FanDuel - WFBC

March 17, 2011

Grant Hill, Jalen Rose and 'Uncle Toms': Grant Hill has written a column for the New York Times objecting to Jalen Rose calling him and other Duke players of their day "uncle Toms." Hill writes, "In his garbled but sweeping comment that Duke recruits only 'black players that were Uncle Toms,' Jalen seems to change the usual meaning of those very vitriolic words into his own meaning, i.e., blacks from two-parent, middle-class families." Rose responded by trying to tamp down the controversy. Rose said that as an adult he he has a "broader perspective of great respect and appreciation for Duke, their players and all they've achieved. The comments I made during the Fab Five documentary were clearly reflecting my thoughts as a teenager."

posted by rcade to basketball at 11:27 AM - 16 comments

Rose probably should have tried harder to let people know he wasn't agreeing with his teen self. The controversy reminds me a bit of how Shirley Sherrod's speech about redemption had the redemption part edited out, leaving just the wrong acts she needed to redeem.

A comment I liked on sports radio was that if Rose has kids, they're coming from the same privileged world that he resented and envied as a teen.

I think the biggest undercurrent to Rose's resentment is that Hill had his pro-athlete father raising him, while Rose never met his.

posted by rcade at 12:38 PM on March 17

Who hasn't grown up and looked at their peers, or their competition, with envy. Jalen, despite his faults, strikes me as a really open and honest person. This even becomes clear at the end of the documentary, when he talks about the strain in his relationship with Chris Webber. The lies, the secrecy, and eventually the charge of perjury. I don't know much about this guy, I never really followed him in the NBA. But he never stood out as a bad person to me. Jalen was honest then, and it appears that he's honest now. I don't know what it says about the American racial conversation that Jalen has to be castigated by various media outlets for speaking the truth about how he felt. I also really respect Grant's letter. It was, for the most part, pretty classy, it had to be said and he made some good points. People dump on Jalen as if racism isn't all around us, and in some sense probably a bigger problem than it was 50 years ago. So can we move on? Can Jalen and Grant be friends? Can the media put a happy spin on things instead of focusing so heavily on the negative? Can we talk about something else? I am really tired of pointing at the person that fucked up in public and reprimanding them. There's got to be more to a society than this.

posted by phaedon at 12:55 PM on March 17

From rcade's link in regards to the late Jimmy Walker, Jalen Rose's dad:

a steady stream of family and friends -- representing Walker's 63 years of life -- sang his father's praises moments before.

They can say what they want but Jimmy Walker was a deadbeat dad who abandoned his son. To me, that makes him a total scumbag.

posted by cjets at 01:13 PM on March 17

If Jalen had to go all North Carolina on everyone, I don't know why he limited it to Duke. Why didn't he also get after the Tar Heels and say that Dean Smith never won a title without being the beneficiary of an opponent's colossal fuck-up?

Those Fab guys can stew in their envionic fluids. The guy I envy is Steve Fisher, living in sunny San Diego, coaching a pretty swell #2 seed, with only God and Jimmer to fear.

(Even if Steve these days does look like he's older than John Wooden ever was).

posted by beaverboard at 01:17 PM on March 17

I thought Grant Hill's response missed Rose's point, probably on purpose. I think he did Duke and Coach K a disservice by avoiding the issue, and did nothing to address the perception of kids like Rose used to be about Duke. Duke does, in fact, recruit a certain type of player. It has proven to be a very successful way of building and maintaining a successful program. I think Coach K recruits kids that are eminently coachable and respect authority. The kinds of kids that grow up with a lot of respect for authority are generally those kids that are surrounded by authority figures who are actually looking out for their best interest. Kids from bad neighborhoods or bad families are disabused of the idea that adults are looking out for them at a pretty young age.

posted by bperk at 01:32 PM on March 17

If someone made a documentary about me and it had interviews from when I was a teenager I would have some apologies to make too. Oh man, I surely would have said something colossally stupid.

posted by tron7 at 01:52 PM on March 17

Athletic programs, whether michigan or duke, look for a certain type player. I don't see that changing. I can certainly see a teenager having those thoughts. I would hope as an adult he realizes it's not that simple. I agree with rcade, he failed to make that point clear, but it certainly brought attention to the documentary, so maybe it was just a smart move.

People dump on Jalen as if racism isn't all around us

Yes.

and in some sense probably a bigger problem than it was 50 years ago.

No.

posted by justgary at 02:44 PM on March 17

Duke does, in fact, recruit a certain type of player.

Yes, but "Uncle Tom" isn't that type of player. I think more than anything Rose is misrepresenting what in fact Uncle Tom means (or used to mean).

Was Hill more subservient to "white people" than the Michigan players? Was he a traitor to his race by choosing Duke? Those are the things "Uncle Tom" used to mean, not just someone who comes from a middle class 2 parent household.

posted by bdaddy at 04:10 PM on March 17

Dean Smith never won a title without being the beneficiary of an opponent's colossal fuck-up?

Really? The '82 Georgetown-UNC title game was/is one of the greatest college basketball games ever played (any time either team got a three point lead in the second half, I thought the game was over), and to dismiss that game as one Fred Brown lost, is to denigrate the efforts of all involved.

posted by cjets at 04:38 PM on March 17

So can we move on? Can Jalen and Grant be friends? Can the media put a happy spin on things instead of focusing so heavily on the negative? Can we talk about something else?

so is it just me or does this read like the end of an episode of the old batman tv show.

i apologize to phaedon

posted by Folkways at 04:44 PM on March 17

It is interesting that there have been two discussions within the past couple of days centered around the use of the word, "slave" (as used by Adrian Peterson), and the term, "Uncle Tom" here.

Seems to me that part of what is going on is that those terms resonate with a certain sacredness for people who lived through the civil rights era, but now there is a generation for whom The Civil Rights Era was an American History or Social Studies lesson, and those words are more-or-less just words to them. Us fogies tend to get out the torches and pitchforks when somebody "blasphemes", but the truth is, it's just our crazyass language evolving.

posted by outonleave at 06:31 PM on March 17

Sounds to me like he's using Uncle Tom like "Keeping it Real". I think the rest of us need to get used to these words having different meanings, or at least loosing some of their voltage.

I imagine our grandparents still think Hitler jokes are in poor taste. Not me though. I love a good Hitler joke. Like "Hitler may have killed 6 million Jews, but he sure as fucking hell saved the History Channel".

posted by WeedyMcSmokey at 10:53 PM on March 17

So, is Christian Laettner going to start writing things demanding that they retract calling him a pussy?

Though to be fair, it did make it into the broadcast that the five respected Laettner "after they played against him" (think it was Jackson who said that). I agree with rcade in that it would have helped had they demonstrated more clearly that Rose was expressing his emotions and experiences as a teen.

Still, I'm glad he was at least honest, and admitted his thoughts rather than try to deny they existed. I also agreed that it was an honest and unvarnished look into Rose's mind.

posted by Bonkers at 11:02 PM on March 17

Jalen Rose, the fourth Bee Gee.

posted by Hugh Janus at 10:19 AM on March 18

I agree with rcade in that it would have helped had they demonstrated more clearly that Rose was expressing his emotions and experiences as a teen.

I have no idea how he could have made this more clear. The whole documentary was a retrospective. And, Rose's comments were of the "I thought", "I felt" variety. Those people who watched the documentary who didn't get that were probably not going to be satisfied no matter what Rose said. Rose can't be blamed that people chose to pull out this one line out of the documentary without its context.

posted by bperk at 10:45 AM on March 18

I thought the doc was very clear that this was how he felt then. Aside from that, it's the same old story of poor vs. rich. To even bring race into this really obscures the story line.

Jalen Rose didn't hate Duke because they were white, he didn't hate Grant Hill because he was black. he resented them having everything handed to them while his family had to struggle. That's the most normal thing in the world.

Uncle Tom was a poor choice of words... But how does one say "house negro" these days? That's the "feeling" Jalen Rose was trying to convey, and to many people 40 and younger, that's what they think an "Uncle Tom" is. The term "uncle tom" got misapplied to progressive blacks at the turn of the 20th century. W.E.B. DuBois misused the term when speaking about enterpreneur Marcus Garvey.

So Jalen Rose is just about as stupid as W.E.B. DuBois.

Oddly enough, Uncle Tom, the Book, is not about a subservient man: Stowe's melodramatic story humanized the suffering of slavery for white audiences by portraying Tom as a Christlike figure who is ultimately martyred, beaten to death by a cruel master because Tom refuses to betray the whereabouts of two women who escape from slavery.

I too think Grant Hill missed Jalen Rose's point purposely. I think it hit close to home for Hill who has probably put up with that a lot throughout his life. But I also think Jalen Rose would let you call him "Uncle Tom" non-stop for a decade if he could go back and have the childhood Grant Hill had.

If Grant Hill had taken the seconds needed to pause and consider what the world looked like to an 18 year old Jalen Rose... I'm not asking Hill to apologize for his upbringing, but we shouldn't ask Rose to apologize for his either.

posted by LostInDaJungle at 12:35 PM on March 18

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