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ESPN 980 host blasts racial aspect of Kirk Cousins coverage as ‘disgusting hate-mongering’

Kirk Cousins and Robert Griffin III in Atlanta earlier this month. (By Scott Cunningham / Getty)

Virtually every D.C. sports radio program this week has tackled the question of whether Redskins Coach Jay Gruden has treated Kirk Cousins differently than he treated Robert Griffin III in his public remarks. Several shows have also gone further, exploring the controversial but not hard-to-find suggestion that there has been a racial component to the way the two quarterbacks are treated by the culture at large.

By (rather gently, I thought) raising that question, ESPN’s Bomani Jones has become something of the face of that question, although Jones would argue that he’s not trying to say anything about Griffin, and that he’s just asking why Cousins (in his view) has been treated with kid gloves by some Redskins media members and fans.

[How ESPN’s Bomani Jones became the world’s biggest Kirk Cousins skeptic]

In any case, after Jones appeared on ESPN 980’s “The Man Cave” on Tuesday morning, that station’s afternoon show devoted many segments to this discussion, which tends to elicit strong emotions on both sides. (Listen to Jones here.) And that produced a fairly impassioned speech from host Thom Loverro, who is also a Washington Times columnist.

“I only have 38 years as a professional journalist, so maybe I can speak to this,” he began. “I can’t think of anything I’ve come across in this job that’s made me more angry than this. I’m just incensed at this notion that the D.C. media is somehow racially biased in their coverage of the quarterbacks of the Washington Redskins. I mean, this is such pathetic, despicable, disgusting hate-mongering poison that’s put out there by people, and they do it so quickly, like it doesn’t mean anything: ‘Yeah, that’s it, they’re racially biased.’

“Maybe this doesn’t mean anything to them, but this means a lot to me,” Loverro said. “I mean, are we saying that John Keim is racially biased? Mike Jones is racially biased? Jerry Brewer is racially biased? All these people — African American, white — are all racially biased for Kirk Cousins and against Robert Griffin III. That’s despicable.

“And the thing that makes me the sickest is some out-of-town blowhard drops this bomb in this town like this by just ‘asking the question,’ a guy who knows nothing about this situation. Billy from Bethesda on Line 3 knows more about what’s going on here than Bomani Jones. So yeah, I mean, I’m sick of it. And I’m sick of it to the point that okay, let’s play him. Let’s bench Kirk Cousins. Let’s play Robert Griffin III. Let’s give the people what they want. I’m on board.”

[How Bomani Jones became the world’s biggest Kirk Cousins skeptic]

Loverro’s co-host Kevin Sheehan — an admitted fan of the team and a Cousins supporter — later added his own lengthy thoughts, arguing that the local media and fan base “are closer to the reality of this situation than someone who isn’t a part of that community” and that “I just don’t see how any reasonable person [who is part of that community] would come to the conclusion that Cousins is being treated differently because of racial motivation.”

Sheehan said he believes that Cousins has been treated differently by Gruden and by fans and media members, but not for any untoward reasons.

“They’ve actually seen the evidence, and it’s become clear that Cousins functions at a much higher level in this offense than Robert Griffin III does,” Sheehan said. “At the very core of this thing should be football, and while Cousins has obvious negatives, for the most part it’s become clear to the media and most fans, black or white, that he’s the better option than Griffin.

“By the way, I would exclude RGIII, the 2012 version, from this conversation, because that guy doesn’t exist anymore,” Sheehan said. “So take him and put him outside this debate and this discussion. If you tell me RGIII 2012, he’s going to come back and embrace the Russell Wilson style of football which he created in 2012, which he was the pioneer of — with Mike and Kyle Shanahan — I’m all in on that. …

“In terms of the Cousins vs. McCoy discussion, that one’s not worth having,” Sheehan said. “That’s a fine debate, but that debate can’t include a racial component to the way the media covers Cousins or the fans treat Cousins, because I believe that McCoy is white. So you can’t have that same discussion.

“Point two on football matters: I reject this notion that Cousins is being propped up as if he’s the next Aaron Rodgers or Tom Brady. I haven’t heard anybody in this town do that. I personally think he’s the best option on the current roster, and I want to see him play the rest of the season, and I have a hunch that he’ll get better, become more consistent and eventually prove to be a capable starter in this league. But that’s a fan’s hunch. That’s my hunch. But I personally haven’t heard anybody in this town prop him up to those levels….

[Jay Gruden’s postgame comments on Kirk Cousins: A closer look]

“Now, as to the reasons why Cousins is — yes, is — being treated differently by everyone in this town and it’s not football related, let’s just go to the personal feelings that people have about Griffin and Cousins. Cousins hasn’t made any of the following comments to my knowledge, comments like ‘I know I’m the best quarterback on this team,’ ‘I feel like I’m the best quarterback in the league.’ Back in 2013: ‘He [Mike Shanahan] better live up to his promise and play me if I’m ready.’ How about before 2014, ‘Now we get to do what we want to do #TheMovement.’

“He hasn’t come out, to my knowledge, with seasonal marketing slogans. Maybe he will. He just hasn’t done it yet. Slogans like ‘All in for week one,’ ‘Talk small play big,’ ‘Know your why,’ ‘The grind and find.’ To date, he hasn’t had his family criticizing the organization over the playbook. To date — and this could change — he has not walked into the coach’s office with demands that 19 plays be stricken from the playbook. As of today, he has not yet produced a documentary entitled ‘The Will to Win.’

“We can talk about all these things as a big deal or a small deal, and that’s totally open for debate, but it’s hard to debate that it doesn’t influence how you feel about someone, especially if that someone doesn’t back it up on the field with results. And therein lies the biggest difference in the coverage of Cousins vs. Griffin, which we both admit is different, but not based on race. If you’re ‘just asking the question’ about race, yes, there’s a football difference, but more than that, Griffin’s career emphasis on building a brand became off-putting to many when he didn’t perform on the field.

“And I promise you, or at least from my point of view, if Kirk plays well enough the rest of this season to get the starting job in 2016, and then during the offseason leading up to next year he produces a one-hour documentary called ‘The Comeback Kid,’ we as a fan base and as a media group will eviscerate him if he doesn’t then go out and back it up on the field. He’ll be treated no differently. If he creates the perception, if not reality, that he’s more interested in building his own personal brand than getting better, then he’s going to be run out of this town just as quickly as any non-white quarterback would. That’s a fact.

“It has nothing to do with race. It has to do with football reasons, and it has to do with personality, and the way one quarterback built up his brand. There was a polarization of the way we felt, at least this is my sense, my point of view, that rubbed people the wrong way. You’re more interested in a personal branding slogan rather than performing. If he had performed on the field, none of this would have mattered.”

Now don’t read the comments.