What’s happened to quarterback Josh Freeman in the past couple of days shows how disposable Black athletes are, even those men who enjoy the high life that the NFL offers.
Athletes are cut in the NFL all the time. Some have had their moments in the spotlight, and once those moments have passed, teams find the next flavor of the month to step in and fill their spot.
Letting a talent like Freeman go, however, need not be an ugly affair; it has become that with Freeman and the Buccaneers coach Greg Schiano and team GM Mark Dominik, a troubling split that hints at racism.
How ugly was it?
Listen, Freeman is sympathetic figure. He’s had some of the best statistics recently of any young quarterback, and he doesn’t drag around the kind of baggage that either Schiano, Dominik or anybody else in the Bucs organization seem more than willing to tell people he does.
In past few days, rumors from inside the Bucs organization have spread about Freeman and drug problems — rumors that, had they been true, would make Freeman almost untouchable.
Yes, Freeman was taking drugs — prescribed medication. Nothing Freeman was taking put him at odds with the league’s drug policy. Legal or not, his medical records should have been a private issue, as private as the medical records of any person, famous or not.
Fined twice for misconduct, portrayed as a malcontent, he became a player the Buccaneers needed to discredit first and move second. But how can a sorry NFL team like the Bucs let a young, strong-armed quarterback with Freeman’s skills go free without exacting some talent in return?
From various media reports, the Bucs did what they could to ruin Freeman with the drug allegations. The team’s actions have come across as cruel, spiteful and illegal — behavior designed to punish a man.
Pro football is an unforgiving sport. It’s not a place where second chances are given freely, especially to Black quarterbacks. Warren Moon, a Hall of Fame quarterback, made this point in 2011 when he came to the defense of Cameron Newton. Has anybody noticed the criticism Robert Griffin III is hearing this season?
But Black quarterbacks always seem to face questions about who they should be and not who they are. It’s never enough to be young and gifted if you have, as Freeman does, the curse of Blackness in your blood.
He can’t just be Josh Freeman, because the team that paid him wanted the man to be someone else. The Bucs seem willing to wreck whatever Freeman was just to keep him from being of interest to anybody else.
The opinions expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of BET Networks.
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(Photo: Jim Rogash/Getty Images)