WASHINGTON (CBSDC) – Many are left to wonder why Howard Bryant referred to RGIII as being “positioned as the racial bridge” of D.C. in a scathing article he wrote for ESPN.com Tuesday, in which he also indicted Griffin as being more “commercial than competitor.”
Although, it’s not so much a question of why, as it is, where did the idea of him serving as a “racial bridge” come from? Like why did he choose to apply that specific term to Griffin? Prior the story being published, the focus seemed to be solely on Griffin’s knee, not how his performance on the field affects his cultural significance.
“I remember it pretty specifically, I mean I think a lot it came from us in a lot of ways,” Bryant said of his ESPN colleagues Wednesday, in an interview with 106.7 The Fan’s Holden and Danny.
The subject of race has rarely been broached by media with Griffin directly, as he made it clear early on in his time in Washington he’d rather be viewed as a quarterback, than a black quarterback.
“I don’t want to be the best African-American quarterback,” Griffin told CSN’s Chick Hernandez in Dec. 2012. “I want to be the best quarterback .”
This quote seemingly is the genesis of Bryant’s theory that Griffin’s “positioning himself as a transcendent figure.” What that theory ignores is the second part of Griffin’s quote.
“To the fans that do think that way, and look at me as an African-American, it’s important that I succeed, not only for this team but for them, because it gives them that motivation, that ‘Hey, you know, an African-American went out and played quarterback for my Washington Redskins,’ and I appreciate that, so I don’t ever downplay anything like that,” Griffin said in the same interview with Hernandez.
So why is this even being discussed?
“This is the first time I’ve seen somebody discuss this notion publicly,” Bomani Jones told Holden and Danny. “I have heard people talk about that when no one else was around, about the idea that Robert Griffin has been positioned as kind of a post-racial sort of hero. I mean he’s black. He’s obviously black. He’s also a military kid though, and it gets difficult to explain, but a lot of people would say that he’s the sort of guy that looks like you could take him to your white friend’s house and your parents are like, ‘Oh, I like Robert.’ He’s in an interesting space in that regard.”
Jones would expound upon this thought, and since it illuminates the point at hand, his comments won’t be truncated.
“I don’t know nearly enough about whether to say that the racial element is a constant part of his positioning or whether it’s a byproduct of growing up in a town that’s largely military around folks that are in the military,” Jones said. “Because the way that race works in their world is a little bit different than it does in the rest of ours, because military go off with their shoulder to should with cats, in positions where you don’t have time to care about that stuff. If my life is on the line and I need to depend on you, I can’t worry about that. You think about John McCain and a lot of stuff he does and says with regards to race, and understand the way the military operates differently.
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“So I can’t say whether or not he is doing these things purposely. I can’t say whether or not he is doing these things constantly. I can tell you thought that when I get up and say things about what happens with black quarterbacks, and what does and does not happen to black quarterbacks, the first name that gets pulled up: What about Robert Griffin? I sure like that Robert Griffin. He’s in that space, I just don’t know if he did anything on purpose to get there.”