Masters Name Offensive? Who Says That?

Herb Gould

 When I first heard that there was a call for the Masters golf tournament to change its name because the word ``masters’’ has racist connotations, I thought maybe it was tongue-in-cheek.

Like suggesting that people should drink Clorox as a COVID-19 cure.

It never had occurred to me that ``Masters’’ offended people because of its master/slave connotation.

Now I know better. I suppose.

I’ve been scouring the internet. And the only person I can connect to the ``Masters has a racist connotation’’ is Rob Parker.

One guy with a long list of wobbly assertions. Rob Parker is a sports journalist who is gifted at. . . stirring the pot. Not sure why, but these provocateur guys flourish by taking off-the-wall stands. I have worked with them, shaken my head in amazement at many more of them. And been envious of the job opportunities and salaries they attract.

They irritate us and they enrage us if we let them.

Check out Rob’s Wikipedia bio if you want to understand what I mean.

Some excerpts. . .

@ ``Parker once penned a much-maligned column where he called Hank Aaron a `coward’ for declining to attend when Barry Bonds would break the career home run record.’’

@ ``On December 21, 2008, at a press conference following the [Detroit] Lions’ 42–7 loss to the New Orleans Saints, during the Lions' 0–16 season, Parker caused controversy when he addressed a question at Lions head coach Rod Marinelli about Lions defensive coordinator Joe Barry, Marinelli's son-in-law, inquiring whether Marinelli wished that his daughter had `married a better defensive coordinator.’ The question was criticized as unprofessional and inappropriate. The next day, Parker wrote that the comment was `an attempt at humor’ and not a malicious attack. On January 6, 2009, The Detroit News announced that Parker had resigned from the newspaper the previous week.’’

@ ``On December 13, 2012, on ESPN’s First Take, Parker made controversial remarks relating to Washington Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III I during a segment discussing Griffin's comment at an earlier press conference that although he was an African-American, he did not want to be defined by that alone. Parker stated that these words were a `red flag’ for him and asked `Is he a brother, or is he a cornball brother?’ When asked to explain what he meant by this, he stated, `He's not real. OK, he's black, he kind of does the thing, but he's not really down with the cause. He's not one of us. He's kind of black but he's not really, like, the guy you want to hang out with because he's off to something else.’ Parker then cited Griffin having a white fiancée and `talk about how he's a Republican’ (though he acknowledged having no information to support this).’’

A week later, ESPN suspended him. During the suspension, ESPN announced that Parker would not return.

. . . I bring all of this up because Rob Parker has a history of having strange opinions.

And also because my friend Alex Miceli took the bait in a column at The Morning Read, a golf website that he founded. (If you like golf, the website is a must-read.) And got carved up by readers of his column for his good intentions.

Like me, Alex is an old white guy who nonetheless is sensitive to racial complaints. We grew up in a different era. But I believe, and I assume he believes, that if a minority objects to language or imagery or whatever, that complaint ought to be taken very seriously.

I covered University of Illinois sports for 20 years, during a time when the NCAA forced the school to retire its beloved Chief Illiniwek even though Illinois treated its Illiniwek tradition with far more respect than Indian imagery at Florida State. I don’t think that’s fair. I think it’s outrageous that the Redskins nickname has not been abandoned. And wonder how long other Indians, even the respectful Chicago Blackhawks, can continue.

If an ethnic group finds something offensive, we need to take their concerns seriously. Very seriously.

If the Masters is a truly objectionable name in the eyes of Black people, I would have no problem with supporting a name change. Although good luck with that. The green jackets who run Augusta National and its historic tournament have a history of being, um, reluctant to change.

But Rob Parker is not the guy we should take our cues from on this.

If my friend Michael Wilbon says the Masters needs to change its name, I will consider that objection in the most serious of lights. If Tiger Woods finds the Masters name offensive, if other respected voices really think the Masters needs to come down, same deal.

But Rob Parker? Nah.

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CHECK OUT HERB'S BOOK

If you like sports history with an extra bit of drama, please check out Herb Gould's 1908 Cubs novel, The Run Don’t Count: The Life and Times of Frank Chance and his 1908 Chicago Cubs. As Jack Brickhouse and Harry Caray used to say, you can’t beat fun at the old ballpark. . . Excerpts and other information at facebook/therundontcount. It’s available in paperback and Kindle at Amazon.com.

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