DALLAS – I watched as the most prolific quarterback in the history of professional football in North America walked the entire length of the red carpet at a celebrity-rich flag football game during Super Bowl XLV week — and no one recognized him. It was as if he never existed.
Hall of Fame quarterback Warren Moon was treated like the janitor sweeping up the red carpet instead of being the man who was supposed to shine on it, meaning no one even looked up at him or called to him, or they averted their eyes away from him (much like white general managers and owners did when Moon was looking to get drafted into the NFL). But after compiling incredible numbers that place him in the top five of all passers in NFL history, and combining those stats with his Canadian Football League numbers from his first six years after college, you would think he could get a little love from the nearly all-white press corp. that made up the red carpet media to cover the Super Bowl.
Nope. But let some b-level, reality-show flunkie with ivory skin come prancing up the red carpet — which happened — and the cameras explode like machine guns and the media yell out to them like it’s a bidding war. Meanwhile, Moon, all 6-foot-3, 225 pounds of him, manages to hide in plain sight.
“I thought I was going to get through the entire carpet without being hassled by reporters,” Moon joked to me with a slight trace of dejection detected in his baritone, and that’s when white hot anger shot up my spine. I was going to call out to Moon anyway, but after witnessing the white press ignore a living legend, I was going to get at him if I had to bust through the security barricades to do so.
It occurred to me that if the white press don’t manage to mangle our athletes’ legacies, they ignore them altogether.
Moon doesn’t know that they did Hall of Fame running back Barry Sanders almost identically. His ankle-breaking, shin-shattering cutbacks and moves that defied physics made him a transcendent NFL superstar. Yet, no media outlet bothered to stop him either. The only two who wanted to talk to him were, of course, me and a Mexican-American media outlet. We were, by the way, the only minorities present. And we were, of course, relegated to spots at the very end of the red carpet.
But when actor Matt Dillon’s brother (I can’t even remember his name and don’t care) came on the scene, it was as if Jesus had descended through the roof and landed at this event. The media called out to him with almost orgasmic lust in order to get a few minutes of his time. It was sickening to witness. A Super Bowl event, which is part of the NFL, and folks didn’t even know the black stars who made the game what it is today.
That’s why I join Morehouse College in spirit and in deed to encourage more African Americans and minorities to take up the pen — not just to recognize the gridiron greats with blessedly high levels of melanin, but to provide a more accurate portrayal while they’re playing. And then to show them proper love for their monumental contributions to a slice of American life after their playing days are long over. –terry shropshire