Atlanta Falcon's owner Arthur Blank was a guest on Monday Night Football December 10. He was asked about former Atlanta Falcons quarterback and convicted animal abuser Michael Vick's future with the team. This is what he said: "There's a lot of roadblocks to Michael coming back and even playing in the National Football League, Tony. Let's assume he's out for three seasons, 07, 08 and 09. If he doesn't watch himself and eats a lot of fried chicken and fries in prison, comes out 215 pounds he's not going to be the same athlete he was."
The remark was racially insensitive and offensive. Blank's remarks continues a recent and deeply troubling pattern in which leading media and public figures from Don Imus to Dog the Bounty Hunter have routinely demeaned African-Americans with wise cracks, slips, gaffes and off-color jokes. Each time these public figures have been called on the carpet for their racial insensitivity, they have publicly apologized. Blank must do the same.
African-American fans and players, and that includes Vick, have played a major role in the Atlanta Falcon's financial success. They also are major patrons of Home Depot, co-founded by Blank. This makes it even more imperative that Blank publicly apologize for his remark.
Now that the call for a Blank apology has been made the predictable screech will be heard from the racial apologists that Blank's quip was just an off-handed, candid response to a question. And there was absolutely nothing racial about it.
Whether it's Imus, Dog the Bounty hunter, or any of the legion of other public figures that get caught with their dirty racial drawers hanging down, the racial boo birds instantly flock to the fore. They have more excuses than a punch drunk fighter trying to fumble out a reason for getting creamed in the ring for the umpteenth time as to why a blatantly racist remark or act is nothing of the kind. They move the heavens to downplay, ignore, shrug off, justify, and rationalize away a racially demeaning remark.
The other just as predictable tact used is to turn the tables, and play the Sharpton card and lambaste civil rights leaders for always yelling race about the most supposedly innocuous remarks or acts. The more brazen racial apologists out right brand those as racists that make an issue of the offensive remarks.
That will happen again with the call for Blank to apology. But the call still must be made. Blank fanned a vile stereotype with the fried chicken remark about Vick. (He doesn't even know that Vick likes or eats fried chicken, he might prefer a French or Italian cuisine). Blank can show some class and do the right thing by Vick and those offended by apologizing, and apologizing right now.
Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst. His new book is The Latino Challenge to Black America: Towards a Conversation between African-Americans and Hispanics (Middle Passage Press)