Tiki Barber gets emotional defending the Giants: ‘They’re not racist’ 

Barber shed tears on his sports talk show, defending his former NFL team's owners against racism accusations.

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Former NFL player and retired New York Giants star Tiki Barber got emotional Wednesday, shedding tears while defending his former team on his CBS sports talk show, Tiki & Tierney.

“I just don’t think that the Maras, who I’ve known for 25 years, are racist,” Barber told co-host Brandon Tierney of the team owners. The Mara family founded the football club in 1925, and it has remained in their family for several generations. Barber played as a running back for the New York Giants from 1997 to 2006. 

Retired New York Giants running back Tiki Barber got emotional while defending his former team against accusations of racism. (Photo: Theo Wargo/Getty Images)

“I’m not willing to scream and yell that the Giants, an organization that I revere, that I had a great relationship with, to say that they’re racist simply because they haven’t had a black head coach or a black quarterback,” Barber said, per Big Blue View. 

Barber also responded to statements by fiery commentator Stephen A. Smith, who had harsh words for the organization on his ESPN show, First Take, on Wednesday. 

“Let me say this to the New York Giants,” Smith said. “As an organization, when it comes to black coaches, I don’t believe a damn word you have to say. There’s no one more incriminating than the New York Giants when it comes to black coaches. We are in the year 2022. All of these years — damn near a century, for crying out loud — there is one single franchise that has not had a black coach. That is the New York Giants.”

However, Barber blasted Smith in his response.

“I can’t sit here, with conviction, like Stephen A. [Smith], who doesn’t know anybody in the Giants’ organization, and claim that they’re a racist organization. I would never do that. The only reason I would do that is because I’m trying to make a point, and my point is that Brian Flores is trying to make a point.”

As previously reported, Flores sued the NFL and three of its teams Tuesday, “saying racist hiring practices by the league have left it racially segregated and managed like a plantation.” At the end of the regular season, of 32 NFL teams, only one was helmed by a Black coach after Flores was let go – Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin, in his 15th season.

The lawsuit filed in Manhattan federal court sought “class-action status and unspecified damages from the league, the Dolphins, the Denver Broncos and the New York Giants, along with unidentified individuals,” per AP.

On the sports talk show Wednesday, Barber shared a story about Wellington Mara, whom he said he visited as the man lay dying in 2005 to tell him “thank you for making me a Giant.”

“The fact that the Maras, and I always said this with the Tisches as well, they embraced me like I was family,” said Barber. “I know them intimately, so when I say I don’t believe they’re racist, it’s because I know they’re not … I know they’re not a racist organization.”

“The Rooney Rule is not perfect,” he added. “It’s never going to be perfect because the pipeline for Black candidates is not wide enough, is not big enough. At the end of the day, you try to do the best you can, and I think the league and the Giants, they’re trying to do the best they can.”

The Rooney Rule is a National Football League policy that requires league teams to interview ethnic-minority candidates for head-coaching and senior football operation jobs.

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