First of, I like Jalen Rose. He’s very well-spoken and honest. Not enough athletes today spew opinions with brutal honesty, and Rose is in the minority. However, Rose went a little too far with his raw, uncensored commentary regarding the black players on Duke University in ESPN’s documentary feature on “The Fab Five” that aired on Selection Sunday.
In describing his hatred for Duke, the outspoken leader of University of Michigan’s famous freshman class in 1991 revealed that he thought Duke’s black athletes, specifically Grant Hill, were subservient to the white establishment and called them an “Uncle Tom.”
To borrow a line from my good friend Jason Reid, who is a columnist for the Washington Post, the term “Uncle Tom” is the worst thing one black man can direct at another black man. Reid later wrote that Rose’s “Uncle Tom” reference, misguided as it is, asserts that academic achievement and professional accomplishment affluence somehow reduces or eliminates a person’s “blackness.”
Rose had an opportunity to soften his stance and recant his statement on ESPN’s First Take a day later, but he wasn’t exactly apologetic.
Rose said, “As a 17-year-old recruit, that’s exactly how I felt. At that time, I felt like I was not good enough for certain stages. That’s just a fact. But also that’s something I used as motivation. Now, I understand what their program represents because I’m a mature adult. I know that it’s a private school. I know that do recruit from well-to-do, affluent families. But also understand some of the reason why so they do see some of their players selling their goods for money. Also, they want to get kids that would represent the program the right way. I get all of that. But, that’s the minority. I was speaking for the majority. That’s exactly how I felt then. It wasn’t an individual, it wasn’t somebody 20 years later.”
When Rose was asked if Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski would recruit him now, Rose said “I think would recruit my kids.”
“I don’t think they would have recruited me. I never seen Coach K in Detroit. But that’s just me,” Rose said.
Rose was an honor roll student in high school and is clearly well versed in cultural issues. But, he’s way off base in his assessment of Hill or any of Duke’s black athletes. Just because Hill grew up in affluence doesn’t reduce his level ethnicity or his standing in the black community. To call Hill an “Uncle Tom” is absolutely absurd.
Rose explains that his comment had nothing to do with being a racist. Basically, Rose said “it’s being somebody who is socially conscience and you’re paying attention to what’s going on around you.”
Certain schools recruit a certain kind of guy. That is a fact. But, again, a black player shouldn’t be called an “Uncle Tom” just because he joined a private school in Durham, N.C. It’s undeserving. When I was 17, I may not have been smartest kid on the block but I was smart enough to know that you don’t call a black kid an “Uncle Tom.”
The bottom line is this, Duke should be allowed to recruit its type of players as well as Michigan should be able to recruit its type of players. As much as Rose was correct in saying that Duke would not consider a player like him because of his background, he was wrong in bringing up the term “Uncle Tom.” Rose could have made his point just as clearly had he just said Duke recruited a bunch of rich kids.
Joel Huerto is the editor and publisher of OneManFastBreak.net. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/onemanfastbreak.