A Unique Perspective

By Dave Zirin
Updated: September 9, 2009

Kermit Washington

Kermit Washington

WASHINGTON — When Kermit Washington saw highlights of Oregon running back LeGarrette Blount punching Boise State linebacker Byron Hout following the Ducks’ 19-8 loss to the Broncos last Thursday, his heart sank.

If anyone could understand what Blount would face, it’s Washington.

On December 9, 1977 Washington earned a place in infamy during a game between the Lakers and Rockets when he punched Rudy Tomjanovich, breaking his jaw and leaving him unconscious in a pool of blood.

A former academic All-America at American University, Washington has gone on to fight against hunger and HIV through his organization, Project Contact Africa, but he will always be known for The Punch.

“I wish it never happened, but it did,” said Washington. “30 years later, I am still identified with that no matter where I go. They say, ‘Kermit, you’re the guy who hit somebody,’ and that’s life.”

“There’s nothing you can do about it. I always wanted to be a politician, but after that being a senator or being a congressman was out of the window.”

Washington was concerned for Blount’s future, and at the request of Oregon coach Chip Kelly, spoke with Blount on the phone Sunday.

“This is what I said to him: ‘Don’t make any excuses because nobody wants to hear that,” said Washington. “You do need to be public with your regrets. Write an open letter to the University.”

“Write a letter to the Oregonian.

And just say your sorry. Say publicly the truth: that you embarrassed your school, your coach, and your team. People respect honestly, courage, and truthfulness.

“Even those who think the worst about you and will always think you’re a thug. They might not like you but they respect those traits. It’s very important that you write the letter in your own words. No PR people.”

“And remember: no excuses. You are going to lose people if you say, ‘he taunted me.’ And don’t make it a black white thing [Hout is white]. Don’t even consider that route.

You will go the way of Maurice Clarett: from bad to worse.”

Washington also told Blount to take full advantage of the fact that he will be able to keep his scholarship and stay in school and practice with the team, even if he is suspended for the season. (Though Blount skipped his first practice with the Ducks on Monday.)

“There are those at the university who want you to disappear,” Washington told Blount.

“Don’t. Do your school work. Cut your hair, and change who you are. It you turn yourself around, people will support you.”

“Everybody will be running to you for interviews. Trust me. Learn from me. You can’t turn people around from what you did, but you could turn people around as time goes on.”