As the debate surrounding Colin Kaepernick and the national anthem is discussed on everything from Fox News to Madden NFL 17, more and more people find themselves making comments without really thinking about what they're saying. Call it a Freudian slip or a rare case of a sober mind saying sober thoughts, but the past few days have definitely featured some colorful quotes from those on both sides of the argument.
The latest to join the fray is ESPN college football analyst Paul Finebaum, host of the Paul Finebaum Show and a regular contributor to College Football Live. On both Monday and Tuesday, as the discussion turned to if coaches should limit or control what their players do with regards to social movements and issues -- publicly voicing opinions, making demonstrations similar to Kaepernick's, and so on -- Finebaum made what has easily been one of the more questionable statements that have come about since perhaps the entire Black Lives Matter movement began two years ago.
Monday, his first day back on his show after the Kaepernick news broke Saturday, Finebaum went from discussing the origins of the American flag to dropping a bomb that likely caught most listeners by surprise.
"This country has issues, but this country is not oppressing black people."
For those thinking that this may be a misquote or something the media came up with to cause more attacks on white people, it's not. Awful Announcing's Andrew Bucholz was able to find a clip from Monday and post it on the website.
Finebaum didn't back down from this stance during a Tuesday appearance on College Football Live, where he and former NFL star Joey Galloway, who is black, debated over the topic.
"I'm really curious, though, and he did it, but I'm not sure what this conversation is really all about. We have this dialogue in our country continuously, and I thought LeBron and others at the ESPYs made a really strong statement, but this looks to me like a little bit of an outlier. These are issues that politicians. elected officials, the public like us talk about every single day. There are serious problems in this country, but ultimately, what's helped? What's the end result of what Colin did the other night?"
Galloway, to his credit, refused to back down in the argument.
"There has to be a platform to create conversation, and I don't know that Colin Kaepernick could have done a better job of creating conversation to deal with some of the issues that are going on. It is very easy to say I disagree with doing it at that time, but I don't know that there's a better time that would catch the eye of America and say 'There's something we need to talk about here.' And not just focused on the fact he said that, but more focused on the reason why he did it."
After that, Finebaum began to backtrack when the conversation spiraled into the following.
Finebaum said, "Usually people protest when they've been oppressed, when they have a legitimate stake in the action. I don't know where Colin is coming from. What's his beef with society, other than he's upset with how, in his mind, people are being oppressed in this country?"
"What do you mean, what else? As if that's nothing?" Galloway asked.
Finebaum replied, "Well, it's obviously very important, but why him?"
Things didn't get much prettier from there, even turning into a shouting match between the two at one point after Finebaum said this.
"I don't think this country's built and based on people doing outlandish things so the Twitterverse reacts. I think when you have a strong statement to make, when you feel oppressed and you're trying to help enact change, I don't understand where Colin is coming from in terms of this specific issue. He's upset about the way minorities are being dealt with, in his words 'oppressed,' he's talking about police brutality, sitting down during the national anthem, I don't think is the connector to those issues."
Galloway said, "How you feel about that doesn't actually... that's the thing, you're taking your feelings and putting them on his situation. If that's the way he feels, then he has the absolute right to feel that way..."
"I've never done anything like that," Finebaum remarked.
Galloway explained, "You've never had to, Paul. Someone of your color, you've never had to do that. We're talking about a completely different situation. You said you've never had to do something like that, you're absolutely right."
"I didn't say that!" Finebaum responded.
The first question that needs to be addressed, and rightfully so, is if Finebaum is going to face any punishment from ESPN for flat out saying "black people aren't oppressed." Because Finebaum is a white man, and it's easy to view his comments as insensitive and even mocking, a "brief" suspension is possible. ESPN suspended Stephen A. Smith in 2014 for "insensitive comments" regarding former Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice and his domestic abuse case, so a flat-out firing or a major punishment would be unexpected.
It also wouldn't look good for the network to suspend a white man for his opinion on a race matter like this -- even if he did go a bit over the line -- but not suspend Smith or any minority anchor for some of the questionable things they say. No one will argue that ESPN makes some mistakes with how they run their company, but they're a business, and bad publicity in that regard may be the last thing they need right now. At the end of the day, "black people aren't oppressed" isn't as bad as being tone-deaf about domestic violence on air.
Second, Joey Galloway really deserves props for the way he handled himself in an argument where it would have been easy for him to either leave or just break Finebaum's jaw. Could you see Stephen A. Smith, the man who makes a living off controversy, being mature enough to tell Finebaum "that's the thing, you're taking your feelings and putting them on his situation" and point out the man's race without saying something ignorant of his own?
Finebaum, who signed with ESPN in 2013, is entirely fair to hold his opinions, and chances are plenty of people will agree with him about Colin Kaepernick's refusal to stand not accomplishing much, but to say black people aren't oppressed? Finebaum does know that Black Lives Matter is a thing because the police culture has led to some officers being trigger happy when they see a black man, right? That in itself, even if it's not segregation on buses or at water fountains, is oppression.
To be fair to Finebaum, his point of Kaepernick sitting for the national anthem not really correlating to police brutality is a valid one, but just the idea that he'd really admit out loud that he doesn't think black people are oppressed is astounding. Oppression doesn't just equal slavery or not being allowed in the same restaurant; it means that they're viewed as inferior to another group (whites) in society so they don't receive the same privileges or benefits -- especially when it involves the law.
Keep in mind that this is a white man writing this and calling Finebaum out. By all means, Finebaum seems to be an intelligent man and has some of the best college football analysis in all of television and radio, but let's just call things what they are: the guy really needs to re-think what he says if he's going to tackle real world topics and not just talk about a certain scheme the Crimson Tide are running.
Part of what's made ESPN great television for nearly 40 years are the opinions and commentary on real-world scenarios, but Finebaum could really stand to learn from the late Stuart Scott instead of trying to be a white man's Stephen A. Smith.
Make sure to stay tuned to the Inquisitr for any further updates on the situation, including potential apologies from Finebaum or a potential suspension from the network.
[Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty Images]