To watch Robert Griffin III play is like seeing a young Jay Z at the Apollo or LeBron James in his Cavalier days. Griffin is all a 23-year-old quarterback in today’s National Football League should be: strong and accurate of arm and fleet of foot.
These skills ought to be enough to satisfy Redskins fans and fantasy football fanatics.
Yet none of it seems enough. Not for people who want Griffin to be what he can’t be: a vanilla quarterback who conforms to how others think he should play. They want Griffin to accept all of their critiques about his game – and about his life – and change to fit their expectations of what a Black NFL quarterback and Black man ought to be.
Griffin says he won’t change who he is. He has no reason to. For one thing, Griffin has shown through his first year in the league that he’s secure in his skin. He does not need to be anybody else, despite what his critics think.
Oh, and his critics are plentiful, including men who know better.
About a week ago, Donovan McNabb joined the “Change RG3 Lobby” when he claimed the Redskins had brainwashed their fledgling star. McNabb, a man who heard similar criticism in his NFL career, had wanted to speak face to face with Griffin.
About what? Who knows.
What would the embittered McNabb need to tell Griffin – that his toughness was suspect? That he lacked the mental sharpness to excel in the most demanding position in football? That he wasn’t Black enough?
Such questions – if they were McNabb’s – don’t just come from another Black quarterback. Griffin runs into them everywhere he turns. It’s as if he can’t be himself, as though he can’t live life his way. He has to answer an endless string of critics for whatever his politics are, for marrying a white woman, for his supposed timidity about his Blackness.
He’s even faced questions about his ego and how it led to an injury late in 2012 that ended his rookie season. Yeah, of course Griffin’s at fault for taking a punishing hit that shredded his knee, an injury that a pro athlete surely looks forward to having.
It takes a man with inner strength to play quarterback in the NFL. To play the position well, he must possess extraordinary skills and fortitude. He dares not be a man with thin skin.
Griffin is not. He’s grounded in a reality that men like McNabb will never comprehend. For Griffin has the unwavering support and love of his small entourage: a God-fearing mother, a military father who imbued him with discipline and a freshly minted bride who has been behind him since before he became NFL famous.
With all of that in his favor, to hell with McNabb and the critics! What does an electrifying athlete like RG3 need from them?
Nothing … nothing at all.
The opinions expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of BET Networks.
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(Photo: Matt Sullivan/Getty Images)