The San Francisco 49ers have done the politically correct thing by suspending the announcer who made these on the air comments. What impact, if any, the suspension will have on the entire issue of race relations and cultural sensitivity is another matter entirely.
For sure the story will drive coverage of professional football during the next several days.
San Francisco Chronicle 12.4.2019
The 49ers have suspended Tim Ryan, their radio color analyst, over comments he made on a Bay Area sports talk radio show Monday in which he said Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson (pictured above), who is black, is exceptional at faking handoffs because of his “dark skin color with a dark football.”
Team officials said in a statement to The Chronicle on Wednesday that they are “disappointed” in Ryan’s comments and are suspending him for the upcoming game.
Jackson gained most of his yards running a zone-read type offense, in which he frequently fakes a handoff to a running back before keeping the ball to run himself.
“He’s really good at that fake, Lamar Jackson, but when you consider his dark skin color with a dark football with a dark uniform, you could not see that thing,” Ryan said on air. “I mean you literally could not see when he was in and out of the mesh point and if you’re a half step slow on him in terms of your vision forget about it, he’s out of the gate.”
Dr. Harry Edwards, a sociologist, longtime civil rights activist and 49ers consultant, listened to the radio clip and was particularly troubled that Ryan’s comments perpetuated the bigotry involving black players and particularly the quarterback position.
“I know Tim and he is not of a maleficent mind relative to these types of issues — but of course that does not mean that he gets or should get a ‘pass’ regarding his comments on Lamar Jackson and assigning ANY dimension of Lamar’s undeniable brilliance at QB to his skin color — a raw and sensitive assessment and assertion not only because it is profoundly obtuse and ignorant on its face and carries implications that I’m certain were not intended, but because skin color has been such a factor in rationalizing denial of Black athletes’ opportunities to play the QB position over most of the NFL’s 100 years of existence,” Edwards wrote in an email to The Chronicle before Ryan was suspended.
“But again, no less damaging than the fact of Tim’s sentiments are their implications. In a game that is so competitive and where ‘winning edges and even slight advantages’ tend to be critically important if not determinant, are we really to believe that White QB’s are at a strategic disadvantage? Should the 2020 NFL player draft select for dark-skinned, athletic QB prospects in search of the next Lamar Jackson? Or maybe this puts a premium on QB’s — irrespective of race — who can play well wearing the right color gloves — gloves that will give them the right hand hue to camouflage the football on handoffs.”
Edwards called the incident a “learning moment” and hoped Ryan would apologize and put the comments behind him.
“And then, let’s move on,” Edwards said. “Jimmy (Garoppolo) and LJ could very well lead their teams into the the NFC and AFC playoffs respectively, and perhaps even the Super Bowl — and the color of the hand that handles the football in contrast to who is simply the better QB will be of absolutely no consequence.”
“We hold Tim to a high standard as a representative of our organization and he must be more thoughtful with his words. Tim has expressed remorse in a public statement and has also done so with us privately,” 49ers officials said. “We know Tim as a man of high integrity and are confident he will grow and learn from this experience.”
In a statement to The Chronicle, Ryan said, “I regret my choice of words in trying to describe the conditions of the game. Lamar Jackson is an MVP-caliber player and I respect him greatly. I want to sincerely apologize to him and anyone else I offended.”
The 49ers said they called the Ravens to “extend our apologies and assure them the matter is not being taken lightly.”
Ryan, known for his baritone voice and enthusiastic broadcasting, is a former defensive lineman who played four seasons for the Bears (1990-93). He worked as a Fox TV analyst covering NFL games for 12 seasons before joining the 49ers as a radio color commentator in 2014.
On Monday, he spent most of the 22-minute segment breaking down Sunday’s game and complimenting the Ravens and Jackson’s play. Speaking from Florida, where the 49ers are staying this week ahead of their game in New Orleans on Sunday, he focused on Jackson at the start and end of the segment.