Brett Favre needs to stop counting NFL star DeShaun Watson’s coins
OPINION: Houston Texans quarterback DeShaun Watson is the latest Black athlete essentially being told to 'shut up and dribble'
You don’t have to know a lot about NFL quarterback DeShaun Watson, or the Houston Texans — or even the NFL — to know that he’s got every right to want to switch teams. All you have to do is be someone who’s ever been stuck in a job where you’re the smartest, hardest working person in the building and all of your bosses are idiots.
DeShaun Watson isn’t simply an NFL quarterback, he’s arguably one of the top 5 most talented in the league; well-spoken, loved by fans in Houston and a young Black man who’s vocally supported the Black Lives Matter movement.
This is why as sure as white tears follow a MAGA insurrection, older white quarterbacks like Brett Favre have come forth to say Watson shouldn’t switch teams, shouldn’t complain and should just be happy he’s allowed to play football.
Favre and others are essentially paraphrasing Laura Ingraham’s famous “Shut Up and Dribble” directive for all Black athletes. While these attacks aren’t new, they speak to a much bigger problem that all sports fans, especially Black ones, need to pay attention to.
In the fall of 2020, DeShaun Watson signed a $156 million, five-year contract extension with the Houston Texans that would keep him with the team until he was 30. Anecdotally, the NFL stands for “Not for Long,” so while some players may have healthy lucrative careers into their late 30’s, contracts are not guaranteed and one injury could end your career in an instant.
Texans owner Cal McNair told DeShaun Watson that the team wouldn’t waste his prime playing years. Yet the moment the ink dried they traded away the team’s best wide receiver, fired the team’s coach mid-season, empowered a dad-joke-telling pastor to hire the team’s new general manager, and refused to seriously interview any of the Black coaches Watson suggested for the team.
Needless to say, Watson wanted out, and recently publicly asked to be traded from the team. The problem is DeShaun Watson is a Black guy with a Black agent. How dare he take ownership of his own career and body?
Cue Trump-loving, Hall of Fame former Green Bay Packers quarterback Brett Favre, who decided to poke his nose into DeShaun Watson’s business during a recent interview with Yahoo Sports.
“You get paid a ton of money to do a certain job, and just do it, and let the chips fall where they may. I think we make too much money to voice an opinion, but I’m not saying his wrong,“ said Favre.
A response that drew ire from Watson’s agent, David Mulugheta, as well as former NFL tight end Martellus Bennett.
Many have pointed out the hypocrisy of this coming from Brett Favre, a man who held the Green Bay Packers hostage so many times the fans developed Helsinki Syndrome, telling DeShaun Watson what he should do.
Favre forced his way out of two teams, sent unsolicited pictures of his penis to journalists and got paid over $1 million in federal money to do community work in the state of Mississippi and never showed up to work. So much for taking your paycheck and shutting up. However, white athletes white-splaining the business of football isn’t new.
This same week, former NFL Arizona Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer got on local Dallas radio to say that Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott (who is recovering from a season-ending injury) shouldn’t “shoot for the moon” on his next deal because he can ‘make a lot of money’ through endorsements as the leader of that franchise.
This is the equivalent of a college kid going back to his old job at McDonald’s and telling everyone over the loudspeaker that they shouldn’t ask for a raise because they get to take home a Big Mac and large fries after every shift.
Last year Tim Tebow, the Christian Right’s favorite overrated former college quarterback was lecturing the nation on why college football players, who make millions for their universities, shouldn’t get paid but should sacrifice their bodies for the love of the game.
I could look through a dozen thesauruses and not find as many ways to say “shut up and dribble” as these white men have, but the issue isn’t that they’re saying what they are saying, the issue is why does the sports media continue to give platforms to white men who are inherently hostile to the efforts of Black labor?
Remember, if the press can tell a Black millionaire athlete who’s one of only about 100 people in the country who can do his job that he’s got no right to complain, it’s that much easier to dismiss the concerns of your average Andre and Keisha protesting for PPE and a living wage from their local Walgreens.
That’s why it’s important that casual and dedicated NFL fans tweet, call and voice their support for athletes like Watson, because in the end, they’re just a microcosm of the larger racist labor system that controls the lives of the majority of Black America.
The NFL has a labor force that is 70% African American, but team ownership is 99% white, and management is about 95% white. So it’s not too on the nose to say that these numbers may color how labor conflicts with how Black athletes are viewed. Nevertheless, fans have the ability to push back on biased media, locally and nationally to push for greater equity in how Black athletes are treated.
A real victory in this situation won’t simply be DeShaun Watson being traded from the Houston Texans as he’s requested; it will be the point when sports media treats Black athletes with professional savvy and business ambition with the same respect and deference that they give to white ones.
Dr. Jason Johnson is a professor of Politics and Journalism at Morgan State University, a Political Contributor at MSNBC and SIRIUS XM Satellite Radio. Notorious comic book and sports guy with dual Wakandan and Zamundan citizenship.
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