As a player for the New York Giants, Tiki Barber always came across as an intelligent and thoughtful athlete.
Now we are seeing proof that when he isn’t limited to 10-second sound bites, maybe that isn’t always the case.
The retired-NFL-star-turned-national-broadcaster, who is now looking to return to the NFL, made a huge error in judgment in the recent issue of Sports Illustrated when he compared his situation to that of Holocaust victim Anne Frank.
In the SI piece, Barber talked about how he hid out from his then-pregnant-with-twins wife with his girlfriend. The couple stayed in the attic of Barber’s agent, Mark Lepselter, who happens to be Jewish.
"Lep's Jewish," Barber told Sports Illustrated. "And it was like a reverse Anne Frank thing."
The first thought is wow, just wow.
Barber has to understand the two circumstances were totally different. Frank was fearing for her life as she tried to escape Nazis who wanted to exterminate her. Barber clearly was cheating on the woman carrying his children. Not even a close comparison.
Some of us may never have a full appreciation for what the Holocaust was, but we all should be sensitive to the pain from that time. Clearly, Barber should have been smarter than to compare his situation to such a historic tragedy.
But leave it to Lepselter to come to his client’s side, even when it was disrespectful to him, too.
"In a world where nothing surprises me, where things get completely blown out of proportion, this only adds to the list," Lepselter told ESPNNewYork.com. "[Tiki] was shedding light on going back to that time when he was literally trapped, so to speak, in my attic for a week. Nothing more, nothing less.
"Let me remind all those who want to make this more than it is: Tiki was a guest of [President] Shimon Peres in Israel five years ago."
Still others took exception to Barber’s analogy.
"Holocaust trivialization continues to spread and finds new ways and expressions that shock the conscience," national director of the Anti-Defamation League Abraham H. Foxman said in a news release. "Tiki Barber's personal behavior is his business. But our history and experiences are ours and deserve greater respect than being abused or perverted by Tiki Barber.
"The analogy to Anne Frank is not funny, it is outrageous and perverse. Anne Frank was not hiding voluntarily. Before she perished at age 15 in the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp, she hid from the Nazis for more than two years, fearing every day for her life. The Frank family's experiences, as recorded in Anne's dairy, are a unique testimonial to the horrors of the Holocaust, and her life should never be debased or degraded by insensitive and offensive analogies."
Barber, 36, is attempting a comeback to the NFL after his broadcast career quickly fizzled and his divorce has left him broke.
Contact Terrance Harris at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @Terranceharris
(Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)