Jeff Pearlman

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Robert Flores, ESPN and truth

Right about now, Robert Flores is—I’m guessing—in an office, staring down at the ground, wondering whether he’ll have a job tomorrow.

In case you missed it, earlier this morning the ESPN personality appeared on SportsCenter to offer his usual quirky take on the weekend’s weirdest, oddest, funniest, most unique moments. After going through a bunch of plays, he turned to Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce, who scored a touchdown against the Bills and then did this dance …

With Jay Crawford and Jaymee Sire looking on, Flores offered this: “If you’re wondering why there’s no letters to the editor, or why First Take isn’t doing, ‘Should Travis Kelce be dancing in the end zone …’ I wonder why they’re not doing that. Oh, because he’s not black—that’s probably what it is.”

Bam!

Crawford and Sire laughed awkwardly. Flores sorta smiled.

And then—it ended.

And then—Flores found himself in deep poop.

That’s just a guess, admittedly. But ESPN is ESPN, which means the network can’t help suspending/lambasting its employees whenever they dare comment controversially on anything outside of touchdowns/field goals/homers. It is, after all, a huge corporation; a conglomerate of myriad brands, labels, IDs. And while Flores’ take was spot-on and 100-percent correct, the higher-ups at the World Wide Leader know a huge number of its viewers are conservative sports nuts who support Ben Carson’s candidacy (“How cab I be racist? The guy I want to be president is negroid … um … colored … um … black!”), own a solid number of guns and want folks like Flores to smile, shut the fuck up about social issues and give us the results of Dodgers-Reds. Dammit.

I, for one, applaud Flores—a true talent who said what is too often unsaid: That there’s a ridiculous behavioral double standard in sports (and sports media) for white and black athletes. The white athletes are smart, hard working, dogged, farm-raised and bred on hard work. The black athletes are strong, fast, gifted, instinctive, surely from a single-family home with a hardscrabble background and a love of [FILL IN THE BLANK] rapper. When a white athlete dances, it’s funny; kooky. When a black athlete dances, he’s selfish and showboating.

So, yeah, Robert Flores, keep speaking the truth.

And, if ESPN lets you go, there’s always a place at jeffpearlman.com.

We pay in Roger Clemens biographies.

  • Jeff

    I seriously doubt Flores receives any punsihment for this. He merely stated the obvious. I’m not even sure this was a remotely controversial remark. ESPN would be roundly criticized for punishing Flores in this spot. Jemele Hill has been opining on racial issues for years and was only disciplined for senselessly invoking Hitler in a column about Basketball.

    I like that you found a way to shoe-horn Carson & Guns into this post: because everyone who isn’t on your side of the aisle is a broadly drawn caricature of everything you dislike.

  • Ted Mark

    The man spoke the truth, but that is no defense at ESPN. Remember, this is the network that still employs Curt Schilling.

  • Joey

    How come nobody criticized Victor Cruz when he did the Salsa after a TD? Oh, it’s because he’s not a QB. Flores made a racial issue where one didn’t exist. Black players have celebrated in the end zone for years without scrutiny. The Titans players on the field took issue with Cam first which initially is what made this a story. The comparison to Kelce was dumb and only sheep are agreeing with Flores.

    • Yaneek Smith

      “Black athletes have celebrated in the end zone for years without scrutiny.”

      Go look at what it was like for the Miami Hurricanes in 1980s and the criticism they receiving for dancing after touchdowns. Remember what people used to say about Chad Johnson when he played for the Bengals and would celebrate after scoring?

      • Joey

        What Chad Johnson used to do was completely different; he brought props onto the field and was fined for it. What Cam and Kelce did is not really comparable. I’m all for celebrations in football as it makes things fun. And I definitely think that some people hate on Cam for being a black man playing a mostly white position. But Flores comparing Cam’s dance to Kelce’s, and why there’s no backlash, was completely dumb. He was trying to make a valid point, but used bad evidence to back it up.

  • Alan Carney

    The rule at the mothership is that employees are not allowed to speak ill of fellow employees. Doing so will get you sent away on “vacation.”

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