I was sipping a beer inside Cowboys Stadium and waiting for the kickoff when I overheard two African American women criticizing Robert Griffin III, the superstar rookie quarterback of the Washington Redskins.
The emotional beat down of Griffin was harsh and had absolutely nothing to do with football but everything to do with his choice of female companionship.
“Why is RG3 dating a white girl?” one angry black woman asked her girlfriend. “I guess black women aren’t good enough for him.”
“I’m just tired of it,” said another black woman.
And so it began: The public discussion of RG3’s private life – a life where football and race collide.
I really don’t care who RG3 dates. The heart wants what the heart wants. I have long-time friends and family members who are involved in interracial relationships – and marriages — people who I love dearly. I embrace their unions unconditionally.
Still, since there are many black women in my life, I do understand intellectually why some black women are upset with Griffin and I’m realizing that the disappointment over the young football sensation goes well beyond Cowboys Stadium.
“There is a certain amount of hurt, as well as anger, for many black women when they see successful black men with white women,” said one black female educator from Washington, D.C.
“Black women have often been denigrated in all kinds of ways in society as the least desirable social commodity,” said the woman, a devout Redskins fan. “For some, seeing a brother who has not just the trappings of success, but who carries himself well, shows great leadership qualities and serves as a role model to young black boys choose a white woman over a sister, is just a punch in the gut.”
The 90,000 fans who show up at Fed-Ex field on Sundays – many of them black women — could probably care less who RG3 dates as long as he leads the Redskins to victory.
But in the privacy of homes, beauty salons, and nightclubs, there have been whispers about RG3’s off-the-field romance.
“It is one thing, many women say, to be rejected by men of other races, but being passed over by one of your own hurts much, much more,” the educator said.
There is no denying that everyone is talking about RG3 — and not just black women.
President Barack Obama called Griffin “remarkable” and when Republican Sen. Marc Rubio was asked who is DC’s most outstanding leader, Rubio responded: “Robert Griffin III.”
Griffin is certainly D.C.’s most notable black celebrity. He’s a leader on the football field but he’s also a great role model for young black men in the the D.C. area. He’s a graduate of Baylor University, he’s smart, responsible, well-spoken, has never been in trouble with the law, and is serious about his public image.
At 22 years old, Griffin is already being considered for the NFL’s Rookie of The Year. He is leading the NFL in both completion percentage (70.4) and yards per attempt (8.5), while also rushing for about 500 and six touchdowns. He has thrown seven touchdowns against just three interceptions for a passer rating of 101.8 — third best in the NFL.
Moreover, Griffin could become the first rookie since 1945 to lead the NFL in these statistics. Only two rookies in professional football history have ever led the league in both completion percentage and yards per attempt. The first was another Redskin, Sammy Baugh, in 1937; the last was Greg Cook, in the American Football League in 1969.
This past Sunday, the Redskins beat the Baltimore Ravens 31-28 in overtime, but Griffin was lying on the sideline after coming out of the game with a sprained knee late in the fourth quarter. It’s not a serious injury and Griffin — a warrior on the field — could start Sunday against the Cleveland Browns.
But for now, Griffin is the talk of the league and even though he is mastering the Redskins playbook, he’s also probably learning that black women are extremely vocal when it comes to the flashpoint issue of race — and they do not suffer silently.