For this week’s in-the-black print platform of Washington City Paper, I played the race card. Anybody who listens to local sports radio, where Kyle Shanahan has been compared to “David Duke Jr.,” can tell the racial angle of the Donovan McNabb mess ain’t played out yet. Pick up a copy, read the column, love thy neighbor.
I wrote that there’s no quick fix for the damage caused by the quarterback’s treatment short of the team brings back McNabb for another season or acquires Cam Newton. Then I attempted a joke saying if they might be able to solve things using next week’s NFL draft to bring back Doug Williams.
Redskins spokesperson Tony Wyllie says via email that the McNabb situation and/or fan discontent about the QB’s treatment didn’t come into play in the team’s selection of Williams as a guest representative on draft day. “Race was not a factor in the decision at all,” Wyllie adds.
But Mark Gray, former host of The Sports Groove on WOL, would surely also get a giggle out of the Skins’ PR move.
Before the Redskins had announced their invite to Williams, Gray told me that a good portion of his radio show’s largely black audience over the years let him know they felt the franchise disrespected Williams when they dumped the first black QB ever to win a Super Bowl after the 1989 season to make room for Mark Rypien. (Awesome trivia: For all his local renown and postseason fantasticality, Williams’ record as a regular season starter for the Redskins was 5-9, even though his entire stint with the team fell within the Gibbs I years, the most successful era in franchise history.)
“A lot of folks are still salty about the way Doug Williams got treated on his way out,” Gray said.
The Redskins’ handling of Williams’ exit plays into the perception that race has played a part in the franchise’s bungling of McNabb’s benchings for Rex Grossman, Gray said.
Harold Bell, another longtime sportstalk host on WOL, hears from the same folks Gray does.
Bell says that until his benching and the soap opera that followed, McNabb hadn’t been particularly embraced by the “black community.” Bell thinks McNabb’s non-confrontational public pose has allowed the Redskins to get away with what, to Bell, was essentially a public emasculation.
“Donovan McNabb’s all about corporate America,” Bell says. “He is more worried about his image than he is about having people respect him, or about getting the respect that he should have demanded from the Redskins. He’s also more worried about his Campbell Soup ads and his Bank One ads and his bank account.”
And while Cam Newton, barring the theft of Mel Kiper‘s laptop, won’t be on the board when the Redskins pick, Bell’s constituents would recommend that he play arena ball or the CFL rather than come here and let the team repeat the mistakes made with Williams and McNabb.
“I talk to people who would tell Cam Newton: ‘Please stay away from here! Do NOT come to Washington! Go to Canada! Go anywhere but here!’” Bell said.