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Volume 3, Number 4
April, 1998

View From the Cheap Seats An Open Letter To Rev. Reggie White

by Dave Lind

 Admittedly, sometimes it can be difficult to come up with a topic of discussion worthy of hashing out in the public forum, even for a part-time sports hack like myself. There are times when the ideas flow faster than the fingers can type and there are times when you find yourself perched in front of your keyboard like a vulture waiting for something to fall out of the sky. Such dry spells are commonly referred to as "writer's block" in an effort to assign some sort of tangible quality to the elusive demon that plagues all writers at all levels of all genres.
 Then along comes Reggie White, and the column just seems to write itself.
 In deference to the nearly-three-hundred-pound future Hall of Fame defensive end for the Green Bay Packers who could surely pinch my head off at the 2nd vertebra, let me just say that I had a professional difference of opinion with the man concerning his remarks to the Wisconsin State Legislature on March 25. In a rambling, hour long dissertation before the Assembly, White invoked the Word of God to denounce homosexuality, blaming it for the moral decay of American society, and neatly segregated the human race into tidy little groups according to dancing ability, financial skills, and procreative ability.
 According to White, blacks are "gifted in what we call worship and celebration", and that blacks "like to dance". He also credited Asians for their ability to "turn a television into a watch", Whites for their "ability to make money", and Hispanics because "they can put 20 or 30 people in one home."
 I guess when they said that Reggie White is "intelligent and well-spoken", what they meant was "for a football player."
 Ok, perhaps that is unfair. There are a great many truly intelligent and articulate football players and I meant them no insult. The point is, Reggie White is apparently not among them. How else to describe someone who propagates such narrow-minded, bigoted, crap. To suggest that being black makes you a good dancer or that all Hispanics do is pump out children is exactly the type of thing that civil rights activists have railed against for decades, and rightly so. When Al Campanis suggested to a reporter several years ago that whites were better suited to managerial positions and that blacks "lacked the tools" manage, he was publicly vilified and his career was utterly destroyed overnight, and again, rightly so.
 Yet here stands Rev. Reggie White, idol to many, paragon of his community, respected and revered across racial lines, stating precisely the same thing that Campanis was crucified for over a decade ago.
 The remarks seemed to have dampened CBS's interest in hiring White, who had auditioned for a job as an announcer, though one must admit the idea of a Racial Round table with Reggie White and Jimmy "The Greek" Snyder seems too good to pass up. Marge Schott and Al Campanis could be a regular guests and we could finally explore such tantalizing topics as "Why can't white men jump" and "The downfall of the Jewish athlete in America."
 To be fair, though, let me point out that I understand that White's motives were as pure as the driven snow and that the message he was trying to convey was an honorable one, though it did not translate well. What White was trying to say, I believe, is that people are basically different and that each of us has something positive to contribute to society. And again, while I agree wholeheartedly with this ideal, White erred badly in his thinking by taking that ideal and projecting it across racial lines. Stating that blacks are "good dancers" and whites are "good money makers" and Hispanics are "good baby-makers" simply reinforces hurtful stereotypes which this nation has fought for years to dispel. Worse, for a highly respected sports figure such as White to take advantage of his stature to spew hateful, divisive rhetoric, to thump his bible and denounce gays as the bane of American society while he himself propagates racial stereotypes which serve no purpose other than to impede harmony among the races, is beyond reprehensible.
 Had he not been a sports figure, he likely would never have been afforded the opportunity to embarrass himself publicly as he did. Had he not been a black sports figure, he likely would have been booed from the chamber floor, his misguided ideas chastised as being offensive, narrow-minded, and bigoted.
 Rightly so.
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