Grant Hill (above) felt the need to reply to Jalen Rose after being called an Uncle Tom because of his middle class upbringing. Photo by Jeff Lewis
Grant Hill offers rebuttal to Jalen Rose’s comments during ESPN film where Duke players were labeled “Uncle Toms.”
By Michael Brown,
Sentinel Sports Writer
ESPN NBA analyst Jalen Rose said on a recent show that he thinks Duke still wouldn’t recruit a kid like him when he was 17 years old, but would recruit his kids.
In a nutshell, that statement Rose made on the ESPN show, 1st and 10, said it all. It should put to bed the furor that’s been caused since ESPN aired the documentary, “The Fab Five,” two weeks ago.
During the film, Rose called Black players Duke recruited “Uncle Toms,” implying that the private school only recruited a certain type of African American student-athlete. Rose made those comments as an 18-year-old in the early ‘90s and not as a retired NBA player and well respected analyst in 2011.
But as has become customary in America these days, people hear what they want to hear and take what they want from someone’s comments, while ignoring the intent or the bare truth.
An example would be Grant Hill’s op-ed piece in the New York Times last week when he rebutted Rose’s comments and insisted he was proud of his family’s accomplishments and academic achievement.
Hill wrote it was “pathetic” to see his friends (Michigan players) “…to some degree, disparaging my parents for their education, work ethic and commitment to each other and to me.”
Hill was careful not to direct any of the vitriol towards Rose that some in the largely White sports press have done. Instead, he opted to strike a measured tone in the end of his op-ed despite missing the point in its beginning.
So who’s right and who’s wrong?
I hate to straddle the fence, but they’re both correct in their comments. Rose should be applauded for not backing off his original comments because as he’s said in several interviews since, he was an 18-year-old kid without a “filter.”
Growing up in inner city Detroit and playing in the public school league didn’t net him any interest from Duke. Ironically, his teammate, Chris Webber, was recruited by Duke, but he attended a private school (Detroit Country Day H.S.) like another future Blue devil, Shane Battier.
It’s no secret; certain college programs recruit different players. For instance, USC’s Lane Kiffin can cast a wider net during recruiting due to the Trojans being a private school with more flexible academic standards as opposed to Stanford, which is more rigid academically.
Chances are, Kiffin can sit down in certain living rooms across America and recruit that ex-Stanford coach Jim Harbaugh couldn’t.
This argument isn’t so much as race based, but more about class. Those from well to do families with affluent backgrounds usually perform better academically than their counterparts on the lower end of the socio-economic ladder.
Where Black athletes and people run into trouble is when performing well academically is somehow associated with “acting White,” while wallowing in ghetto life and embracing certain self-destructive behaviors becomes synonymous with “keeping it real.”
I think our community has made great strides in eliminating the former while continuing to fight against the ladder, but there’s still much work to be done. A way to eradicate this dilemma would be to not allow ourselves to be confined to the either/or false choice.
True, Rose likely wasn’t recruited by Duke due to his background, but he didn’t allow that to destroy his ambition. The Fab Five kids still attended Michigan and bettered their lives.
Rose’s Uncle Tom comments weren’t about disliking players such as Hill because he came from an affluent family. Rose said during the film that he was envious of the fact that Hill’s parents were both college graduates, and didn’t have to struggle like his mother did by working a low-wage job for 20 years.
Hill and the Black players at Duke have nothing to apologize for because they were going after the same thing Rose and his teammates were: NCAA championships and a better life. But at the same time, Hill’s mistaken if he doesn’t think his family’s background had nothing to do with him being recruited by Duke.
There’s no doubt that Duke will recruit an athlete that they think is “clean, acceptable and articulate” over a guy who may be a diamond in the rough. But again, that’s not necessarily a race thing, but a class issue.
The fact that Rose wasn’t recruited by Duke when he was a teenager, but that his kids would be because of his financial success speaks to this issue more than skin color.
Rose and Hill should be commended for potentially initiating a dialogue about the distinction.
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