Donovan McNabb, soon to be released quarterback for the Washington Redskins, has found himself in yet another racially-tinged feud, this time with former middleweight boxing champ and Philadelphia native Bernard Hopkins.
The sparring match between the two athletes has been pretty much one-sided for a number of years, beginning with McNabb’s career in Philadelphia when Hopkins started making statements to the press regarding the all-pro quarterback’s upbringing, racial “integrity”, and heart.
During a workout this week for an upcoming fight, Hopkins took time out to jab at McNabb again, saying he’s not, in fact, black, but that “he’s got a suntan, that’s all.” In a phone interview with the Associated Press yesterday, he elaborated:
“Look at professional boxing. I’ve never seen a suburban boxer be successful. There has to be something in the DNA of the person’s experience, of what they overcame, to have that grit; like, I’m going to bite down and let it happen. I just didn’t see that in him.”
The upbringing he’s referring too, of course, is McNabb’s childhood spent in a suburb of Chicago, as opposed a gritty lower-class North Philly neighborhood like Hopkins’ home town.
McNabb and his agent, Fletcher Smith, finally had enough of the decade-old attacks and decided to respond this week. But, as always, they declined to get involved in the mud-fight and instead chose to simply to defend McNabb’s character and career, saying:
“Donovan’s parents are proud Americans who worked hard to give their sons the best childhood they could provide. He is unapologetically proud of sacrifices they made for him. Donovan and his brother were raised to be hard-working African-American men who were taught to believe in themselves.”
I, for one, am on McNabb’s side here. While Number 5 may never have brought us to the promised land (which he literally promised to us), he showed us a level success we never knew was possible, especially with the caliber of talent surrounding him. Sure, he had pieces. Westbrook, T.O. for one season, umm… Chad Lewis…hmm…Freddie Mitchell, maybe…oh and Todd Pinkston. Let’s face it, without McNabb’s toughness and mobility in those first five or six years the Eagles would have won less games than the Lions. And no matter what slimeball attacked him – be it Rush Limbuger or T.Ono – he always took the high road. Always worried about the next game, the team, the season.
His accuracy may have slipped in the last few years, and when he lost his mobility it was obvious enough – even for me – that he no longer had what it took to win the big one. But the guy gave us Fourth and 26. In the playoffs. Against Brett Favre and the Packers. I don’t care where you came from. If you can pull that off, you got all the heart in the world.
And when he picked up that phone on the Giants’ sideline, every Eagle fan in the country was proud to have him on our team. Some people may become revisionist historians now that Super 5 is on the way out – they may be able to look back and see him only for his faults – but some of us remember where we were before he got here. When the Cowboys and Giants were answering our phones, year after year, telling opportunity to call back later. He changed all of it, in ways we’ll never fully understand. And I for one am grateful.