On Haynesworth

This article originally appeared at manswrites.blogspot.com

(Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

Many minds, from NFL insiders to armchair GMs, have an opinion on this Albert Haynesworth thing.  Here’s mine.

Despite any acclaim Haynesworth has earned in the league with his play, my highlight reel for him contains two clips.  The first is him stomping on Andre Gurode’s face during a game in 2006.  The second, which happened a few weeks ago, is  Big Al laying down on the job while Michael Vick dances around the other ten Redskins.

Is it fair to reduce his entire body of work?  No.  But good or bad, this is how we as sports fans remember players.  We generalize a few significant plays over the span of a career.  The Shot.  The Run. The Drive.  More often than not, the specific moments we associate with players are pretty close to the legacies they leave.  The one major exception is Malice in The Palace. Ron Ron has a championship ring now, and is a pretty good guy on and off the floor, but some observers will never move on from that incident.

Trying to keep this in perspective, I admit that I don’t follow Haynesworth closely.  I know he got a huge contract when he left Tennessee to come to Washington.  Other than that, what I know about him is bad.

Let’s get this out of the way:  Mike Shanahan has spent a lot, maybe too much time this season dealing with Haynesworth.  He singled him out from the start.  First it was a conditioning issue, followed by Albert’s alleged refusal to play in a 3-4 defensive scheme.  I don’t know what the core issue is but Shanahan made it a project to send Albert some type of message that never transmitted.  When Albert didn’t submit, he gave him a surprise benching followed by a season ending suspension.

It appears that there are two camps on this issue – Pro Shanahan and Pro Haynesworth.  I don’t think it’s that cut and dry.  What’s troubling to me is that many of the viewpoints I’ve encountered from the online community, largely of  fellow African Americans, side blindly with Haynesworth thus,  relieving him of any  responsibility in how this situation progressed.

To hold Coach Shanahan completely responsible in this soap opera without acknowledging possible actions that Haynesworth could have taken to change the course is a grave error in thinking.  To limit this issue solely to race is just stupidity.

I like examples so let’s look at one.  You and your friend work at the same job.  You are close to a model employee but your boy isn’t. The boss has an almost open dislike for your friend, one that goes beyond professional and can be argued that it’s more personal bias.  You both discuss how the boss has it in for your friend, and can probably get another employee to admit hearing the boss talk negatively about him to other workers.  Over several months, your friend gets consumed with his own disdain for the boss and shows up to work late 3 days out of 5, is unprepared for meetings, and is consistently behind on his production.  You arrive at work one day and find out your boy got fired.

Is that justified?

Reports say Haynesworth came to the facility hung over, complained of being sick, refused to practice, and said he would not play in the 3-4 scheme.  This sounds like violations of the staff code of conduct  and insubordination – grounds to get terminated from ANY job.  You and I would be fired for this, so why can’t Haynesworth be suspended?  A change in the defensive scheme is no excuse.  Some quarterbacks play for multiple offensive coordinators in a career.  They can’t refuse the new plays just because it’s foreign to what they’re used to.  If they did, there is another QB waiting to take those snaps.

A coach was unhappy with a player’s work ethic and attitude and this became a pissing contest between the two.  Spoiled Athlete vs the Curmudgeon Coach.  Albert forgot Shanahan had the Big Joker.  After a while, he may have been “out to get” Albert.  But Haynesworth didn’t see the writing on the wall?

I’ve seen some “slave” rhetoric used to describe this situation in regards to whether Haynesworth should have toed the line just because of his large salary. We really need to chill with that.  Being told to do something you don’t want to do doesn’t make you a slave.  To apply a slave connotation to those who kowtow excludes all the slaves who fought back, escaped and forged pathways for our freedom.  That’s disrespectful to my ancestors to even consider the thought.

Ask yourself whether Haynesworth could have handled this situation any better.  I’m not saying turn the other cheek. I’m saying, “Do your job.”  If his plan was to spit in the face of authority he played himself, and at the same time, left his teammates out to dry.  Redskins fans: Y’all couldn’t have used another lineman out there to chase down QBs and tackle running backs?  D’Angelo Hall could have used one. Albert has been called out by one teammate who knows the whole deal.  It’s life, man.  Sometimes the boss gets after you, but I’m not surrendering my paycheck for anybody. People who are riding for Albert are leaving out the issue of personal accountability.

We will never get the whole story of what both sides did, but I refuse to believe that if Haynesworth would have just been a professional about it all, it would have exposed what Shanahan was doing and this conversation would be void.  If the story did break, it would have been Haynesworth telling it and more people would be willing to listen. Instead, he allowed himself to become a victim of the machine, where the athlete, not the organization, is to blame. What’s worse, he fell into one of the most hurtful African American stereotypes: The lazy black man.

Finally, to any individual of color who feels as if those who refuse to champion Haynesworth’s cause are “selling out,” I question that individual’s ability to succeed in this world, as well as their perception of reality.  When your daughter comes home from school and says that her white teacher doesn’t like her, what will you do?  Are you going to tell her to stop doing her homework?  Maybe she should refuse to study for tests as a sign of silent protest.  Hopefully you tell her to “boss up.” Provide her with the necessary skills to succeed in a world that won’t always smile on her, and might discriminate against her because of her skin color.

On Haynesworth, ignoring Shanahan’s petty punitive measures and honoring his contract would not make him a sell out.  It would make him a man.


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