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?”
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.”
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.
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.