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B-Hop vs McNabb: Racialism from the Ring to the Gridiron

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by Weiner

Here we go again. Only a short while after the Grant Hill versus Jalen Rose “Uncle Tom” controversy, and a few months after former middleweight championship boxer Bernard “The Executioner” Hopkins played the race card in the Manny Pacquiao versus Floyd Mayweather Jr. debate, the same Hopkins has brought his politically incorrect opinions into the limelight again.

This time, B-Hop, a life-long Philadelphia sports fan, has gone after former Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb. We’ve heard this tune before. Both men are prominent African American athletes. McNabb‘s crime? Like Grant Hill, he comes from a middle-class family.

Forget this,” Hopkins said, according to the Philadelphia Daily News, and pointed to his own skin. “He’s got a suntan. That’s all.”

According to Hopkins, McNabb (right) had a privileged upbringing in Chicago and isn’t as tough as himself, current Eagles quarterback Michael Vick or Cincinnati Bengals receiver Terrell Owens (below) who famously had a falling out with McNabb before being released by Philadelphia in 2006. Hopkins said Tuesday that McNabb and Owens essentially didn’t speak the same language.

“T.O. got [into] the boardroom and saw the way they talked to McNabb. Coming from where he [came from] — that’s strange to some white people, when a black man speaks,” Hopkins said, according to the Daily News. He said Owens “[wasn’t] used to this language. [He’s] used to speaking up.’ “

Hopkins said that is why McNabb felt a sense of betrayal when he was traded by the Eagles to the Redskins before last season.

terrell“Why do you think McNabb felt he was betrayed? Because McNabb is the guy in the house, while everybody else is on the field. He’s the one who got the extra coat. The extra servings. ‘You’re our boy,’ ” Hopkins said, according to the Daily News, and patted a member of the media on the back to illustrate his point. “He thought he was one of them.”

As the writer for the Daily News noted, Hopkins was making a clear reference to the history of African American bondage, implicitly labeling McNabb a softer “house slave” in contrast to the tougher “field slaves,” who formed the rest of the team, if not calling him the QB an outright “Uncle Tom.”

McNabb later fired back, through his agent, Fletcher Smith.

The agent for the Washington Redskins quarterback and former Philadelphia Eagles star released a statement Thursday that said Hopkins’ racially tinged insults about McNabb “are dangerous and irresponsible.”

“It perpetuates a maliciously inaccurate stereotype that insinuates those African-Americans who have access to a wider variety of resources are somehow culturally different than their brethren,” Fletcher Smith said.

“It is vital that we extinguish this brand of willful ignorance,” he said, “and instill in the minds of African-American youth, regardless of the parental makeup of your household, they can become anything they wish if they work hard and make the right decisions in life.”

But Hopkins was ready with his own response, mixing a class critique with biological racialism.

“Look at professional boxing. I’ve never seen a suburban boxer be successful,” Hopkins said. “There has to be something in the DNA of the person’s experience, of what they overcame, to have that grit; like, I’m going to bite down and let it happen. I just didn’t see that in him.”

When the interviewer asked Hopkins what he thought about current Eagles quarterback Michael Vick, Hopkins displayed a clear affinity for the controversial athlete. “I can relate, not to what he did, but I can relate to what kind of guy inside he is that McNabb didn’t have.”

Michael Vick gives haters the finger!Michael Vick (right), like Hopkins, grew up in poverty. They also both served time in prison. Vick, of course, was brought down from the height of stardom to serve a sentence for involvement in illegal dogfighting, which Wiz wrote about here.  Hopkins, was arrested at age 17 for nine different felonies.

Hopkins’ rise to prominence is much more impressive than Vick’s fall from grace. B-Hop served nearly five years, learned to box in prison, converted to Islam, and came out a changed man. For a man who began to commit muggings at 13 and had been stabbed three times as a teenager, it was a remarkable transformation. He gave up his life of crime and became one of the most accomplished middleweight (160 lbs) boxers of all time. He has since moved up to light-heavyweight (175 lbs) where he hopes to make history.

On Saturday, May 21, Hopkins will fight Jean Pascal in Pascal’s (and my) hometown of Montreal for the light-heavyweight crown. If he wins, at age 46, he will become the oldest champion in boxing history (breaking George Foreman’s record of 45).

I’m torn. On the one hand, I want to root for my fellow Montrealer. On the other hand, I really like Hopkins and respect him as a fighter. He doesn’t typically make exciting fights, but he’s got superb defensive skills and has more ring intelligence than anyone in the business. He was apparently robbed in his first fight with Pascal (I didn’t see it), held in Quebec City, which the judges ruled a draw but most observers felt belonged to B-Hop. Staying in fighting shape at 46 is accomplishment enough; winning a boxing title at that age is legendary.

But I have a hard time rooting for Hopkins given his comments. They got even nastier on Twitter. His former promoter, Lou DiBella, an Italian-American who graduated summa cum laude from Tufts and then earned a Harvard law degree, had this to say:

Hopkins: Great… yes. HOF… yes, but a proven liar, racist, and negative force in the African American community. Fight and shut the fuck up.

And then:

If you polled the US, all parents, think they want their sons to be like you or McNabb? All not “black enough”???

When another tweeter insisted that Lou DiBella could never “understand” because he’s not Black, DiBella wrote angrily:

So a white can’t object to a famous, gifted black man questioning the blackness of another famous gifted black man? BULL

Hopkins, however, agreed with initial commenter, tweeting:  “NO u cant bcuz yall on outside lookin in.”

Another tweeter pointed out that Michael Wilbon, the African American sportscaster, had criticized Hopkins on ESPN’s Pardon the Interruption, saying he sounded like a “moron” and an “idiot” and that those who thinks “blackness is defined by lawlessness” ought to be “shouted down.” Hopkins tweeted this about Wilbon in response:

he is stepin fetchit 2011, massa tell him jump he jump 2x.

Maybe Hopkins crossed a line. I’m not really sure if that means I should root against him. But I’ll probably go for the hometown Pascal, out of loyalty to a fellow Montrealer. Pascal is also the underdog. The ageless Hopkins, remarkably, is the favourite.  Even Lou DiBella thinks B-Hop is gonna win. Should be an interesting fight.


Written by David Weinfeld

May 13, 2011 at 18:46

2 Responses

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  1. For those of you who followed, B-Hop made history. Oldest boxer to win a major title. Amazing.


    May 26, 2011 at 22:50

  2. […] Famer, recently gave yet another candid interview, complete with new musings on race. We’ve been here before, even on this blog. This interview, however, was a bit different. Here’s a sample: […]

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