Looking at the Options.

ESPN recently aired a piece on Myron Rolle, the standout defensive back for Florida State who would have been a likely first-rounder in the NFL draft, but who put it off for a year after he was awarded a Rhodes scholarship.

After the segment aired, ESPN cited some experts who said that Rolle’s time at Oxford and academic interests might give teams pause. This made rikyrah over at JJP apoplectic with rage.

Hell no do I believe if this were a White player he wouldn’t be lauded up and down ESPN as the EPITOME of what an athlete should be. A White player would be lavished with numerous endorsement deals before he even played his first down in the NFL.

NOT ‘ his off-field pursuits would actually hurt his stock among NFL teams.’

Mr. Rolle, I believe you have your head on straight and can see the forest for the trees. So, for those who would be insulted by your intelligence…

FUCK THEM.

For those who would be threatened by your intelligence…

FUCK THEM.

For those who would want you to lapse into some Black Male Athlete Stereotype of the ‘ YOUNG BLACK BUCK’…

FUCK THEM TOO.

She then bizarrely compares Rolle’s circumstances to those of Dexter Manley, the longtime Redskin defensive lineman who admitted after his NFL career was over that he was functionally illiterate.

ELEVEN YEAR CAREER….and illiterate.

But, THAT is the kind of athlete that the NFL seems to want.

Barely scribbling his name to the contracts he can’t read; happy for anything the NFL threw at him.

Disgusting.

It’s not clear why she decided to link the two. But the idea some teams might think twice about picking up Rolle doesn’t seem like some institutional fear in the NFL of black academic excellence. It just seems like they’re doing their due diligence; they are, after all, going to be paying him millions of dollars and crafting defensive schemes around his talents.  There are a constellation of things that give NFL teams pause around draft time — personal history, a bad showing at the combine, medical history — and a player who has pressing, time-sensitive interests outside of pro football has got to be one of them. Football at the highest levels is time-consuming, grueling and tremendously physically taxing, and the list of players who walked away while they were still productive and healthy is long. Robert Smith, who like Rolle, was an academic standout in college, walked away from the Vikings after his best season to become a doctor. Barry Sanders called it quits while he was still the best running back in football. Tiki Barber hung up his cleats in the midst of a Hall of Fame push to be a television personality. (Closer to home, my blogmate/homie blackink12, a football junkie, hung up his cleats and joined the student newspaper after brutal two-a-days in the oppressive Texas summer because he realized the recruit his college team brought in to play the same position was a lot better than he was.) The constant pain, the repetitive drills, the potential for debilitating injury — a lot of players are constantly considering how much the game means to them.

Rolle will still get drafted, of course,  but it only makes sense that people wonder how much dedication he’s willing to sink into football, when he has the potential for much less grueling and arguably more important work.

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Gene "G.D." Demby is the founder and editor of PostBourgie. In his day job, he blogs about race and ethnicity for National Public Radio. He is a native of South Philly and reads and writes and runs and rants. You can follow him on Twitter or subscribe to him on Facebook.

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