Are Sports Figures Next in “Cultural Cleansing”?

| July 11, 2015

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David Whitley, Orlando Sentinel

They’re coming for you, Ty Cobb.

Prepare to be sacked, Lawrence Taylor.

You can hobble but you can’t hide, O.J.

Some of history’s most accomplished athletes were notorious human beings. So they are now in danger of being removed from sight.

Locally, we can call it the Cosby Syndrome. Disney just removed his bronze statue from the Hollywood Studios park.

It’s part of the cultural cleansing that is steamrolling across America. If something or somebody offends us, it must be torn down.

Thomas Jefferson owned slaves. So in our current guilt trip over the Confederate battle flag, there’s talk of turning the Jefferson Memorial into something that doesn’t make people uncomfortable. Maybe a Panera.

For the record, I am not in favor of slavery, child molestation or double homicide. I think the Confederate battle flag belongs in a museum, not on a flagpole at the Quaker State 400.

But there should be middle ground between honoring something and removing its every trace. And we need to find it before the zero-tolerance mob shows up at our halls of fame.

First on the baseball hit list would be Cobb, reputed to be a world-class racist. Scholarly research has revealed that most of the incriminating stories were made up. But nobody disputes Cobb was a brawler who once attacked a heckler who was missing a hand and most of his fingers.

“I don’t care if he has no feet!” Cobb supposedly yelled to concerned onlookers.

Baseball’s MVP awards are named after the first commissioner, Kennesaw Mountain Landis. He was the primary force that kept baseball a whites-only enterprise.

Taylor was arguably the best linebacker in NFL history. He is inarguably a registered sex offender after pleading guilty of having sex with a 16-year-old prostitute.

Then there’s Orenthal James Simpson.

As bad as Cosby allegedly treated women, at least they lived to tell about it, even if nobody believed them at first. They do now.

It’s understandable why Disney didn’t a want a sex fiend sharing the stage with Mickey Mouse. But when he wasn’t slipping quaaludes to younger women, Cosby spent decades breaking down racial walls and being an epic entertainer.

That’s part of his story, but chances are you’ll never see “The Cosby Show” or “Fat Albert” again. TV Land has banished “The Dukes of Hazzard” because a Dodge Charger had a Confederate battle flag painted on its roof.

In this kind of atmosphere, what chance does an (alleged) double-murderer have?

The new goal is to eliminate anything that causes discomfort. But desperately avoiding pain is no way to go through life.

Nobody should feel guilty for enjoying Simpson’s work in “The Naked Gun” or the NFL. If one of my kids screams when she sees O.J.’s bust in Canton, I’ll explain he was great football player and bad man. I’ll explain that humans are flawed, but they do evolve.

Slavery was an accepted business model when George Washington, James Madison and Andrew Jackson owned human beings. Can we live with that fact, or do we change the name of Jacksonville back to Cowford?

Segregation was the law of the land when Landis ran baseball. It’s not now, so should we take his name off the MVP award?

Judging what’s appropriate and what’s not is getting trickier every day. So before the Forces of Good come after Cobb and the rest, they should remember one thing.

We can learn from our mistakes, but only if we’re allowed to see them.

Letters > Are We Going to Wake Up In Time to Save Ourselves?
Wisenbaker > “We came to see what damage we could cause”
Filed in: Editorials, Opinion
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1 Comment on "Are Sports Figures Next in “Cultural Cleansing”?"

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  1. billeeg says:

    Guess what ? Just to make some folks happy, I sold my last 2 slaves this morning,,,, they didn’t bring much, as that market has been soft for awhile, it will probably be better for me cause it cost so much to feed’em & they quit working long time ago… And- I want to apologize to all people who Were or Are Slaves “today” for not gittin rid of’em sooner, again I apologize. Now, to those that ARE NOT or WERE NOT Slaves, Look in the mirror, You are the same today as yesterday, unless You did something positive to change… AND, AND, THIS APOLOGY is NOT to YOU, even you know that’s just a excuse for your failure.