The Media’s Rush To Judgement

By Harold Bell
Updated: December 25, 2007

WASHINGTON, D.C. — First, NFL player Sean Taylor was murdered in his home by several young black men looking for something for nothing. Sean was later raped by so-called major media sprinkled with a brother here and a brother there.

They blamed his death on his thug life. Next to a church on Sunday mornings a media newsroom and press table at deadline remains the most segregated institution in America.

Sean’s distrust of the media was well founded and in death they proved him right. Some of the things that jumped off of their computers and out of their mouths were expected, because most don’t have a clue.

They have never played any kind of ball, but still they want to come on your job every Sunday and Monday and tell you how to do it. If that is playing the “race card”, I am guilty as charged.

There is old saying, “Its best to be thought a fool then to open one’s mouth and remove all doubt.” Enter Michael Wilbon, Mike Wise of the Washington Post and David Aldridge of the Philadelphia Inquirer (former Washington Post writer). Aldridge’s column on Sean Taylor was based on ‘He says, she says.’

This commentary has nothing to do with liking or disliking, if you don’t know, you don’t know. Let me set the table on Wilbon who I have known for over two decades.

Before he became an expert on sports and everything black as a co-host on ESPN’s PTI with his clueless co-host Tony Kornheiser he came through Inside Sports.

He has plenty of company in television sports media that came through my show, James Brown (CBS), John Thompson (ESPN), David Aldridge (ESPN), Adrian Branch (ESPN), Dave Dupree (USA Today) and Glenn Harris (Cable TV 8 in DC).

I am making the case here that everyone of these brothers came through Inside Sports before their media debuts on television, national or otherwise. Five of the six were athletes. Now that I have established the connection, let us move on.

I will never forget sitting in the Green Room on Howard University waiting to go on a television show with Wilbon when he confessed to me that his sports editor George Solomon often looked over his shoulder and changed his stories.

He could not understand why Solomon never did the same thing to Kornheiser. I have not trusted anything that comes out Wilbon’s mouth or off of his computer since. Evidently, George Solomon and his kind are still looking over the shoulder of Wilbon and his colored colleagues in broadcast media.

It was several years ago while attending a Washington Wizard game at Verizon Center Solomon invited me to the Washington Post to have a sip of tea with him. We had not spoken in years. We had collaborated on several projects over the years including live reports by him on Inside Sports.

The reports originated from places like the French, Wimbledon and U. S. Tennis Tournaments. I was a frequent guest on the Washington Post TV show when it first aired. George and I had gone our separate ways because he does not like people who can think for themselves, especially black folks. I only tolerated him until he crossed the line with me. I was curious on why this invitation now.

The meeting in his Washington Post office didn’t go well because Solomon came out of his mouth wrong from the very beginning. He made a request asking me to tone down my commentaries because I was exposing too many people.

I had to remind him I didn’t work for the Washington Post and not to get me mixed up with Michael Wilbon, Dave Dupree, Dave Aldridge, or any other brother who came through his sports department. The tea never had a chance to get cold before I made my exit.

Wilbon’s column on Wednesday November 28 in the Washington Post brought back memories of George Solomon. The story was titled, “Dying Young, Black.” In the second paragraph Wilbon warns his readers, “Seriously, you should stop reading right here. Because we’re going to have a different conversation in this space — about the violent and senseless nature of the act that took the life (Sean Taylor), about trying to change course when those around you might not embrace such a change, about dying young and black in America, about getting the hell out of Dodge if at all possible.”

I want to examine the paragraph in Wilbon’s story when he makes his case for getting the hell out of Dodge. He says “The issue of separating yourself from a harmful environment is a recurring theme in the life of black men. It has nothing to do with football, or Sean Taylor or even sports. To frame it as a sports issue is as insulting as it is naïve.”

“Most perhaps even the great majority of us who grew up in big urban communities, have to make a decision at some point to hang out or get out.” Wilbon goes on to say, ‘The kid who becomes a pharmaceutical rep has the same call to make as a lawyer or delivery guy or accountant or sportswriter or football player.”

“Cut off anybody who might do harm, even those who have been friends from the sandbox, or go along to get along.’ He sounds a lot like Willie Lynch when he delivered his speech to the slave owners on the banks of the James River in 1712.

The speech was centered around how to keep the negro in his place. “Hang out or get out” sounds like Willie Lynch to me. Wilbon’s suggestion of separating yourself from a harmful environment is a cope out. My question, who made it a harmful environment for black men?

The answer is greedy white men followed closely by greedy black men. He is right on one point it is not a sports issue, but it is racial issue. The premise that most of us grew up in big urban areas and we have to make a decision, to hang out or get out is the second cope out. Wilbon grew up in Chicago but has no clue about the inner-city.

He wants his readers to think he was raised in the projects. One of the reasons he is taking his readers there is because he just fled Montgomery County, Maryland one of the richest while counties in America for his new home Phoenix, Arizona. He won’t have to worry about seeing too many of us out there. The only thing he will have to worry about is racial profiling.

Wilbon will feel safe until one of them “Good Old Boys” hollers out of a moving car using the dreaded N word telling him to ‘Go back to Africa.’ But he thinks, most black folks who get two more dollars then the next brother will have to make a decision to either hang out or get out.

Otherwise, the brother with two dollars less will do him harm. That is one of our major problems in Black America, black men running away from their responsibilities.

When do we stop running?

I remember growing up in the Parkside Housing Projects in NE DC. In our community lived teachers, lawyers, postal workers, file clerks, domestic workers, and welfare mothers in fact I lived in the house of a welfare mother.

There was more than enough love to go around among us. Those of us without fathers really never missed them. We were raised by strong black women who did their best to fill the void left by our fathers. The success stories that came out of that housing project include Maury Wills (Los Angeles Dodgers) and yours truly.

There were teachers, and at least two principals, law enforcement officers, lawyers, a psychiatrist, several ministers and host of a law abiding citizens who raised some great kids.

When did our communities and environments become harmful? I know exactly when — integration. It was then we started to take on the characteristics of the oppressor, education became a distant memory and our children were left behind. Prayer was taken out of the schools.

The black church once the backbone of the community became a refugee for “Pimps in the Pulpit.” Pastors and ministers new mode of transportation are private jet planes, yachts, stretch Mercedes limos and Bentleys.

Their homes are something out of the rich and famous. They travel like rock stars with entourages. In the meantime, members of their congregations can’t afford fare cards to get to work on Metro and many are facing evictions and foreclosure on their homes.

Congress has invited several of the living high on the hog ministers hiding behind 501c3 non-profits to come to Capitol Hill and explain their life styles.

In his column Wilbon compares the death of Len Bias to the tragic murder of Sean Taylor this proves again how clueless this brother is, he says “Of course, there are enormous differences. We were so much more innocent in June 1986, and Bias’s death was a complete shock.”

“There was no warning, no hint that he ever courted danger or that it had ever gone looking for him. And Bias, though unintentionally, harmed himself.” I am here to tell you nothing could be further from the truth. There was no warning because Michael Wilbon didn’t have a clue.

The reason he had no clue was because he was never connected to the inner-city. Those of us who were connected to the streets were aware that Len was into the drug scene and his classes and school had become an after thought. His classroom had become the basketball court. Lefty Driesell looked the other way as Len Bias did things his way.

Len Bias was a supporter of Kids In Trouble, Inc, thanks to teammate Adrian Branch who had his own demons. Len was a frequent guest on Inside Sports, played in KIT’s Celebrity Tennis Tournaments and was a model in the Celebrity Fashion Shows.

He was a great guy with a great smile but he got distracted by his own celebrity. He was an easy mark for the drug boys. Have we forgotten Georgetown and Drug Lord Rafield Edmonds? They often looked for guys like Len to enhance their own self-esteem. I regret I didn’t confront Len when I learned of his problem. He could be very elusive with drugs, women and money just around the corner.

The late Red Auerbach asked me while playing in one of my Celebrity Tennis tournaments “Harold what do you think of Lenny?” My response, ‘Red I think he is going to be an impact player in NBA and he is a great guy.’ I had no clue that Red was thinking of drafting Len and as they say ‘The rest is history.’ I am now left thinking was Red trying to feel me out about Len’s personal life?

Mike Wise’s column in the Washington Post on November 30 was just as clueless as Wilbon’s. His column was titled, “School Ties.” The column was mostly based on a premise that the University of Miami is a breeding ground for criminals. His main focus was Clinton Portis and Santana Moss.

Wise did his best to make the two look and sound like high school dropouts. Check out the dialogue, he quotes Portis saying, I’m sure there’s a lot of schools that done have players pass away. There’s a lot of programs that had violence.” ‘But Miami players, being so high-profile, the speculation will always be there. Because they’ll never know.’

Wise then turns to Moss and quotes him talking about how disappointed he is on how the media reports on Sean’s death. Moss says “It kind of bothers me, a lot. For them to bring up things that everybody gothrough in life. Everybody have a past that you’re not happy with.”

It is interviews like this that makes it clear why Sean boycotted the media. When it comes to the black athlete, the setup is always on. If Wilbon, Wise and Aldridge want to blame Sean Taylor, Clinton Portis, Michael Irvin, Ray Lewis, Santana Moss and members of the University of Miami football team past and present for the ills of Black America, they are definitely asleep at the wheel.

I can look pass Mike Wise because he has not walked in our shoes, but Wilbon and Aldridge had to grow up listening to the serious comedy commentary of Dick Gregory and the message music of Marvin Gaye (What’s Going), Gil Scott Heron (The Revolution will not be televised), Oscar Brown (Signifying Monkey) Curtis Mayfield (People get ready), and Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes (Wake Up Everybody). It is perfectly clear that Wilbon, and Aldridge never got ready and they are still asleep.


Mayor Wallace Otis of Florida took the media to task when he said “I hope they would be a little more careful the next time when a high profile athlete is involved in such an incident and don’t rush to judgment. He received a standing ovation. Kudos to Russ Thaler of Comcast Sports in DC when Chic Hernandez tried to put all the blame on national media for their rush to judgment, he reminded Hernandez that local media shared the blame.