By Bobby R. Henry, Sr.
A couple of Mondays ago, I watched in absolute horror as Demar Hamlin went into cardiac arrest after making a hit on a Cincinnati Bengals player. Tuesday morning quarterbacking suggest that everything from that moment forward was executing near perfectly as Hamlin was resuscitated on the field and transported hurriedly to the local hospital to continue life-saving treatment. While he remains in critical condition, sources are reporting that his medical status is steadily improving.
Today, Demar is perhaps considered a miracle.
While Hamlin was being worked on, the entire football stadium and millions of viewers watched in anticipation of exactly what was going on with Hamlin primarily, and what would happen to the remaining 3.5 quarters of a game that are important to playoff eligibility for these two teams as well as others depending on a win or loss from them.
Then the tweet came.
As Hamlin lay fighting for his life, Skip Bayless, co-host of Undisputed, tweeted the following: No doubt the NFL is considering postponing the rest of this game – but how? This late in the season, a game of this magnitude is crucial to the regular-season outcome … which suddenly seems so irrelevant.
Not during this tweet or one before did Bayless share any thoughts or prayers for Hamlin. Like a businessman who is considering his tens of millions of dollars, Bayless responded to a situation where a man was fighting for his life with what would be convenient and financially expedient for the NFL.
Shannon Sharpe, Bayless’ cohost of Undisputed, was greatly offended by the tweet and called for him to apologize and delete it. Twitter was up in flames and crucifying Bayless for his insensitivity towards Hamlin’s condition. Sharpe, a former NFL tight end for 14 years was going through a difficult time himself as he watched another from the NFL brotherhood unconscious on the field. Yet, Bayless dug in his heels and refused to apologize, citing there was nothing to apologize for. He did offer some thoughts and prayers to Hamlin, but did not make any adjustments to his statement about finishing the game despite what was happening.
The next morning, Sharpe was a no show on Undisputed and Baylesss attempted at an apology that fell flat because it was more about him than it was about Hamlin. Bayless claimed to have not been able to sleep all night and that he was “shook up” and “wrecked” by what happened. He further claimed that he wasn’t sure he could even get through the show and contemplated not doing the Undisputed episode. Twitter exploded again on Bayless.
It was no apology. In lieu of apologizing for his tweeted words, Bayless made it about him and what he was feeling. He never mentioned Hamlin’s mother or Hamlin’s visibly hurt and anguished fellow teammates of the Buffalo Bills. Word on the street is the network asked Bayless to apologize and the best he could cough up is a weak cry with dry sniffles where he makes himself the victim.
On Wednesday, Sharpe returned to Undisputed with a unit on his face (tightened jaw and visibility upset) that visibly communicated he was still going through a variety of emotions. Jen, the commentator opened up with giving Sharpe the floor to address viewers. Sharpe began by saying, “… I’ve never seen anybody have to be revived and fight for their life on the field. Skip (Bayless) tweeted something, and although I disagreed with the tweet, and hopefully Skip would take it down…”
No sooner than a minute in Bayless interrupts Sharpe and “un apologizes” for the very weak apology he gave a day prior. He doubled down by saying, “I am not going to take it down because I stand by what I tweeted.” Bayless goes on to say that he didn’t expect Sharpe to bring the tweet up because no one had a problem with it. Sharpe then responded that their bosses wanted him to offer an explanation, so clearly, someone had a problem.
Clearly, Sharpe is correct when he says the conversation and focus should be on Hamlin, not some insensitive tweet that Bayless doesn’t want to apologize for.
Interestingly, the network didn’t dish out a modified version of the Kyrie Irving treatment to Bayless? Hmnn. I will come back to that.
Aside from boxing, football is undoubtedly the most dangerous sports there is. A player can make a lot of money and if managed correctly, can take care of his family and generations of family after. The NCAA- football and NFL have majority Black players whose physical bodies,
kinesthetics and athletic prowess brings in billions of dollars to the industry. It is why Bayless felt the game must go on despite Hamlin’s life threatening situation. Just remove him from the field and get back to business.
If you are beginning to think that everything is about race with Bobby R. Henry, Sr., and the Westside Gazette, then let me make it perfectly clear, when race is obviously shown from the point of a race conscious filled with bias then the Bobby R. Henry, Sr and the Westside Gazette is going to call it just what it is-the truth will make all of us free. Had Hamlin been Tom Brady, there is no way in Hades that Bayless would have been saying, “Play ball.” No way. Had Hamlin been Brett Farr, there is no way in Hades that the network would not have asked Bayless to provide an “explanation for his tweet”. He would have been directed to apologize and discipline of some sort would have ensued.
Many of these players have been engaged in the sport since Little League, at the age of six or seven. They are putting their health and lives on the line and the industry is well aware of the long term risks. Many players have already sustained some pretty damaging hits and effects to their health well before entering the college and entering the NFL.
The League has taken some steps to make the game safer, however, the results of years of physical abuse to the body, particularly, the head leads to ungodly complications later in life for many professional football athletes taking and hits and executing them.
To most Black people, Bayless’s comment was more than just insensitive. It devalued the life of Hamlin. The NCAA and NFL has long been compared to a Slave Trade. I liken Bayless comments to those a slave master who tells the slaves to get back to work despite their concern for another slave who may have fallen out from the scorching heat.
There is cotton to be picked. My money is on the line. Get back to work.
Black women slaves picked cotton while pregnant and it is well documented that she would be in labor that morning in a barn and back in the field picking cotton later that evening with the baby in tow. Yet, Mrs. Millie had her babies into the comfort of the bed and was allowed to rest for at least a month because she was privileged. Harriet had to get back to work.
Skip’s response was a “baymess” and his attempt to defend his tweet was “baseless”. Bayless turned to white fragility. Bayless’s, like many White people, felt the stress of racial tension involved in the situation, but did not have what it takes to address the problem head on. Bayless lacked the vulnerability to apologize and listen openly for understanding. Instead, he opened up Undisputed on Tuesday and began displaying a range of emotions such as crying and the dry sniffling. When Sharpe returned to work on Wednesday and mentioned the tweet, Bayless became argumentative, displaying controlled anger. Bayless’s goal was to become the victim to reinstate White racial equilibrium.
They say sports is the only place where a Black and White athlete are truly equal, and the fraternity and relationships on the field are colorblind. That might be true. However, the industry is not. I once heard someone say if the players are making millions, can you imagine the billions they are keeping for themselves? The money these players make is peanuts compared to the money the owners and industry make. So, in the grand scheme of things, the money is not what’s most important on the end for players. It is their short-term and long-term health.
When the League of players is 70 percent or more Black, race has to be front and center in the conversation and it is my pleasure to explain and help my readers understand all things in the context of race.