The Greek's Apology Is Difficult to Accept

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By Michael Wilbon
Sunday, January 17, 1988; 8:00 AM

DENVER -- Well, here we are again. Only the names have changed. The ignorance and the insensitivity remain unchanged. Was that Jimmy (the Greek) Snyder on television Friday in Washington, or was it Al Campanis?

If Al Campanis, the former Los Angeles Dodgers executive, got himself fired for saying that blacks might "lack some of the necessities" to manage major league baseball teams or work in their executive offices, it comes as no surprise that CBS did the proper thing today and fired Snyder.

What other fate is there for a man who says "[blacks are] bred to be the better athlete . . . This goes back all the way to the Civil War when, during the slave trading, the owner, the slave owner, would breed his big black to his big woman so that he would have a big black kid, see? That's where it all started . . . "

The Greek started the interview by saying he couldn't understand this latest preoccupation with the lack of black participation in the administration of sports.

He said coaching is about the only thing left for whites. "If [blacks] take over coaching like everybody wants them to, there's not going to be anything left for the white people. I mean all the players are black; I mean the only thing that the whites control is the coaching jobs."

My immediate reaction was part laughter and part rage. I wanted to hear his apology; maybe he would make some sincere, heartfelt plea and say that it just didn't come out right (although that didn't save Campanis). Reached in his Washington hotel room early this morning, the 70-year-old Snyder told United Press International, "I want you to listen to everything that was said and then you make your own decision as to what I said that was wrong."

Well, I've listened. And what you said, Greek, was wrong. Even if you felt that way, why in light of the infamous Campanis blunder, why would you say what you did? And keep saying it?

The events of the past 24 hours make it all too difficult to accept The Greek's apology. I am black, and I am offended as much by his apology as his initial remarks.

The shame is not only that The Greek said what he and others like him have believed all their lives, but that he doesn't understand what he did wrong or how it could offend people.

The Greek went through a long explanation on how black people's thighs are bigger than whites' and that makes them better athletes.

Somebody should suggest that The Greek check the size of Michael Jordan's thighs. He'd find they're almost nonexistent. How about those four-inch hams on Minnesota wide receiver Anthony Carter?

Once again, we have a television commentator generalizing about blacks and making statements about why blacks excel in sports.


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© 1988 The Washington Post Company

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