How outrageous was it for Keyshawn Johnson to claim revisionist racism regarding the TV coverage and commentary accorded last year’s heated, sideline exchange with Jon Gruden? The media — being the media — played up the incident pitting the brash, talented, highly paid, outspoken receiver and the hands-on, successful, highly paid, charismatic head coach. It is what it is.
Johnson now sees the confrontation through a racial filter. That’s because the media didn’t similarly overplay another sideline incident — the recent one between Oakland Raiders’ quarterback Rich Gannon and his head coach Bill Callahan and offensive coordinator Marc Trestman.
According to Johnson, much more was made of his animated exchange with “blond, pretty boy” Gruden than is being made of the veteran (white) QB Gannon going ballistic during the Raider’s 31-10 drubbing by Denver. Only institutional racism, reasons Johnson, could account for such media-treatment disparity.
Johnson referred to the perception that he is a “loudmouth receiver from the ghetto,” while Gannon is perceived as a “class-act quarterback.” And he’s right. Only it’s more than perception.
Johnson has spent an entire career honing and reinforcing a loud, bodacious, “the rules don’t apply to me” image, both with the New York Jets and here with the Bucs. While the sideline incident with Gruden was overblown, it was not out of character for Johnson, who is never spotlight-challenged.
On the other hand, Gannon has long been known as one of the league’s more respectable, good guys. His shouting session with his coaches was a behavioral aberration, not a personality extension. It was a one-day news item. End of story. Johnson vs. Gruden was media red meat, but not because of societal racism.
There’s a reason Johnson is also known as “Meshawn.” And, no, that’s not a racial slur.
Just play the damn game.