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Stop using White discomfort to silence the truth: An open letter to Brett Favre and Tommy Tubberville

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” – First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution

Lately certain individuals have taken advantage of their First Amendment rights to tell others they should ignore their rights and hold their tongues. One of these, is former Green Bay Packer quarterback Brett Favre. Another of is former college football coach and current Alabama Republican Senator Tommy Tubberville.

Since they do have freedom to speak their minds, I applaud them for showing their true colors.

Let’s start with Mr. Favre. Recently he claimed he wanted politics out of sports because it is somehow “ruining the game.” “Excuse us for ruining the game for you Mr. Favre. We really don’t care how you feel” is the sentiment of many Black athletes today. You have no right to tell anyone what they should do when it comes to being outspoken. As a Black man, I can assure you that this “game” you love so much does not amount to a hill of beans compared to the constant racism we are subjected to.

Just because you, and others like you, are uncomfortable hearing our truth does not mean we should close our mouths. Your discomfort pales in comparison to the discomfort of being Black in America.

I understand you are from Mississippi. So am I. When you say things like this out loud I want to tell you to close your mouth but I respect your right to express yourself even when you don’t respect Black athletes who speak their minds.

“I know when I turn on a game, I want to watch a game. I want to watch players play and teams win, lose, come from behind. I want to watch all the important parts of the game, not what’s going on outside of the game, and I think the general fan feels the same way. I can’t tell you how many people have said to me, ‘I don’t watch anymore; it’s not about the game anymore.’ And I tend to agree.”

Well Mr. Favre, we don’t live in a vacuum. We can’t escape racism because it makes us feel uncomfortable. You and those so-called fans who don’t watch anymore, have every right to do so. That won’t end advocacy for an end to racism. You can dig a hole and crawl inside of it if you want to truly escape that world that makes you so uncomfortable.

Despite the fact that you played college and pro football for over two decades with a lot of Black teammates, you are clueless as to our lived experiences, much like Drew Brees proved about himself in 2019. That love you had for your teammates apparently came with limits.

He went on to say, “It’s really a shame that we’ve come to this. Something has to unify us, and I felt like the flag, standing patriotically — because Blacks and whites and Hispanics have fought for this country and died for this country. It’s too bad.” What’s too bad is that you and too many others have made the protests about the military when it has nothing whatsoever to do with the military.

I served in the military for six years. What about you? Serving your country does not mean you turn a blind eye to racism unless you are comfortable with the status quo. People that say things like what you’ve said, send the message that you are supporting the way things used to be—when White people could be as racist as they wanted to be—without you understanding that is the message many Black people get from these sentiments.

If this wasn’t enough you also chimed in on the Derek Chauvin verdict.

“I find it hard to believe, and I’m not defending Derek Chauvin in any way, I find it hard to believe, first of all, that he intentionally meant to kill George Floyd. That being said, his actions were uncalled for. I don’t care what color the person is on the street, you do not [do that]. I don’t know what led to that video that we saw where his knee is on his neck, but [Floyd] had thrown in the towel. It was just uncalled for.”

Now I know most media outlets picked up on the “I find it hard to believe, first of all, that he intentionally meant to kill George Floyd” part of your statement without providing the rest for context. Despite this, for you to say that, shows how clueless and insensitive you are. Does it matter if he was trying to kill George Floyd? He killed him. Results matter more than intentions. What was his intention sitting on George Floyd for close to nine minutes? Do you not understand how that killing has led to a wider set of protests about police violence than any other case in history?

Let me just finish with this. You have a right to speak your mind. What comes along with that is a need to think before you speak. Talk to some Black people Mr. Favre. You will get a different perspective. Most of us in the Black community care more about justice than we do about sports. Maybe you should ask yourself which is more important to you.

Now Mr. Tuberville. This is what you said recently.

“Nobody’s looking for an outspoken person. We’re too divided as it is. Everybody wants to make an opinion and that’s fine. But, I think, especially for young people to get involved in something that maybe they might not understand as much, I think they need to let people that, whatever they do for a living, justify it. I’d just like to see our country be more settled down in terms of people getting into politics or in sports and vice versa.”

Once again you have every right to express yourself, but it comes with consequences. The consequences are that many people disagree with your stance. I notice that when I hear these types of things, they are generally never said by Black people.

To make a claim that we’re too divided is a huge understatement. We’re divided? Really? America has always been divided when it comes to race and racism. The problem is that now those on the side of racial justice have a voice and platform that they use to spread their message around the world. In the bad old days White people did not hear our voices because to speak out against racism as a Black person was risking your life. It was literally the last words some spoke.

Now more White people are speaking out against racism in a way they never have before. The Tommy Tubberville’s and Brett Favre’s of the world are not lining up with those people. The division and pushback against learning and talking about racism has driven a wedge into the White community. Those who want to maintain the status quo want to silence those Whites who want to fight against racism. That is clearly the main divide in American race relations.

We are no longer accepting that nonsense. You seem to want to go back to a time where Black mouths were shut. Those days are in the past Mr. Tubberville.

You clearly have no respect for the intelligence of young people, specifically young Black people. To assume they don’t understand what they are talking about is to show that you are the one who lacks understanding. They are speaking about their lived experiences.

You want us to settle down as a nation? Does that mean you want to tell racist people they should change? Are you advocating for an end to the racism these youngsters are speaking about? It does not appear that way to me.

The discomfort level that a lot of White people like Favre and Tubberville are feeling is related to Black people no longer “staying in their place.”

Both of you can keep saying what you say, or you can sit down and talk to some Black people who disagree with you. You might just learn something. You might understand these issues from our perspective. It might help you to not say insensitive things.

Sports is not absent of Black athletes and therefore will not be free of Black voices. Speaking out is showing your humanity. If White fans are displeased and want these young men to “shut up and dribble,” maybe they need to find a new sport to watch. Golf and hockey are pretty free of Black voices and opinions.

About The Author

Reggie Jackson

As an award-winning Senior Columnist for the Milwaukee Independent, Reggie Jackson writes about a range of African American issues. He is also co-founder of Nurturing Diversity Partners which consults with organizations about equity and inclusion.