For years and years, the biggest right-wing windbag in Chicago sports was Mike Ditka, former coach of the Bears, who could be counted on to say anything, no matter how daffy, to promote the Republican cause.
Like his 1992 comment that Bill Clinton’s election would be “the biggest step backward this country would take in 200 years of existence.”
Overlooking slavery, the Civil War, Pearl Harbor, the assassination of Dr. King and so forth . . .
But in recent days, Ditka’s been eclipsed by Brian Urlacher, the retired Bears linebacker, whose recent Instagram post and Twitter activity have gone beyond anything offered by Iron Mike.
Until Urlacher revealed what was in his mind and heart, I’d never seen such contempt for Black people so openly expressed by a Chicago celebrity.
And not just any celebrity, but an iconic hall of famer—good ol’ number 54, whose retired jersey is worn by thousands of Bears fans.
I’ll say this for Ditka—he was never cautious about broadcasting his worldview. Like a drunk in a bar, he’d let fly with whatever half-baked idea popped into his brain.
In contrast, Urlacher’s a little sneakier. He released his poison on social media, where it slowly found its way to wider attention.
For many Bears fans, it came out of nowhere. Yes, I know, years ago, Urlacher wrote a character reference letter on behalf of Eddie Vrdolyak, asking a sentencing judge to go easy on the former alderman, who’d been convicted in a corruption case.
And earlier this year, Urlacher visited Trump in the White House. And in June, he made a pro-Trump comment on Twitter. But last week, he really let loose his inner MAGA.
In the aftermath of NBA players sitting out several games to protest the shooting of Jacob Blake by police in Kenosha, Urlacher released the following statement on Instagram:
“Brett Favre played the [Monday Night Football] game the day his dad died, threw four TDs in the first half, and was a legend for playing in the face of adversity. NBA players boycott the playoffs because a dude reaching for a knife, wanted on a felony sexual assault warrant, was shot by police.”
This comment is so asinine I’m not sure if Urlacher’s being willfully ignorant or blindly racist.
When Favre took the field after his father’s death, he was overcoming personal grief, or using it as a motivating tactic, to pay tribute to his father.
When LeBron James, Chris Paul, Giannis Antetokounmpo, and the other NBA players boycotted several playoff games last week, they were making a larger stand—using their prominence to force society to confront its racial problems. Especially regarding the police.
There’s no comparison between one and the other unless you want to rile up white people by showing your utter contempt for the Black Lives Matter movement.
Which is clearly what Urlacher was trying to do.
And then he doubled down, liking the following tweet: “Free Kyle Rittenhouse!!!!”
Rittenhouse is the 17-year-old from Antioch who, armed with a semiautomatic rifle, killed two protesters in Kenosha and wounded a third.
Rittenhouse is being turned into a political hero by Trump supporters, who are raising money for his criminal defense.
Urlacher’s Instagram post certainly caught many of his former teammates by surprise.
Former Bears running back Matt Forte tweeted: “The comment @BUrlacher54 posted is void of empathy, compassion, wisdom and coherence. But full of pride and ignorance! I pray for those who have been blinded by their wealth, privilege and earthly fame that breeds arrogance in their hearts.”
Suffice it to say, Urlacher never uttered such comments in the locker room.
My guess is that this is another manifestation of the Norment theory of white behavior—so named for Vincent E. Norment, the owner of the Marijuana Hall of Fame, and a frequent guest on my podcast.
Norment’s theory is that the further white people get from Black people, the more prone they are to say stupid, racist things they wouldn’t say if Black people were around.
It’s especially true in the age of Trump.
“They hear Trump saying all kind of nonsense without any consequence and they think they can say it too,” says Norment.
And so, in another way, Trump poisons the atmosphere of America.
Get ready for more of the same as Trump and his Republican machine ignite Operation Backlash—just in time for November’s election.
I know the operation well, having lived through the Harold Washington era.
When Washington—a Democratic congressman—won the 1983 Democratic primary for mayor, his political opponents took to the streets with a campaign intended to scare white people into voting Republican.
They made up all kinds of lies about Washington—even calling him a sexual predator. They predicted lawlessness and chaos—women would not be safe on the streets—if he were elected.
They didn’t even have looters to blame. They were just playing on white fear and hatred that had been around for centuries—whether people want to admit it or not.
Washington won. But the election was very close. As his opponents scared thousands and thousands of white lifelong Democrats to vote for Bernie Epton, the Republican candidate they knew nothing about.
Except that he was the white guy. Which, apparently, was all they needed to know.
I see the same tactics in the Trump campaign—with Urlacher putting himself at the forefront of a movement, no matter how much it offends his Black teammates.
He’s joining the chorus of right-wing America as it celebrates Rittenhouse as a patriot in order to—what?—justify the killings of anti-racist protesters?
I’ve no doubt that it’s only a matter of time before Trump starts tweeting out celebrations of Rittenhouse as well, as the unthinkable becomes the norm for the Republican Party.
Anything to win that Electoral College.
Back in the day, it was easy to laugh at Ditka’s rantings and ravings. But it’s not funny anymore. v