To me, the most riveting aspect about sports is not the game or who wins and loses, but the human interaction with rules, especially the unwritten ones. Despite the presence and achievements of women, it’s still a man’s world. Despite the presence and achievements of blacks, it’s still largely a white man’s world.
If you’re a die-hard fan, you might not see what I see.
But to outsiders like me, the NFL these days is a cultural Petri dish — and the behavior of its microorganisms worth inspecting.
The raging battle is the right to take a knee for racial injustice while the National Anthem plays. Or, as the Miami Dolphins recently did after President Donald Trump blasted players and threatened NFL owners for exercising free speech, to stand linking arms with the team owner during the anthem as a show of unity.
Our president doesn’t understand that it’s his responsibility to defend our freedom of speech — not to curtail it, nor to fan the flames of those who would like nothing better than to quash our first and most precious right as Americans. The Dolphins showed him how to respect a point of view, earning the appreciation of our diverse community, if not the support of everyone. Bravo, Dolphins, I say.
But now comes another controversy worthy of inspection because it further exposes the great racial divide in this country.
Kijuana Nige, a former girlfriend of married Dolphins offensive line coach Chris Foerster, posted a video on social media of him snorting lines of cocaine. Foerster had recorded himself and sent her the video, Nige said. He was about to enter a meeting and he wanted to tell her with this gesture, dirty talk included, how much he missed her.
She posted it, said Nige, who is black, because of the backlash against black NFL players protesting racial inequality. "So quick to make excuses for him [Foerster] but will roast a minority player over an anthem, dog fights, weed, domestic issues…," she wrote.
And she’s right about that.
News of the video broke Sunday night after the Dolphins defeated Tennessee 16-10 and journalists reported what they saw: Foerster snorting cocaine. But by Monday, he was already being portrayed as snorting a “white powder,” Nige was being slut-shamed, and the rehabilitation of Foerster — who took responsibility in a statement and resigned — was already in full swing.
In a column about the Dolphins’ running spate of problems, a Miami Herald columnist speculated whether the girlfriend may have tried to shake him down. A Herald editor told me the substance Foerster was snorting was “never confirmed to be cocaine. Just assumed. That’s why everyone backtracked.”
But doesn’t Foerster’s statement taking responsibility and his resignation confirm it? In what world would he be snorting talcum powder, flour, sugar, etc.? If it wasn’t cocaine he was snorting, why would there be a need for rehabilitation and resignation?
It’s a man’s world, I know, and it all fits and is valid within a sports context.
I just hope that next time a black player is accused of smoking marijuana we call it “a leafy green” and that he’s given the same benefit of the doubt.
Foerster will have no trouble rehabilitating himself.
Lawyers, family, and drug addiction rehabilitation are available to him as well as the all-important backing of a sports world already standing by him, if in subtle ways. And who knows? He may write a book and tour the country preaching the anti-drug gospel. High literature doesn’t make the talk shows, but this kind of stuff does.
No one will hate Foerster viscerally. No one will call him an anti-patriot. No one will see his drug use as a statement against their right to enjoy a football game drama-free.
White men don’t fall too hard.
Black men? They’re finished.
Just ask Colin Kaepernick, whose act of bravery to call attention to the spate of police shootings of unarmed black men resonated with humanists but not with the NFL. The quarterback can’t find an NFL team that will employ him — and the NFL commissioner mandated on Tuesday that all players will stand while the National Anthem plays. A sad state of affairs.
Unlike Foerster, Kaepernick has nothing to redeem himself for. This is still a democracy.
He didn’t exhibit himself on video snorting cocaine, but he might as well have when he challenged America’s white establishment in one of its most cherished forums and industries: sports.