A Washington, D.C. reverend suggested Washington Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III was a “high price” slave – or commodity – in a country that has always treated “people of color” as “trophies.”
Speaking on a Smithsonian panel on Thursday in Washington, D.C. about “Racial Stereotypes and Cultural Appropriation in American Sports,” Rev. Graylan Hagler of Plymouth Congregational United Church of Christ – and former president of Ministers for Racial, Social and Economic Justice – said the Washington Redskins name offends him because it “takes away the humanity of Native Americans.”
Then, Hagler suggested Robert Griffin III, the dynamic and engaging franchise quarterback, was a “high price” slave who was being used as “entertainment” for the “dominant culture.”
“Slavery – even at a high price – is still slavery,” Hagler said. “Just look at what just happened, in a sense, during a recent football game [with] RG3.”
He said Griffin was “left in the game beyond injury because he was a commodity to be used … for the entertainment of someone else.”
Hagler was referring to Washington’s playoff loss to the Seattle Seahawks in the playoffs. During the fourth quarter of the game, Griffin eventually had to be helped off the field when his knee grotesquely buckled. Griffin re-injured his knee during the first half of the game and played the remainder of the game in visible pain. He suffered multiple tears to knee ligaments and had to undergo reconstructive surgery.
On December 9, Griffin injured his knee during a game against the Baltimore Ravens and went back in the game despite reportedly not getting clearance to do so from the Redskins team doctor.
Hagler, who is black, said “the idea to be able to trade or sell another human being is offensive coming out of the history I come out of,” even if those players make millions of dollars. He insisted America’s “dominant culture” treats people of color as a “collection of an artifact” to take away the “humanity” of those communities.
Hagler said how Washington treated Griffin was emblematic of how “people of color” have always been treated as “commodities” in America.
“If you look at the history of this country, people of color have always been put there for the entertainment of white folks,” Hagler said. “People of color are the dominant culture’s trophies.”
He referred to the Redskins as the “Washington professional football team,” and said the use of the Redskins name has to be made “culturally unacceptable” like the N-word.
Hagler said he was glad to hear “[D.C.] Mayor [Vincent] Gray not refer to the Redskins by name” during Tuesday’s State of the District address and suggested more people need to boycott the word, which he does from the pulpit of his Church. He also called for a widespread boycott of the team’s merchandise.
Hagler was on a panel with Judith Bartnoff, deputy presiding judge of the District of Columbia Superior Court’s Civil Division; Robert I. Holden, deputy director of the National Congress of American Indians; Erik Brady, a sports reporter for USA Today; and Washington Post sports columnist Mike Wise.