McNabb’s Race Card played at Bad Time

Despite my instinct to avoid the subject, I can’t help calling out a blatant misuse of the race card by one Donovan McNabb, quarterback for the Philadelphia Eagles. Amid the 24-hour hype of Super Bowl XL on ESPN, McNabb reared his ugly (and oversized) head on SportsCenter with a hypocritical, one-sided analysis of his feud with Terrell Owens.

As much as I hate the media hype surrounding the Owens-McNabb soap opera, McNabb’s comments were noteworthy for many reasons. For one, McNabb’s response was quite tardy, coming long after T.O.’s original inflammatory comments. Also, his interview concerned racial issues in football, a topic that has clouded McNabb’s career for years — from Rush Limbaugh to J. Whyatt Mondesire, the Philadelphia branch president of the NAACP.

Unsuspecting SportsCenter viewers were ambushed Feb. 2 with an exclusive interview with the star quarterback, in which he whined about his hurt feelings from Owens’ verbal jabs and labeled one of his comments a “black-on-black” crime. This is a serious accusation and one that needs a historical analysis for the average fan, who is probably unaware of the ever-developing Eagles drama.

In November 2005, Owens was asked if he agreed with Michael Irvin’s comments that the Eagles would be undefeated if they had Brett Favre under center. T.O., unaware that his answer would drop an atomic bomb on the NFL, agreed based on McNabb’s injury problems and Favre’s legendary leadership, courage, toughness and amazing arm strength.

Although Owens’ innocent answer was correct, Donovan should have heard it from Stephen A. Smith, not from his teammate, especially considering their rough relationship. Proving words sting deep, Owens’ comment was the straw that broke the camel’s ­— or Andy Reid’s — back and it cost one of the best playmaking receivers in the game over half a season.

Now let’s jump back to last week, when McNabb revealed his innermost thoughts to the American public. In his interview, McNabb said that the Favre comment hurt because it felt like a slap in the face and that it was like a black-on-black crime.

McNabb said that if Owens had referred to someone like Michael Vick, Daunte Culpepper or Steve McNair instead of Favre, it would not have been as bad. Donovan paralleled Owens’ comments as if McNabb had said he wished he had Joe Jurevicious or Steve Largent catching passes for him. Are all black receivers supposed to stick with black quarterbacks? If Jeremy Shockey said that McNabb would be a better fit at QB then Eli Manning, would it invoke white-on-white crime talk?

McNabb may have some valid points about Owens’ cancerous effects, but taking offense at the Favre comment because of race is bogus. When Irvin first made the comment, he brought up Favre as an example of a passer who is struggling because of a lack of talent surrounding him. He then said that if Favre had Philadelphia’s offense around him, the Eagles would be undefeated. Owens and Irvin never meant to say that black quarterbacks, like McNabb, rely too much on being mobile and that only white quarterbacks are reliable pocket passers. The whole McNabb-Favre comparison was about talent, not race, but McNabb, feeling victimized after Limbaugh’s attacks, had to pull the race card out of his sleeve.

Not only was the black-on-black claim preposterous, but McNabb agreed to this big exclusive at the most inopportune time for two reasons. First, with Owens on the way to the first coach willing to take him and the first general manager willing to pay for him, this verbal sparring should be coming to an end. Both are mature men capable of ending the feud and McNabb even said that he was done talking about T.O. at a midseason press conference. Yet here he is on SportsCenter, telling all and digging for controversy in a story that should have been over months ago. The second reason McNabb’s timing was offensive is the conflict with the Super Bowl. McNabb’s interview rained on the parade of Super Bowl festivities, when the public is excited about seeing a game with pleasurable personalities, not embellished egos. The stories in the week leading up to the XL game should be about the ever-smiling Hines Ward, Seahawks’ rookie sensation Lofa Tatupu, the Steelers’ second-year quarterback and crazy-haired safety, the record-setting MVP running back or, of course, Jerome Bettis’ triumphant return to his hometown for what will likely be his final game. These are the types of stories that belong in the week of anticipation before the game.

Instead, McNabb dampened the mood with his ridiculous claims — and for that, I say shame on you, Donovan. Your only chance for retribution is to never again talk about T.O. or continue this feud, because I know I speak for all of us when I say I’ve had enough drama — let’s get to the football.