Tim Brown was unstoppable on the Raiders' offense for 16 seasons, but Thursday he was playing defense.
Last week, Brown made the surprising claim in an interview still available on line with 680 The Fan in Atlanta that that Raider owner Al Davis "hated African-American athletes from Notre Dame". But today he backtracked on that statement with the kind of speed that would make the Raiders want to draft a guy sixth overall.
Brown's remark was part of a longer anecdote about his first time meeting Al Davis, as a new Raider in the late 1980's. "Meeting Al (Davis) was pretty unique," Brown said in the interview.
"I found out five or ten minutes after my first practice there that he hated African-American athletes from Notre Dame. And they literally told me that. They literally told me that because we’re known for using our education more than our athletic ability that he thought that I would be one of these guys that would basically take the money and run. I don’t know if that was a ploy to get me amped up, but it certainly worked."
The response to this story has left Brown feeling more awkward than a Dirk Nowitzki wedding engangement party. Raider Nation is particularly not pleased, and at the Silver & Black Pride blog they're now referring to Brown as "that alligator short arming on 3rd down no heart Tim Brown."
That remark would indicate Brown may have squandered some goodwill.
That's why Brown is in damage control mode today, issuing a clarifying statement to SportsRadioInterviews.com.
"I would like to give some face value to my recent comments on a radio interview," Brown said in a statement. "If you read the statement carefully, you will see it says “they said”, not Al Davis said. Early in my career , Al Davis and I may have had some contentious years , but none centered around him being racist."
First off, this is an offseason, slow-news kind of story. If this were autumn and they had Denver coming in Sunday, or if Janikowski had just got popped bribing a cop during an all-night bender, this tempest wouldn't have made it out of the teapot.
Second off, consider Davis' history with African-Americans in his organization. The ever-hilarious Mighty MJD rightly observes on his Shutdown Corner blog that one "should note Al Davis's history in racial hiring practices. He hired Tom Flores, the NFL's first Latino head coach. He hired Art Shell, the first African-American head coach in the NFL's modern era. He drafted Eldridge Dickey, the first African-American quarterback taken in the first round by any NFL or AFL team. Al Davis is pretty well-respected across the board when it comes to making racial progress in the NFL."
Third off, consider that Davis actually did draft Brown, despite this alleged bias. And freaking sixth overall at that!
The guys at ProFootballTalk.com did actually crunch the numbers, and found the Raiders have in fact not pursued many African-American Fighting Irish in the draft. Since drafting Brown, they've drafted only Raghib Ismail in 1991. But the premise that a franchise avoids players of color only from a certain given university is a difficult negative to prove. After all, the 49ers have drafted only one African-American out of Notre Dame in the last ten NFL Drafts. But no one's insinuating they're racist.
Let's just hope this is all a misquote, bad information being given to Brown, or an exaggerated retelling of some old motivational ploy. I'm all in favor of some healthy anti-Notre Dame bias, but this variety would be bizarre and creepy.
Joe Kukura is a freelance writer who would point out that Al Davis is unusually proactive in pursuing African-American athletes from Ohio University.