarding advancements along racial lines we still have a ways to go. 

I was recently forwarded a rather disturbing story written in the Final Call from Coppin State professor Byron Franklin.  The story was about a young African-American man who lost his life in Mississippi.  The authorities ruled the death a suicide but some believe the victim was lynched.  

That’s right, a possible lynching.

I humbly ask, where’s the media coverage?

Dec. 3 the limp body of 26 year-old Frederick Jermaine Carter was found hanging from an oak tree with a noose securely tied around his neck in a predominately white neighborhood in Greenwood, Miss.

According to published reports in the USA Today Carter was in Greenwood working with his step father painting a house.  Apparently the stepfather left Carter at the house to get some tools. 

It’s being alleged Carter wandered off from the home after his step father left to get tools.

Carter, who resided in Sunflower County, reportedly had a history of wandering off as a result of mental illness. 

LeFlore County Sheriff Ricky Banks suggested based on his findings a murder had not been committed due to insufficient evidence at the scene.  Carter stated, “I didn’t see any indication of anybody else being in that area, going from physical evidence and the general tracks.”

Banks went on to suggest Carter likely dragged a nearby table to the base of tree, tied a noose, and proceeded to hang himself.

Mr. Banks stated, “The frame probably broke, possibly because Carter kicked it out from under himself.”

Even though the LeFlore County Coroner’s office ruled the death a suicide Carter’s family and some residents are not buying it.

Some, like the Mayor of Sunflower, Miss. Michael Pemberton, believe Carter’s death was a homicide.  Pemberton stated, “This is 2010 and we still have Black people hanging from trees? They're saying he hung himself but I have doubt in my mind that he actually did that. That wasn't his character. This wasn't a suicide, this was a homicide.”

Attorney and spokesperson for Carter’s family Valarie Hicks-Powe believes a more detailed investigation was needed.  Powe stated, “A crime scene was never established. They never roped the scene off and this has not been treated as a crime. There is no reason to believe that he would commit suicide. We appreciate attention being brought to this because we need an outcry from the people.”

Leflore County Supervisor Preston Ratliff is questioning the reported suicide as well. “I have not made many public statements because I'm still waiting for more information but I do think it is strange that he would hang himself in such a remote area. The mere fact that a Black man is found hanging in a White neighborhood is disturbing based on the history of the Delta.”

The president of the Leflore County branch of the NAACP Willie Perkins stated: "There are a lot of concerns there, No. 1 that this individual could not have (hanged) himself without the assistance of someone, if it's being declared a suicide," Perkins stated: "Why would someone from Sunflower County come to North Greenwood, the predominantly white housing area of Greenwood?  Why would someone that far away come and hang themselves in North Greenwood by a river? That does not pass the smell test to me."

Even though we’ve embarked upon a new year there are still many more questions than answers regarding Carter’s death.

Frankly speaking, it is not an everyday occurrence to find an African-American with a noose around his neck these days is it?

Where is the national television commentary?

Where is the mainstream newspaper coverage?

Why hasn’t President Obama or Eric Holder got involved?

Where is the radio commentary on satellite radio and NPR?

Where is Rev. Al Sharpton? 

Perhaps this incident doesn’t pay as well as marching against Senate Bill 1070 in Arizona.

During the 1950’s it was routine for whites to lynch African-Americans, particularly in Mississippi.  Arguably the most heinous of them all was the lynching of Emmett Till in 1955.

Till was a 14-year old boy from Chicago.  He was visiting his family who lived near the Mississippi Delta. 

Till found himself in a world far different than the world up north: Racism and segregation was the law of the land in Mississippi and there no exceptions.

Till arrived in Jackson, Mississippi August 21, 1955 a handsome youngster but sadly he would not return to Chicago in the same capacity.

Till was accused of whistling at a 21-year old white lady named Carolyn Bryant.  The word spread quickly around town about Till’s alleged actions.  One of the first to hear about it was Bryant’s husband Roy.

Several days later Roy Bryant and JW Milam broke into Tills’ uncles’ house in the middle of the night.  Till was taken from the home and placed in back of a truck and beaten. 

The thugs drove Till to a barn where he was beaten to a pulp.  To make certain of their work the racists gauged out Tills’ right eye before they shot him to death.

Till’s body was loaded back into the bed of the truck.  Bryant and Milam tied a 70-pound cotton-gin around his neck with barbed wire and dumped him in Tallahatchie River. 

Till was found three day later.

We have an African-American in the White House yet simultaneously there may have been a lynching in a state that storied history of hate:  How can this story fly so far below the radar?

Is it a coincidence Carter’s murder took place just 10 minutes away from where Till was murdered?

Why would an African-American wonder off to a predominately white neighborhood and commit suicide?

As Perkins stated earlier this story “does not pass the smell test.”

The time has come for people to wake up.  Many have been lulled to sleep embracing the notion America has progressed so much with respect to race relations. 

Sorry, but we are from a post-racial society.

Let’s look beyond Carter’s death and look at the bigger picture.  Ever since President Obama was elected President there have been some pretty high-profile race-based situations. 

Esteemed scholar Henry Louis Gates was treated unjustly by police as he was attempting to enter is own home Cambridge, Mass only to be arrested for disorderly conduct.  There was weeks of media coverage but no concrete results occurred from the situation.

President Obama promised us a “teachable moment” but it never came to fruition.

Shirley Sherrod was unfairly portrayed as a racist by a conservative Andrew Breitbart.  There was a rush to judgment in the media.  As a result Sherrod was fired from her position at the Department of Agriculture. 

Even the NAACP publicly denounced Sherrod only to retract their statements. 

CNN aired a special on Sherrod which showed she was a champion for justice and not a racist. 

Again, where’s the “teachable moment.”

A segment of white America has voiced their disenchantment with current state of this country.  Conservatives like Glenn Beck suggest they want to “restore America” to the days of old and place the power back where it belongs.

Groups like the Tea Party have spewed similar rhetoric; some of which is out-right racist. 

In March Tea Party members spat on Emanuel Cleaver (D-Mo.)  Civil Rights giant John Lewis (D-Ga.) was called a 'ni--er.' and Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) was called a "faggot."

What does this have to do with the death of Frederick Jermaine Carter?

It means conservatives like Glenn Beck and groups like the Tea Party are creating a climate of hate for more potential violence to occur. 

It is quite possible the notion of “restoring America” means restoring times to the days of old in Mississippi and otherwise?

Slice the pie as you choose but an African-American hanging from a tree in Mississippi is a big deal.

So, I humbly ask again, where is the media coverage? 

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Friday, February 18, 2011

In Response to a Racial Slur: ‘I’m Nobody’s Ni*g*r!’

I long decided when I have something to say, I will say it and gladly let the chips fall where they may.

This is one of those occasions.

Recently I wrote a commentary titled, “Jimmer Fredette: Is he legit or another ‘Great White Hope?’”

I received a fair number of responses, some of which were in poor taste.  Given the subject matter I sometimes address, it comes with the territory and I deal with it accordingly.  But someone chose to take the level of scrutiny to another level.

Based on my Fredette commentary, here is what a reader had to say, “Dexter Rogers is a RACIST NIGGER! Oh, you don't like the 'N' word tossed around, well I hear 'bruthas' tossing it at each other all the time. So it is just US WHITE folk who can't use the word now days, eh. What's next Dext, shall we ride in the back of the bus too? I hate niggers like you.”

The ignorance continues: “How is it too far, so only niggers are allowed to be racist now days? I'm sick of this shit, tip toeing around them as to not offend them, FUCK THEM! I'm sick of it, I dealt with this shit in college, they were always looking to start shit with white guys but you better not offend them. I have a Glock .45 and I really want one to try to hold me up in the city cause I'm going to blow him away. WHITE POWER YOU STUPID NIGGER!!!!!”

For those who feel that way, so be it. But the show must go on.

When I first read the comments, I was thinking, “Is this the best you got?”

Then, as I began to reflect, I was a little taken aback at the hostile nature of his words.

The comments were revealing on several fronts.  It shows this person has an abundance of ignorance to attack and he has an evident bias towards African-Americans.

This may surprise you, but in an odd sense I have a very small level of respect for this person's ignorance.  Despite the fact he hid behind a fake name, this gutless wonder said exactly what he felt.  He let it be known how he feels about me and African-Americans.

I believe this reader's ignorance is a reflection of how a segment of white readers feel, but they will not go on the record.  I’d venture to say a small portion of those in the media embrace this person's ideological framework as well.

No, I don’t have statistical studies to support this theory, but I do know from personal experience in dealing with media outlets.  Editors have attempted to silence me by cutting my space or asking that I change my content for inexplicable reasons.

In any event, the Bleacher Report staff removed the comments, but I think we would have been better served to have them stay up.  Then people can see for themselves how much work we still have to do along racial lines.

Deleting the comments won’t fully eradicate the situation nor will it erase what transpired. 

I’ve been down this road before.  I conducted an interview on CNN’s Rick’s List last spring where I talked about media, race and Ben Roethlisberger.  I received a ton of e-mail responses from around the country.  Some were good and some were in poor taste, but in my world they all were good.

There was one e-mail response that stuck out so much I was prompted to write about the experience. 
The reader characterized me as a racist who hates white people.  He suggested I was part of the problem instead of the solution.

Long story short, I was able to convert someone who harbored negative feelings towards me into someone who allowed himself the opportunity to open his mind.  He is now an avid reader of my work. 

Bottom line: I write to make a difference and not for hits.  I cannot satisfy my primary aim as a writer posting commentary about who has the biggest boobs on college campuses or what professional female athlete has the best butt.  I have nothing against that type of story, but that’s not my bag.

Furthermore, most editors at newspapers across this country don’t have the stones to constructively attack ills like racism: They don’t have the guts to address issues that are slowly killing our country due to the lack of diversity and fear.

Facts indicate the world sports media is a lily-white world.  According to The Institute of Diversity and Ethics in Sports, whites account for 94 percent of sports editors, 88 percent of sports columnists, and 89 percent of sports reporters.  The percentages for African-Americans in these positions are 2, 6, and 4 percent, respectively.

As an African-American writer, reading “Dexter Rogers is a RACIST nigger” will likely affect me one way and a white person another.  A portion of white America simply lacks the sensitivity to comprehend how damaging those comments can be. 

When someone writes, “I hate niggers like you” it will not move a white person in the media the way it moves me.

When such incidents are chronicled by African-Americans like me, they are likely placed in the hands of whites to handle them.  Chances are, they lack the necessary life experience to act properly. 

Acting properly means allowing the writer (in this case me) to constructively address the matter.  Allow someone with the skills necessary to bridge gaps rather then deny their existence.

Now, back to reality.

When racial situations like these typically arise, it often leads editors to conveniently silence the messenger by killing his message.  Editors will often opt to sweep situations like this under the rug rather open their minds to take constructive action.  

Generally, white people cannot comprehend what it feels like to be subjected to such a fierce level of ridicule and utter disrespect like I was subjected to.  Slice the pie as you wish but the word “nigger” has a distinct meaning that’s geared toward a particular group.  I would also venture to say this commentary will irritate some on this staff.  Some would suggest, “It's Dexter playing the race card.”
Not so.

I am using a negative situation to inform, awaken, and educate those who minds are open and are willing.  If I happen to be resented for writing passionately about a problem worthy of public dialogue, so be it.  If there is an attempt to label and/or restrict my voice based on my form of commentary, so be it. 

Opting for silence in situations like these is not in my makeup.  Therefore, in the words of Rhett Butler Clark Gable from Gone with the Wind, for those who may not approve, I simply state, “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn.”

Here’s why.

In my opinion, it makes sense to embrace the message instead of potentially condemning the messenger.  Individuals in society, sports, and members in the media, including this website, perhaps fear addressing issues they don’t understand or care about.

Facts indicate—as a result of the earlier outlined percentages—the lack of diversity in the media cripples our ability to collectively engage.  It is easier for the white media hierarchy to just let it go because it doesn’t affect them directly.  It is easy for a segment of the white masses to suggest to African-Americans just forget about slavery and move because we (whites) didn’t enslave you.

I would have no problem letting this situation go if race were not a problem in this society. 

I would have no problem letting this go if there had been a concentrated effort amongst citizens in society and athletes in sports to openly dialogue about racism with fear of potential repercussions.

I would have no problem letting this go if media establishments were more diverse and open to constructively attack the issue of race.

Racism is still a disease that is the ultimate thief of opportunity.  It has yet to be critically addressed in society, sports or in the mainstream media: As a result, I must address issues that I deem relevant to sports and society, and race happens to be one of those issues.

Denying the presence of racism will not ensure it will dissipate so long as those like me who are conscious are fighting for justice.

That being said, my makeup will not allow me to succumb to being called a “nigger” without responding appropriately. 

I’m nobody’s “nigger.”

Here’s the bottom line: Editors need to get a clue.  For those editors who are digesting this commentary, look around your newsroom and count how many look like you as opposed to me.

Stop embracing fear and opting for silence when you are in a position to allow teachable moments to manifest.
Instead of potentially negatively labeling the messenger, how about attacking your collective fears by opening your minds for business?

Instead of continuing the consistent legacy of silence on racial matters, embrace those journalists who have the skill-set and willingness to ignite change.

For those who ignore my message as if I am not here doesn’t mean I’m not present.  History has shown the darkness of deceit will always bow down to the light of the truth.

I will not let someone else’s fear, ignorance, and lack of courage derail my efforts, nor will I let the lack of diversity in the media alter my course to help change its landscape.

No matter how the chips will fall, the show must go on.

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Monday, February 14, 2011

Michael Vick Media Persecution Continues: Will the Haters Ever Let Him Be?

After winning Comeback Player of the Year and being issued an honorary key to the city of Dallas, Michael Vick is being publicly bashed for his past and not what he’s doing in the present.

For instance, Chicago White Sox pitcher Mark Buehrle doesn’t believe Vick has been punished enough for his role in a gambling ring he funded where he tortured dogs.  Buehrle issued the following in a recent interview with "He had a great year and a great comeback, but there were times where we watched the game and I know it's bad to say, but there were times where we hope he gets hurt."

Buehrle continued, "Everything you've done to these dogs, something bad needs to happen to these guys."
I was viewing the Joy Behar Show on HLN two nights ago. She expressed extreme dislike for Vick by stating, “I’ll never forgive him.”

Then there’s ESPN’s Skip Bayless. On ESPN’s First Take, Bayless suggested Vick doesn’t deserve a key to the city of Dallas because he has no ties there.

Bayless, like Buehrle, is an avid dog lover. He was very critical of the notion of Vick even owning a dog again. Bayless suggested Vick “should not be allowed to own a dog” in the foreseeable future.

What is a man to do who has paid his debt to society? Many convicted of SEC violations are prohibited from ever working in the securities industry again. This is an analogous situation.

I wonder how Buehrle, Behar and Bayless feel about Ben Roethlisberger being suspended by the NFL as a result of the sexual assault allegations levied against him.

Where is the outcry over Roethlisberger’s despicable behavior?

Roethlisberger is Mr. Untouchable. The media have avoided his story like the plague, yet Vick is still being bashed by the media for a societal debt that has been paid in full.

I’ve stated consistently that Vick made poor choices in the past. He nearly flushed his life down the tubes by engaging in unacceptable behavior.

But guess what, folks.

Vick served his time and he is trying to move on with his life.

Dogfighting has long been a part of African-American culture in the South. It did not become a real issue until a high-profile African-American got caught up in fighting dogs, torturing them and funding a gambling ring.

How is this any different than Brett Favre taking a gun and going out to kill deer?

Favre’s actions would not be characterized as killing deer because he’s engaging in what is considered a sport. Taking a loaded pistol and killing deer is part of being an American and exercising one's rights to bear arms.

Fighting dogs has long been a tradition throughout the South, but it is considered against the law because many African-Americans engage in it.

Last time I checked, both dogs and deer are animals. I believe torturing and killing dogs is not right and I feel the same way about shooting defenseless deer.

If fighting dogs is illegal, why isn’t killing deer?

In sports, the same level type of hypocrisy exists. In the NHL, violence is depicted as part of the game. ESPN glorifies the violent behavior because they consider it entertainment.

When NFL players Cortland Finnegan and Andre Johnson got into a fight, it was blown totally out of proportion. The white mainstream media feasted on the notion of suspending Finnegan and Johnson for fighting.

ESPN didn’t glorify Finnegan’s or Johnson’s actions: They called on Adam Schefter to see how the NFL would discipline them.

How can it be explained that violence in hockey is embraced while the same infrequent behavior in the NFL was such a big deal?

Could it have something to do with the NHL being 90 percent white, yet the NFL is 67 percent African-American?

I’ve long stated I have no problem with covering athletes critically, so long as the coverage is fairly administered. If the media can feast on Vick for a debt he’s paid, that same media should bash Roethlisberger for a debt he likely incurred but never paid.

Furthermore, historically the criminal justice system has been proven to be more criminal than it has been, just regarding rationing out equitable justice for African-Americans. That being said, is it out of the realm of possibility for someone like Roethlisberger to have received a pass from the media and the judicial system?

If the President of the United States like Richard Nixon can lie about Watergate, then it is possible for a NFL quarterback like Roethlisberger to get a pass on a sexual assault case?

Meanwhile, Vick is still being persecuted by the media unfairly and unnecessarily, while the likes of ESPN feature a commercial of Roethlisberger rescuing people from a building in Bristol.

Give me a break.

Sad to say but the Vick bashing will continue. The lily-white media will not cease their onslaught because 94, 88, 89 percent of the sports editors, columnists and reporters are white.

There is a way to begin to remedy the problem: Vick himself needs to address the issue—along with those journalists, particularly African-Americans, with a spine—to call for the public bashing to stop.

All change involves a level of risk. Too many athletes and journalists in the past have sacrificed their livelihoods for change. If Vick can serve nearly two years in prison and emerge a changed man, that demonstrates he has the resolve to speak out.

If African-American journalists understand they stand on the shoulders of the African-American athlete from the past, they should use those platforms for more than earning a living.

I think Buehrle, Behar and Bayless are out of line, considering the work Vick is doing in the community. He is speaking at schools about the bad choices he’s made.  Vick is speaking out against dog-fighting on a weekly basis and he has kept his nose clean.  More importantly, he’s consistently stated he’s a changed man and his actions thus far support his assertion.

The latter demonstrates Vick did more than serve his time: He emerged from prison with a plan to use his life as an example of how to triumph and take advantage of second chances.

What else does Vick have to do?

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Saturday, February 12, 2011

Jimmer Fredette: Is Fredette Legit or Another “Great White Hope?”

ESPN Radio personality John Ireland asserted on ESPN’s First Take Brigham Young University sharp-shooting guard Jimmer Fredette is a lock to be selected in the first round of next years’ NBA Draft.
Ireland went on to state Fredette “can start” immediately for an NBA team based on his skill set.

Start at the next level?

We’ll see.

In my opinion this is another attempt by so-called authorities to create an embellished atmosphere around a white basketball player who plays well at the collegiate.  Anytime a white basketball player has an inkling of talent he’s got to be the next Larry Bird.

While Fredette is putting up some monster numbers, I don’t see him being drafted in the first round and starting for an NBA team, as Ireland suggests.

At 6’2” Fredette has good size and he handles the ball very well.  He’s demonstrated he can create his own shot off the dribble and he’s crafty in traffic.

I came away impressed with what I saw shooting-wise.  There is no question Fredette can shoot the basketball with extended range.  I watched him play against San Diego State earlier this year.

Fredette is a fast player but he is not laser quick.  He surely needs to improve his defense if he wants to truly compete at the next level.  He can get careless with the basketball and make senseless turnovers.

Let’s get to the real issue here.

NBA Commissioner David Stern has done all he can to dilute African-American talent.  By globalizing the game he’s provided opportunities for an influx of non-African-American talent in the NBA by way of Europe.

Stern has made it clear through his actions that the NBA has reverted back to the 1970’s by being too black.
Several years ago Stern instituted a dress code for players.  He felt players should come to work in professional attire.

Translation: Stern, along with a segment of the white fan base, grew weary of seeing African-Americans entering arenas wearing sweats while being draped in jewelry and sneakers.

This year, Stern instituted what I deem to be a racist legislation called the “Respect for the Game” rule.  Players are expected to not act in an overly demonstrative fashion and not question calls made be game officials.

Word on the street is fans were tired of players complaining about calls while exhibiting overly aggressive behavior.

Translation: The white establishment is not going to allow African-Americans to earn millions of dollars, dress like Hip-Hop artists and express themselves in a manner the hierarchy doesn’t deem acceptable.

Enter Jimmer Fredette.

In some ways he represents basketball’s “Great White Hope.”  Fredette potentially represents what the white fan base is missing; that’s a white American who can really play with the stars a la Larry Bird and Chris Mullin.

For example, Christian Laettner was an outstanding college player for Duke in leading his team to back-to-back NCAA titles in 1991 and 1992.

In 1992 Laettner played in what I consider to be the greatest collegiate basketball game of all time: the Regional Finals in the Philadelphia Spectrum against the Kentucky Wildcats.

He went 10-10 from the field while converting 10-10 free throws.  More importantly, he drilled the last shot of the game in overtime to seal the win for Duke.

Laettner was added on the Olympic Team in 1992 (the spot should have went to Shaquille O’Neal) to cement himself as the darling of basketball.  He was expected to come into the NBA and be a great player, but it didn’t happen.

The latest so-called "great" white player was former Gonzaga standout forward Adam Morrison.  He was the third overall pick in the 2006 NBA Draft by Charlotte Bobcats.

Morrison did a solid job in his first full season.  He was named the starting forward but was later benched because of poor defense and erratic shooting.

At the beginning of the 2008 season Morrison sustained a knee injury, forcing him to miss the entire season.
In 2009 Morrison was traded to the Los Angles Lakers where he basically sat on the bench and collected two championship rings.

This season Morrison sits at home as a free agent.  He is awaiting a team to call for his services after being cut by the Washington Wizards before the beginning of the regular season.

Will Fredette be the next Larry Bird or Chris Mullin?

Or will he be more like Steve Alford and Damon Bailey?

From what I can see, Fredette is a very good basketball player.  But I am not as optimistic as Ireland and some others that he may be the next big thing.

I’ll assert what many are afraid to express: the NBA is starving for a good white player.
This year Fredette is that guy.

Nothing would make a portion of the white fan base and Commissioner Stern happier if Fredette turns out to be the next Bird and takes the NBA to another level.

While it is possible he could do just that, personally, I don’t think it is likely.

Rest assured, a segment of the “white” press “hope” he continues to play great as he enters the NBA and beyond.

We’ll see.

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Monday, February 7, 2011

Ben Roethlisberger Fails to Deliver In Clutch, Green Bay Wins Super Bowl

For once in the past year Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger told the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.

After losing to the Green Bay Packers in yesterday’s Super Bowl 31-25 Roethlisberger stated the following: “I don't put the blame on anybody but myself.  I feel like I let the city of Pittsburgh down, the fans, my coaches, my teammates. It's not a good feeling."

I guess someone of questionable integrity will sometimes tell the truth huh?

Roethlisberger should have truthful when he got himself in trouble in Milledgeville, GA last March when he was accused of sexually assaulting a 20-year old co-ed.

He should have been straight-up about his horrific personality in public and how he distanced himself from his teammates.  More importantly Roethlisberger should have been truthful about how he has disrespected himself and one of the storied franchises in professional sports.

Roethlisberger is correct.  He cost his team another Super Bowl.

That’s right.

I agree with Roethlisberger whether he truly meant what he said at his press conference or not.
Roethlisberger was responsible for two of the three costly turnovers the Steelers committed by throwing two interceptions: One of which was a pick-six and provided Green Bay momentum.

There were flashes of Roethlisberger’s unique skill-set as he scrambled and picked up several key first downs but that wasn’t enough.

When the team needed him most Roethlisberger was not there: Just like he was not there at the beginning of the season.

Anyone remember?

Roethlisberger was estranged from his teammates as a result of violating the personal conduct policy.  Commissioner Roger Goodell levied a six-game suspension then—as a result of his improved behavior which to date no one has yet to clarify—it was reduced to four games.

Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin rallied the troops in the embattled quarterbacks’ absence.  Tomlin managed to go 3-1 in while Big Ben was on vacation.

For all Tomlin had to endure in not having his star player, dealing with media, and managing to get his team in position to win another Super Bowl was great.

Can anyone explain to me why he Tomlin didn’t receive one single vote for coach-of-the-year?
Anyway, back to Roethlisberger.

Despite the protection Roethlisberger received from the media, the NFL, and to some degree the Steelers’ organization it was not enough to mask Big Ben’s flaws.

Bottom line: Roethlisberger still thinks he’s above the law.  For all of the phony PR moves he’s made from being interviewed by his buddy Merril Hoge, to ESPN running his commercial during the week of Super Bowl, to the media entering him in the protection program Roethlisberger he still came up short.

Can anyone say Karma?

For all the effort people put into manufacturing Roethlisbergers’ so-called new personality he demonstrated in the last two minutes of the Super Bowl he’s the same guy who let his team down in the beginning of the season.

This Super Bowl we say what Roethlisberger is really made off.  He’s the guy who thinks he’s a legend without putting in the work to be truly a legend.  And to think some so-called experts were willing to put Roethlisberger in the same category as Joe Montana, Terry Bradshaw, Tom Brady, and Troy Aikman.

Please.  Give me a break.

Facts indicate Roethlisberger was terrible in the first Super Bowl he quarterbacked the Seattle Seahawks.  His statistics were meager and really didn’t factor into the outcome of the game.  Roethlisberger even benefited from a goal-line touchdown where replays demonstrate he didn’t score.

I guess he is just use to getting breaks huh?

Against the Arizona Cardinals two years ago Roethlisberger played fairly well.  But if it were not for the hands of eventual Super Bowl MVP Santonio Holmes he’d still have just as many rings as the over-hyped Peyton Manning and Brett Favre.

Now that the season is over Roethlisberger will continue to evade scrutiny from the media. But for all the phony smiling and pretending to be a changed man all season when Roethlisberger stated, “I don't put the blame on anybody but myself.  I feel like I let the city of Pittsburgh down, the fans, my coaches, my teammates. It's not a good feeling" for once he was telling the truth.

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Thursday, February 3, 2011

Mike Tomlin’s Super Bowl Return Is Proof Affirmative Action Works

Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin is out to claim his second Super Bowl title in three years as his team prepares to square off against the Green Bay Packers on Sunday. If the Steelers win, Tomlin will be the first African American to lead his team to two Super Bowls. Not bad for the 38-year-old coach nobody wanted to hire.

But Tomlin wouldn’t likely be roaming the sidelines if not for the Rooney Rule, which requires an NFL team with a head coaching vacancy to interview a candidate of color. Before the rule, few African Americans were granted interviews, let alone given head coaching jobs.

In 2002, the late Johnnie Cochran and fellow attorney Cyrus Mehri felt people of color, particularly African Americans, deserved more opportunities to lead teams. So Cochran and Mehri threatened to sue the NFL if it didn’t change its ways. “Our motives are driven not by personal desire or financial gain, but to correct what we see as a great inequity in America’s game,” Cochran said at the time. “Now is the time for the NFL to step up and make a change.”

The threat of a lawsuit was enough to get the NFL’s attention. In 2003, the league emerged with the Rooney Rule. The rule is named after Steelers owner Dan Rooney, who is also the leader of the NFL’s Diversity Committee.

When longtime Steelers coach Bill Cowher resigned in 2007, the organization began its search for someone to replace one of the league’s most celebrated figures to lead one of the most storied franchises in professional sports. When Tomlin emerged with the job, many around the NFL were surprised.

Some suggested that, at 34 years old, he was too young. Others pointed to his paltry six years of NFL experience as an assistant and coordinator. Thankfully, the Steelers went with what they saw and not with what they heard.

Rooney suggested Tomlin’s interview was so impressive that it left no alternative but to hire him. Along with his excellent football IQ, Rooney felt Tomlin was simply a good man. “Mike Tomlin is first and foremost a good person,” Rooney remarked. “That is the first test you have to pass.”

For his part, Tomlin said of the Rooney Rule and race: “It gives people an opportunity to present themselves, their ideas and their vision. Maybe the rule itself opened the door for me…. We’ll make true advances in the process when [race is] no longer an issue.”

We’re a long way from that point. In 1989, Oakland Raiders owner Al Davis hired Art Shell, making him the first African-American head coach in the modern-day NFL. By 2002, just prior to the Rooney Rule being instituted, there were still only two African American head coaches in the NFL: Herman Edwards of the New York Jets and Tony Dungy of the Indianapolis Colts.

But when the Oakland Raiders promoted Hue Jackson from offensive coordinator to head coach two weeks ago, it brought the total number of African American head coaches in the NFL today to seven, out of 32. The league now has one Latino coach, the Carolina Panthers’ newly hired Ron Rivera.

Moreover, when Tomlin leads his team on the field Sunday, he’ll be the fifth African-American head coach to take a team to the Super Bowl in the last five years. Clearly, the Rooney Rule has made a difference, providing African Americans, at least, big opportunities in a short time.

Which begs the question: Why are critics proclaiming the Rooney Rule should be shelved?

As we head toward this weekend’s big game, the question of whether the rule has outlived its purpose has emerged. Sports columnist Drew Sharp of the Detroit Free Press says it has. “The true measure of fairness is when diverse talent becomes an unconsciously accepted standard,” Sharp wrote in his most recent critique of the rule. “This country’s most influential sports entertainment entity has reached that touchstone. And that’s why the NFL should retire the Rooney Rule.”

John Ridley, the editor of That Minority Thing, suggested on NPR last week that the rule instead by phased out. “What I’d do with the Rooney Rule is I would put a clock on it,” Ridley advised. “I would say in the next three years—three seasons would be about a decade—we’re going to end the Rooney Rule.”
I find both Sharp’s and Ridley’s assessments ludicrous.

From Shell’s hiring in 1989 to the present, just 18 African Americans have been head coaches in the NFL; of that number, four were interim head coaches. The league’s players are 68 percent black. The Rooney Rule was plainly responsible for creating what opportunities now exist. But just as it’s starting to succeed, critics like Sharp seek to scrap it?

Sounds familiar. As soon as civil rights laws attempting to level political and economic playing fields began to work, the right eagerly declared victory on behalf of people of color and began assailing efforts like affirmative action in education as unnecessary.

American sport has a long history of moving the goal posts for athletes of color to succeed as well.
In 1875, for instance, African-American jockeys dominated the Kentucky Derby. In the first 28 Derbies, African-American riders claimed 15 championships. Angry at such progress, whites organized the Jockey Club in 1894, which mandated that all riders be tested and licensed to ride in the Derby. Since many of the black riders were former slaves and illiterate, whites strategically thwarted African-American participation.

In the early days of boxing, white heavyweight champions like John L. Sullivan, “Gentleman” Jim Corbett and Jack Dempsey refused to fight African-Americans, thus creating an unofficial color line. Still, Jack Johnson became the first heavyweight champion of the world in 1908. Because of Johnson’s persistence, Joe Louis was able to take the sport to another level in the 1930’s and 1940’s, thereby opening doors to the likes of Muhammad Ali.

A similar “gentlemen’s agreement” kept Major League Baseball a whites-only club until
Jackie Robinson cracked it open.

With this history as backdrop, for Sharp to suggest the Rooney Rule is no longer needed because an “unconsciously accepted standard” has been achieved after just eight years is ridiculous. Institutions have never changed “unconsciously.”

The Major Leagues’ owners didn’t let black players on the field voluntarily or out of a desire to right a wrong. Rather, it took years of steady pressure to rewrite the accepted rules. “It’s an uphill battle [in] every hiring cycle,” says Mehri of the NFL’s progress. “We’re still trying to open people’s minds. We’re in the process of changing the hearts and minds of NFL owners and, in turn, trying to open the hearts and minds of America.”

The Mike Tomlins of the NFL are making a noted impact in the league, but it is unlikely we would bear witness to his stellar coaching had it not been for the Rooney Rule. Which means he and the other black coaches wouldn’t have been the only people to lose in the deal—the Steelers would be down two championships, fans would be down one heck of a strategist and the Super Bowl’s millions of young viewers would miss a chance to see a black man as a leader.

If we ever reach a level playing field in society, it will find its way into American sport, too. Until then, leave the Rooney Rule alone.

This column first appeared in Colorlines.

Dexter Roger blogs about sports at Dexter’s Vantage Point! and Email Dexter directly. Follow him on Twitter.