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Tim Tebow & Kordell Stewart: Brothers in Discrimination?

Unfortunately, this came at the tail end of ESPN’s First Take, when Skip Bayless – ever the defender for one Denver Broncos QB, Tim Tebow – went up against Stephen A. Smith, and former Steelers QB/WR Kordell Stewart. The question, posed to Stewart: “What is Tim Tebow in the NFL?”

He’s this, right? You can tell us – he’s this.

Now, if anyone knows Kordell Stewart’s history in the NFL, it strangely mirrors Tebow’s beginnings as a professional QB – not many thought that neither Stewart nor Tebow would work out as signal-callers coming out of college, and were talked about, coming into the league, as being position players to be successful (WR/CB for Stewart; FB/RB for Tebow). In Bayless’ words, in that sense, he thought that Stewart, nicknamed “Slash” for his play as both quarterback and wideout, would see he and Tebow as “kindred spirits.” And, while Stewart admitted that he has a chance to be a serviceable starting QB in time, he didn’t necessarily agree with the blanket view Bayless had for Tebow’s detractors.

Stewart touted, to the delight of fellow debater Smith, that Bayless didn’t understand the situation he had to go through to become a starting quarterback in the league, citing black quarterbacks before him like Warren Moon and Charlie Ward, and the systematic stigma he had to fight as a black quarterback – an athletic specimen who couldn’t necessarily throw the football well.

Stewart went on to say that, while he had to fight to get the position, and career, he had, Tebow was much more fortunate. Case in point: Tebow was a first round draft pick; he was given the starting job despite his failings as a traditional QB; and, while consistently showing his shortcomings from the pocket, Tebow is still looked at as a winner.

With Tebow’s inconsistent – and often poor – quarterback play, people like Bayless give him the kind of pass Stewart never would have gotten in his day – let alone the opportunity to play quarterback in the first place. He even called his play, as a barometer for how well a QB should play in the NFL, “a slap in the face” of all the signal-callers that played before him. In essence – judge him for how well he plays the position of quarterback, like Stewart was judged when many thought he was incapable of playing the same position.

You can watch the debate here:

While I, for one, believed that the ultimate point was made, Skip, as usual, begged to differ. He insisted that Tebow’s constant criticisms were very much like the criticisms Stewart endured when he first came into the league. Assuming they were “kindred spirits,” Bayless was rather surprised that Stewart would not defend Tebow, given how similar their situations were. As a matter of fact, Bayless went on to say that Tebow’s situation has been so much like Stewart’s, he called everyone’s treatment of Tebow … “discrimination.”

Oh. No. He. Didn’t.

That crossed the line. With Stewart, with Smith … and with me.

What Bayless failed to see, in his adamant defense of Tim Tebow, is that, while, on its face, the comparison between Tebow and Stewart seems valid, the context in which Tebow and Stewart’s situations are framed under are completely different. Tebow’s situation (as I have listed above), compared to Stewart’s, smacks of privilege. Tebow was handed a starting job he didn’t necessarily deserve, given his progression as a QB after less than a year in the league.

Stewart, on the other hand, was never given the same chances, and never allowed the kind of leeway Tebow had in his short career as a starter. Coming into the league, his coaches wanted him to play the WR position. It took him two years to prove to everyone that he had the competency, the skills, and the consistency to play QB. And he was playing in an era where, even with black quarterbacks like Moon and Doug Williams, the stigma of black quarterbacks, as athletes, was the same: they couldn’t cut in in the NFL. Stewart was right – Bayless had no idea what he had to go through to get to be the starting quarterback for the Pittsburgh Steelers.

“Do not … compare me … to HIM.”

Yet, Bayless had the gall to sit there and say that Stewart – with the stigma he had facing him as a black quarterback – “didn’t have to pay that many dues” compared to Tebow?

To say that they were “kindred spirits” because of the obstacles they faced, when in the context of societal obstacles, there is no comparison?

To put Kordell Stewart and Tim Tebow in the same sentence, in the context of the term “Discrimination”, when Stewart’s – and Smith’s – contextual definition of the word doesn’t begin to compare to Bayless’ definition?

Now, I will say this – there is a chance that Skip Bayless didn’t realize the context in which he was using the term “discrimination”. I can understand the context in which he may have thought that he was using it – neither was given a chance when coming into the league, and had to go through constant scrutiny to get the job starting at quarterback.

However, even with that said, Bayless’ comparison – using “discrimination” as something in common between Stewart and Tebow – was so off-base, it was disgusting. Again, the contexts are worlds apart: Tebow had to go through the scrutiny of being an individual “running quarterback who can’t pass”. Stewart, on the other hand, had to go through the scrutiny of being a “black quarterback” – a sweeping generalization and a sociological handicap that, in its context, was more than most could handle.

Don’t get me wrong – I love Skip Bayless’ opinions, whether I agree with them or not, and I respect his points of view. However, I thought that, in this case, he was completely out of line.

11 Comments on Tim Tebow & Kordell Stewart: Brothers in Discrimination?

  1. They took out the Stephen-Kordell/Skip exchange from the FirstTake podcast. They dont include the complete segment I saw on TV…it starts after 14:50, check it out yourself.
    http://espn.go.com/espnradio/play?id=7212173

    Skip, like most of the time he shits out of his mouth, was completely outta line minimizing Kordell’s perspective.

  2. Can you explain why Skip Bayless is out of line for pointing out Tebow and Stewart were “discriminated” against because they played a similar style: running QB? I think Skip makes a valid point.

    I fear Stewart is feeling some leftover resentment for not having the career he may have wanted. What else would explain the abnormal hostility over Tebow. Stewart kept uttering that he wasn’t given the same chance or support as Tebow. Skip correctly called out Stewart by pointing out the number of starts he had. I am by no means a Tebow follower. I think he will likely fail but he may possible succeed. We don’t know. He should at least be given the shot to succeed or fail.

    • How has Tebow been discriminated against? What opportunities has Tebow been denied since he’s been drafted? Kordell was drafted as a WR and waited for 2 years, in the wrong position, until an injury to the starting QB opened up his opportunity to play in the position he felt comfortable and best at. Now Im not petitioning for Stewart to be placed in the Hall of Fame but I can understand Kordell’s bias.

      • Sorry to point out that Tebow was drafted as a QB because he was arguably the most successful collage QB ever. Kordell did really well for the CU Buffs, but the draft boards in NFL had him as more valuable as a WR than a QB. It is hard to know if anyone would have drafted him as a QB.
        Claiming that his race had anything to do with that cannot be disproved, as it cannot be disproved that the criticism of Tebow by Smith or Kordell is racial, religious or totally genuine opinion. Stephen A. Smith is an idiot irrespective of race. Kordell makes some very sound points but fails to acknowledge that the Broncos wins more with Tebow – they are competitive and if Tebow improves his passing game the sky is the limit.

  3. Since Kordell, we’ve seen Mcnabb, Vick, Vince Young, His was a great point 15yrs ago. The expanding definition of qb applies to ALL.

  4. In his bitterness, Stewart fails to realize that Tebow will face the same questions that he faced throughout his career. Can his style be successful in the NFL? How long can his success last? Is he just a fluke? 7-1 as a starter and nobody is promising that Tebow will start next year.
    Stewart blames race for his difficult career and I get it, but it doesn’t all add up. Stewart was backup to Neil O’Donnell who led the Steelers to the Super Bowl. Tebow was behind Kyle Orton and Brady Quinn, two failed QBs. Stewart’s talent got him playing time when he could have been holding a clipboard. Tebow played because his personal fan base demanded it after a horrible showing by Orton, and the leadership was hoping to shut them up by his expected failure. Now we just have to wait to see if Tebow continues his success or not. The Broncos will draft a QB to wait in the wings and you will see Tebow pulled if the leadership thinks they can do better with someone else. Racism is never going away if you see it every where. But if you have a little faith and believe (sorry, gratuitousTebowisms), good things happen. Look at the Heisman race.

  5. Not for nothing, but when Kordell was a “QB” there was very few and i will say again very few in that position who would scramble. Because of many reasons…Today football has changed dramatically. QB’s are capable of leading the team in rushing in a game, a QB will make 40 plus attempts at passing easily per game, ect…Kordell needs to cut the crap and stop crying about Tebow. If he feels that he was discriminated against, well join the club. Everybody goes through discrimination through life. Kordell’s dad needs to tell him to grow a pair and stop crying. He did not have the set skils to be the player he thought he was.

    • And not for nothing, if he wanted to play as a QB and not be known as “slasher” then why not move onto another team? I am sure the Steelers did not hold a gun to his head to sign on the dotted line from 95-02.

      • Paul sweet // August 14, 2012 at 10:43 am //

        You just dont get it do you first off they own your right second you have a place on the team and are getting paid why would u walk out instead of trying harder to win the job. Tebow was been given everything he has in the NFL which isnt much because he sucks

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