Judging by a quick review of the collective firestorm ignited by his social media activity last week, if it weren't Brian Urlacher's mug plastered up on every other billboard from Indiana to the Wisconsin border I suspect the influx of inquiries to Restore Hair would have crashed their system. Judging by the highly dramatic tone of some of the reactions, I have to imagine there are an unusual amount of personalities throughout the Wide World of Sports who suddenly look like the Urlacher "Before" picture on those same billboards.
The reason for their sudden onset male pattern baldness? Brian Urlacher dared to share his opinion on social media.
Here is the social media activity that ignited the controversy:
Brian Urlacher liked this pic.twitter.com/kP7Epfvk99— Jerry Falwell's Marriage Counselor (@lib_crusher) August 27, 2020
Before I begin I should probably get a few things out of the way.
First, we'll continue under the assumption that Brian Urlacher intended to "like" the second post on Instagram and we'll ignore the possibility that no one ever in the history of the post social media world has EVER accidentally "liked" something on social media as they scrolled through their endless feed and that an accidental like could never, ever, never ever ever, have possibly been the reason for the second "liked" image. Someone tell my exes to read carefully into the sarcasm of the latter part of that sentence.
Second, comparing last week's NBA Player walkout in protest of a police shooting incident to Brett Favre's Monday Night Football heroics in memory of his Father is a poor choice of metaphor and an absurd comp. I'm not going to pretend I understand what type of alliteration was going on in Brian Urlacher's head with that metaphor other than some vague connecting of dots that lead him to: "Kenosha = Wisconsin = Packers = Brett Favre."
Third, and I can't believe I actually have to preface anything I write later with this, it was a tragic incident that lead to Jacob Blake's reported paralyzation and a tragic incident that lead to the 3 people shot by Kyle Rittenhouse. I certainly do not wish Jacob Blake or anyone to have to live a remainder of his or her life as a paraplegic for anything let alone coming at the hands of the police let alone if those shots had taken a different path and taken his life as they did from Kyle Rittenhouse's rifle on 2 people. No matter how misguided I believe their perspective, I am not happy those rioters in Kenosha lost their lives, nor do I wish death upon any rioters in the future.
All right, now that's out of the way...
I don't think Brian Urlacher is a racist.
I know, I know, he's easy to softly paint him as a racist because he's a WHITE man, so political activists disguised as journalists like Ben Joravsky will try to paint him as such. Now, Ben Joravsky is not exactly known for his sports commentary but since Ben Joravsky saw an opportunity to castigate a famous Chicago white person for their skin color, he rarely fails to take that opportunity and he certainly wasn't going to let this one pass. And, since I can't imagine he's unaware, people like Ben Joravsky hope you'll ignore his casual forgetfulness and/or understand it's just really an inconvenience for him to not include in their opinion pieces that Brian Urlacher is such a racist that he has a son named Kennedy with a black woman named Tyna Robertson/Karageorge.
No, I don't think Brian Urlacher is ignorant of the situation and I don't think he's suddenly become disturbed, as other outlets have suggested in something akin to the Goldwater rule. I don't believe that Brian Urlacher suddenly forgot how to interact with black people or how to be conscientious of their feelings. That his time away from the locker room has caused Brian Urlacher to be insulated from all cultural concerns of his peers. This is the same Brian Urlacher who, little more than 2 years ago, had ex-teammates and coaches of all races and backgrounds retelling story after story after story of how great he was as a teammate and a leader of a locker room of men of all colors.
Speaking of ex-teammates, I do not think, as former Chicago Bears running back, former Urlacher teammate, and fellow Restore Hair client and spokesperson suggested on his own social media posts, that Brian Urlacher is clouded by wealth and privilege or void of empathy, compassion, wisdom, and coherence.
The comment @BUrlacher54 posted is void of empathy, compassion, wisdom and coherence. But full of pride and ignorance! I pray for those who have been blinded by their wealth, privilege and earthly fame that breeds arrogance in their hearts. And those who refuse to— Matt Forte (@MattForte22) August 28, 2020
I'll go further and say that if Matt Forte's own social media posts weren't published in haste and if he truly believes what he said, he needs to do some equal reflection on his own wisdom and coherence and ask himself why he was so quick to jump to such an extreme response of his own against someone he ostensibly had no problems with as a teammate for many years. I'd ask him, what has changed in his perspective over the last decade?
Matt Forte wasn't the only one. Current Bears players, caught up in a political moment stirred up by people like Ben Joravsky, also made social media comment. I'm not going to include them all but you can find them with a quick search.
This one, from Sherrick McMannis, I emphatically agree with:
You never should put anyone on to high of a pedestal. Politicians, Athletes, Entertainers- No one. You may get disappointed— Sherrick (@SherrickM) August 27, 2020
Now that's great advice and I encourage everyone to follow exactly what Sherrick McManus said.
See, even though I think Matt Forte's and current Chicago Bears player's recent social media responses are nearly as absurd as Brian Urlacher's Brett Favre metaphor, it does not mean I won't remember Matt Forte as one of the most underrated and hard-working running backs to ever wear a Chicago Bears uniform. It does not mean I will not continue to be a Chicago Bears fan and cheer for all those players on the football field.
It's a novel concept, isn't it? Because I am a relatively rational person able to comprehend that within any organization there will always be people and things I disagree with that does not reflect on the entirety of the organization. In normal times, that concept would not be controversial and would be considered a reasonable and presumably inarguable position but, as I've found myself saying time and time and time again in recent memory, we do not live in normal times.
Apparently, that's a concept not so easily understood by the Chicago Bears front office.
Despite the absurdity of his metaphor mentioned above, Brian Urlacher did not post an opinion calling for the execution of a group of people based on any particular identity. He did not declare whatever identity he so chooses to identify with would never do such a thing. He didn't even state the identity of anyone in the NBA who walked out. Last I checked, the NBA and the additional staff who make their living in and around the NBA also come from a wide range of colors and backgrounds and identities.
He was sharing an opinion on a specific case against an individual event. That the Chicago Bears organization immediately felt the need to "distance themselves" from their Hall of Fame linebacker for an opinion he shared on social media that was little more than an alternative perspective, like all recent pandering by extraordinarily large multinational corporations, the Chicago Bears organization elevated their behavioral leadership to a level of farce. Unfortunately, I've said that about a lot of corporations and organizations lately.
Even if Brian Urlacher had posted something truly abhorrent, anyone in their right mind would not and should not expect to hold an entire organization accountable for the sins of anyone who's ever been a part of their organization and any person you meet who does actually believe they should is a bonafide crazy person. Especially that of something as innocuous as the game of football.
By now, you've likely figured out this isn't really about Brian Urlacher.
One of the greatest defensive players in Chicago Bears history does not need me to defend him. He does not need me to play the Mike and shoot the gap for him while he drops back in coverage. In fact, my body standing next to or in front of Brian Urlacher would be laughably ridiculous and far too meme worthy for me to handle. Over the course of his football career he's recovered from far more hits, both on the field and off the field in the media, than I would have ever known how to survive. And no, I don't hold any particular loyalty to any Urlacher. The closest I've ever been to an Urlacher is when Brian's brother, Casey, didn't hire me at his old cocktail bar somewhere between 15 years and 18 years ago which, judging by the other applicants that arrived for an interview while I was there, I was not well endowed with the requisite body parts.
To be honest, I came up with the featured image above first and thought it was funny so I decided to write a piece based around Brian Urlacher's social media posts and the sports media melodrama it generated. Brian Urlacher is going to be just fine without my help.
I'm just a guy trying to understand this strange, backwards, upside-down, alternate reality America in which I suddenly find myself living. An alternate reality where incredibly rich and influential black athletes are not asking but rather demanding they and others are not to be judged by the content of their character but by the color of their skin.
See, as everyone piled on Urlacher while we were still less than 72 hours removed from both incidents, the judicial process had barely even begun let alone come to any definitive conclusions on what exactly happened. But hey, everyone saw scattered 20-second videos of Jacob Blake and Kyle Rittenhouse and shared them and messaged them and sent them around the world and the individual members of the jury of the Court of Social Media reached their verdict and rushed to make it known in their own posts. Then someone denounced that post and made a response to that denouncement. And then they came back with another opinion of their own and this continues on and on and on until the whole world resembles the East Coast/West Coast hip hop rivalry from the mid-90s, which I don't think Hip Hop fans still have any idea exactly why they lost two of the greatest artists that genre ever produced that beyond geography and taste in bars and flow.
It's all so tiresome.
Subjectivity is normal. It's human. But I think this incident highlights a fundamental problem in modern American discourse. Our amazing technological breakthroughs have caused us to forget fundamental realities that not all people view incidents the same and experience it in an entirely different way. And if someone doesn't conform exactly to your experience and agree with your opinion 100% of the time, all the time, it doesn't make them evil and it doesn't make them ignorant or disturbed or automatically racist/sexist/bigot/homophobe.
Knee-jerk reactions are also human but, as a result of amazing technological breakthroughs, we now have the ability to instantaneously and immediately publish and share our knee-jerk reactions around the entire world. Joining up with like-minded individuals is also human, but it's our collective failure to pause and consider another's perspective before circling the wagons around those that do that is driving us so far apart.
Pretending or, God forbid, purposefully misrepresenting for political purposes either the Jacob Blake incident or the Kyle Rittenhouse incident as definitive and strictly black and white where there can be only one perspective and there is no gray area context in either case is one of the primary reasons why every day in this country feels like we're sitting on a powderkeg. It's why we've experienced this summer of chaos and tension and why it will continue until we can begin to admit this reality to each other.
It's tragic that Jacob Blake was shot. There's truth to the argument that just because someone had a troubled history does not mean they deserve a violent death at the hands of the police and there's truth to the argument that policing in America needs to be constantly reexamined and refined. But just because we're living in politically turbulent times that does not absolve all black men of individual responsibility and wrongdoing and there's truth that the police were called to the scene because a man with a warrant was on a property he allegedly should not have been, that he was allegedly harassing the woman who had accused him of rape and who had a restraining order against him, and that he admitted to having a weapon and was in the process of resisting arrest and reaching inside his vehicle and these police officers also wanted to go home safe that night.
It's also tragic that Kyle Rittenhouse shot 3 rioters in Kenosha. There's truth to the argument that many of the videos of Kyle Rittenhouse indicate he was there to help his friends and that he acted in self-defense and, had he not spent the last 4 months watching his political and cultural leaders around the country do little more than nothing to protect communities from violent demonstrations and wannabe revolutionaries, maybe he would not have stayed in Kenosha that night and his 17-year-old life would not have been forever altered from the life it could have been. But just because we're living in politically turbulent times that does not absolve the political and cultural leaders of doing nothing substantial to end the riots and looting nor from the surreal idea that someone felt they couldn't count on their elected state and local officials and needed to call some nearby high-school kids to play Wolverines(!) and defend what was left of their livelihoods and the American Way. And no, I am not blind that I can not understand an alternative perspective and sympathize with how it can be viewed as surreal watching a 17-year-old, who would go on to shoot 3 people, be given thanks and offered water by police earlier in the night. And, later, with his rifle dangling across his chest and his hands up as he walked down the street to turn himself in after shooting 3 people, feel as if I'm watching something from bizarro world watching those police drive right passed that same 17-year-old.
Before anyone further tries to twist this piece into something it's not, no, I don't think NBA Players should "shut up and dribble." No, I don't think sports commentators or media personalities should "stick to sports." No, I don't think that NFL players or any athlete or artist should not be freely allowed to try to use their voice and newfound financial power and all the relief that brings to lift others in their community and raise concerns they have. Of course they should feel free to speak their mind politically or speak their mind on any issue they so choose.
It'd just be nice to see NBA Players walk out on...say...the violence plaguing some of Chicago's neighborhoods, for one example. It would have been nice to see them walk out at any point in the previous 4 months of rioting and looting and say something like, "No, you're not going to do this in the name of black people."
And it'd be nice if everyone on all sides took a moment to think of a rational response before publishing instant social media reactions that immediately send us spiraling toward the lowest common denominator into things like racism.
I've referenced it before but I'm increasingly reminded of the Yoruba people's story of their trickster God, Eshu. I was first introduced to the tale through Joseph Campbell, but there are many retellings and variations. The one I remember best is as follows:
One fine day, Eshu was seen walking through the center of a village wearing a fine new hat.
A villager said, “Oh, did you see Eshu’s hat?”
“Yes, it was a lovely blue hat,” replied another villager.
“Blue?” said another.
“That hat was RED!”
“RED? No, it was blue, I tell you!”
“It was red! What’s the matter, are you mad?”
“How dare you call me mad?!”
This bickering continued until the whole village was lined up on either side of the main path Eshu had walked. On one side, the red hats. The other, the blues. Just as the village was about to erupt into violence and go to war with each other, Eshu came back and showed them his hat: red on one side and blue on the other.
As the villagers on either side of the road realized what happened they felt embarrassed, sheepish, and asked, “Eshu, why do you cause so much strife?”
Eshu laughed and said, “Strife? How could there be strife on such a fine day for a walk wearing my fine new hat?”
The moral to the story is simple and obvious, but I like it all the same.
Multiple things can be true at the same time. This is why eyewitness accounts are often unreliable. And pausing to gather as many facts and perspective as are available to you is why due process and our judicial system is so fundamental to holding this society together.
Our judicial system doesn't always function perfectly and there are people lost to failures of that system, which is tragic in and of itself. I know the system needs constant examination and to be continually questioned, but I also know none of the answers to those questions take the form of burning it all down and looting what's left while it smolders. In the same way, rushing to judge everyone and everything just for seeing things a different way, erasing or dismissing their histories and ability to speak freely and work things out in their own way, will never be the answer.
That will break us.
Joravsky, B. (2020, September 02). Move over, Iron Mike. Retrieved September 03, 2020, from https://www.chicagoreader.com/chicago/trump-urlacher-black-lives-matter/Content?oid=82447488. ↩︎
DAN WIEDERER, BRAD BIGGS. “The Best Brian Urlacher Stories from Ex-Teammates, Coaches and Friends.” Herald Review, July 30, 2018. https://herald-review.com/sports/football/professional/the-best-brian-urlacher-stories-from-ex-teammates-coaches-and-friends/article_bc365521-e0c8-513e-92b6-541f163cecba.html. ↩︎
Some of this time was a blur... ↩︎
Campbell, J. (2008). The Hero with a Thousand Faces. Novato (Calif.): New World Library. ↩︎