I admire the Reverend Jesse Jackson. I think he's one of
America's heroes. The man goes behind enemy lines to negotiate
the release of captured U.S. servicemen, gets millions of
minorities to register to vote and works the pulpit for equality
the way Stradivarius worked spruce and maple.
That's why I say to him, respectfully and sincerely, Shut up,
already! It's one thing to be wrong; it's another to be loud
wrong. Seems just about every time Jackson has opened his mouth
lately, he has been 140-decibel-Limp-Bizkit wrong.
Exhibit A: Jackson yelped that the Packers' recent firing of
coach Ray Rhodes, after one 8-8 season, may have been racist. I
love it. Former Green Bay star Reggie White reads from the Book
of Rocker and Jackson yawns, but Jackson makes a football coach
seem like Rosa Parks? Lord!
Did it ever occur to Jackson that Rhodes was fired on Jan. 2 not
because he was black but because he was wack? Because under
Rhodes the team with the best quarterback in the league won three
fewer games than it had in 1998 and missed the playoffs for the
first time in seven years? Because Rhodes lost to every Central
Division opponent, botched managing the clock in a ridiculous
loss to the Panthers and presided over the NFL's equivalent of
A representative of the Coalition to Promote Respect, a Green
Bay-area race-issues watchdog, didn't see any racism in the
firing. Rhodes didn't see any, either. "Business is business,"
Rhodes said after he was fired. "We didn't get it done."
Didn't matter to Jackson. "Was Ray Rhodes, an African-American,
held to a different standard?" he asked in a Jan. 7 letter to
Green Bay general manager Ron Wolf. No, and just ask Chan Gailey,
who went 8-8 with the Cowboys and made the playoffs and got a
boot in the gluteus for his troubles. Where's Jackson's March on
Dallas? Since 1960, 17 NFL coaches--all of them white except
Rhodes--lasted a year or less on the job, including San
Francisco's Monte Clark, who was rewarded for his 8-6 season with
a pink slip. Nobody's seeing color here but Jackson.
Ain't that a kick in the bicuspids for Wolf? He pulls Rhodes off
the Salvation Army pile after Rhodes was canned in Philadelphia
(the Eagles went 6-9-1 and 3-13 in his last two seasons as
coach), and now Wolf's getting his cerebellum beaten in for it.
Jackson isn't helping black coaches' NFL prospects, he's hurting
them. You hire a black coach, you get Jesse on your butt--no extra
Exhibit B: In November, Jackson went barging into Decatur, Ill.,
hunting mice with an elephant gun. Following a brawl in the
stands during a football game at Eisenhower High, six black
students were expelled from the Decatur school district.
According to police, the Sept. 17 fight was tied to an incident
that occurred two weeks earlier between members of two rival
gangs. Jackson slapped down the race card, alleging that the
Decatur school district's "zero tolerance" policy on violence
targeted black kids. He pooh-poohed the melee, calling it "a
silly thing. Something children do." Except video showed these
children rampaging through the stands, beating the bejesus out of
each other and terrifying fans. The little darlings.
Didn't matter to Jackson. He organized marches, backed a lawsuit
filed by the six kids and their parents against the Decatur board
of education, and even made sure he got arrested during a
demonstration in front of Eisenhower High. He had the gall to
liken Decatur to Selma, Ala., and compared his efforts with
Martin Luther King Jr.'s. Bull. Still, Decatur held firm. For
some crazy reason it doesn't feel like tolerating violence. Last
week a U.S. District Court judge in Urbana threw out the lawsuit.
Didn't matter to Jackson, who called for more demonstrations.
Can you imagine all the good Jackson could do if he didn't go
around trying to wrong rights? What about keeping the heat on
South Carolina, where the rebel flag still flies above the
stadiums, not to mention the statehouse? What about going to
Washington, where Chief Justice William Rehnquist hasn't hired a
black law clerk in 28 years on the bench? Why is Jackson wasting
his time and ours, playing to the biggest crowds on the smallest
And I call on Foot Locker to explain why the black shoelaces are
stacked behind the white ones!
When the handcuffs finally went on Jackson during that ludicrous
scene in Decatur, he pronounced, grandly, "It's an honor to be
arrested in a righteous cause!"
Yes, Reverend, it is. Now go find one.
COLOR PHOTO: DANA FINEMAN/SYGMA
Jackson is hurting black coaches' NFL prospects. Hire a black
coach, you get Jesse on your butt--no extra charge.