Retired NFL running back Tiki Barber went on his sports show Tiki + Tierney yesterday (Feb. 4) to discuss his feelings about Brian Flores’ class action suit against the league and, more specifically, the New York Giants. Barber also called out ESPN personality Stephen A. Smith for alleging the team was racist in any way.
Barber, who spent all ten years of his pro career with Big Blue, shared a story of how he was invited to the home of Wellington Mara (who co-owned the Giants from 1959 through his passing in 2005) to say his final goodbyes. “They embraced me like I was family, you know what I mean? And so, I know them intimately,” he told co-host Brandon Tierney.
“And yeah, maybe they don’t have the right head coach, the Black head coach, even though there’s Black players,” Barber continued, misty-eyed at times. “They don’t have a Black general manager, or a Black coordinator, right?… I just don’t think that the Maras, who I’ve known for 25 years, are racist. I’m not willing to scream and yell that the Giants, an organization that I revere, that I had a great relationship with, to say that they’re racist simply because they haven’t had a black head coach or a black quarterback.”
(Note: The franchise did have a Black GM, Jerry Reese, from 2007-17, and they won two Super Bowls during that time.)
Barber spent all ten years of his pro career with Big Blue, and he was inducted into the organization’s Ring of Honor as their all-time rushing yards leader, so he may hold them in the highest regard. Heck, he even has a tacit supporter in Eli Manning.
But Stephen A. Smith didn’t wax as poetic about Big Blue at all.
“Let me say this to the New York Giants,” the outspoken ESPN personality said on First Take. “As an organization, when it comes to Black coaches, I don’t believe a damn word you have to say. There’s no one more incriminating than the New York Giants when it comes to Black coaches. We are in the year 2022. All of these years — damn near a century, for crying out loud — there is one single franchise that has not had a Black coach. That is the New York Giants.”
So Barber namechecked Smith for his statements, too. “I can’t sit here, with conviction, like Stephen A. [Smith], who doesn’t know anybody in the Giants’ organization, and claim that they’re a racist organization,” the ex-footballer proclaimed on his show. “I would never do that. The only reason I would do that is because I’m trying to make a point, and my point is that Brian Flores is trying to make a point.”
But someone else who agrees that racism played no role in Flores’ firing (or as to why there are few Black coaches in the NFL) is sports commentator Jason Whitlock.
“Brian Flores does not look like a leader of men in any of this,” he said on his own show Fearless. “Does he think putting Bill Belichick in the crosshairs is fair? Many people call that snitching. And we’re all good with this snitching because it harms a white person?”
“Dolphins owner Stephen Ross figured out Flores isn’t ruthless enough to win at the highest level,” Whitlock also added. “Flores’ firing wasn’t racism. Ross was bending the rules to favor his black head coach. Proving again that no good deed goes unpunished.”