Sports

Brent Musburger defends Jon Gruden and still doesn’t get it after 50 years on the job

Believe it or not, he’s still talking.

Believe it or not, he’s still talking.
Image: Getty Images

You are looking live at Brent Musburger who once again is more riled up at the response to racism and misogyny than the actions that evoke a response. These days he’s the radio play-by-play person for the Las Vegas Raiders. He was talking on JT the Brick’s KRLV show about Jon Gruden’s lawsuit against the NFL, throwing out his theories on how the emails got leaked and that he felt Gruden should’ve been suspended and his career shouldn’t be ended because of his “stupidity” But before getting into that, he compared Gruden’s email leak to a hit job from a crime organization.

“As I told coach, whoever took you out Jon, that was a paid assassin,” Musburger said on the show. “That was one of the best hit jobs that I’ve ever been around”

Gruden’s email leaks may feel more like he’s being used as a scapegoat than as an effort to truly try to clean up whatever bigoted ways are still in the NFL, but it’s the bigoted ways that should always be the focus. Also, from Musburger’s history in sports media, if he’s speaking out he’s usually on the wrong side, unless reading from a teleprompter a statement about CBS parting ways with Jimmy the Greek.

It dates back to another time in history when racial tension was thick. John Carlos and Tommie Smith took the medal stand at the 1968 Summer Olympics in Mexico City. They raised their fists while wearing black gloves during the playing of the American national anthem. At that time Musbuger was a writer for the now-defunct newspaper, the Chicago American.

What always gets cited from his column about Carlos and Smith is him writing that they looked like “a couple of black-skinned stormtroopers,” years before the first Star Wars movie was released. He also wrote that what they did on the medal stand was “ignoble,” that the Olympics is no place to air “one’s dirty clothing” when referring to racism during the 1960s, and also this lovely paragraph:

But you’ve got to give Smith and Carlos credit for one thing. They knew how to deliver whatever it was they were trying to deliver on international television, thus insuring maximum embarrassment for the country that is picking up the tab for their room and board here in Mexico City. One gets a little tired of having the United States run down by athletes who are enjoying themselves at the expense of their country.

I get the feeling that the redlining in Chicago didn’t bother Musburger nearly as much as athletes competing for America deigning to express their objection to the discriminatory way they’re treated at home. Musburger talked about the column in 1999, and said he was “a bit harsh,” but he still objected to using the medal stand at the Olympics to make “a political statement.” Because there’s nothing political about being adorned in American colors and the national anthem playing after winning an event against a participant from another country.

Apparently, nearly 50 years after that column, he still doesn’t care for what he deems politics during the national anthem even on a random Sunday in September. He made a wisecrack on Twitter about the San Francisco 49ers and kneeling during the national anthem, about how since they’re losing so much maybe they should start taking a knee in the opposing endzone.

Now one racial incident that did get under Musburger’s skin was in 1987 when Isiah Thomas made his comment about if Larry Bird was Black he’d be “just another good guy *Isiah Thomas laugh.” Musburger interviewed Thomas during halftime of Game 2 of the 1987 NBA Finals, and spent almost the entire time grilling him about that statement. He even had the audacity to equate what Thomas said to what former Los Angeles Dodgers general manager Al Campanis said that got him fired — you know his statement that Black people may not have the “necessities” to serve in leadership positions with Major League Baseball organizations.

Musburger also didn’t like the criticism that he received on social media while broadcasting the 2017 Sugar Bowl. He made a point to wish then Oklahoma running back Joe Mixon well after talking about a video that had just been released showing the reason why Mixon had been suspended from the program for the 2014 season. He punched a woman in the face. When word of the social media criticism reached Musburger instead of apologizing, or not acknowledging it at all, he defiantly doubled down.

It’s 2021 and Musburger still doesn’t get it. The person being wronged isn’t the person suffering the consequences for their actions, and there is definitely no need to be in public defending sensibilities that don’t allow you to see life through any other lens than a white man’s. If he wants to be friendly with Gruden that’s his business, but Gruden wasn’t sniped by a professional hitman.

No pro was necessary to take Gruden out, just someone willing to take the time to sit down and read.



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