This is getting ridiculous.
Don’t celebrities know that in an era where there are hidden cameras capturing fast food employees licking their fingers, touching the hamburgers, then serving them, surely you will be held accountable for slurs made in front of reliable witnesses with equally reliable recording equipment.
I suppose not.
Radio host Don Imus is the latest to “spark a firestorm of controversy” for slurs recorded showing him using disparaging epithets.
After Isiah Washington, Mel Gibson and Michael Richards, Don is latest on the “Imus” apologize bandwagon.
Imus called the Rutgers women’s basketball team “nappy-headed hoes” (jokingly of course) during a game they lost to Tennessee. Radio producer Bernard McGuirk (who has not shouldered nearly as much blame but deserves to in my opinion), said it was “the Jigaboos vs. the Wannabees.” Are we laughing yet?
It led several African-American activists such as Rev. Jesse Jackson and Rev. Al Sharpton to demand the firing of Imus for the comments and are threatening boycotts.
If I have learned anything about protests it’s this: If the nature of your protest and the support behind you are less than the number of investor dollars at stake, it will probably fizzle out before it begins.
Look, for example, at 1983. Legendary sportscaster Howard Cosell was doing the play-by-play for a Monday Night Football game between the then-defending champion Washington Redskins and the Dallas Cowboys on ABC. Midway through the game, receiver Alvin Garrett was having a solid outing prompting Cosell to lament, “That little monkey sure does get loose doesn’t he?”
The comment, heard live on the air, triggered a similar controversy as protesters, ironically enough, like Rev. Jackson demanded he be fired. (Curiously, this was also one year shy of Jackson’s own racial slur controversy involving the Jewish community). Cosell claimed never to have made the comment, which videotape and 30 million viewers discredited. Later, Cosell offered a half-hearted apology although the protests continued-for a while.
In spite of it all, the sportcaster retained his job and was never seriously at risk of losing it. At the time, Cosell was one of the most profitable voices in sports, and no one was going to lose millions of dollars over a slur against African-Americans.
Imus went on Rev. Sharpton’s radio program apologizing for his comments saying, “The pressure to be funny on the air is pretty intense.” Which prompts the question: Who finds that funny? The largely white fanbase who probably feels he speaks for them? The “free speech” opponents of good taste-like brain-cell-impaired Howard Stern and the shock jocks who get paid to spit bile?
In the end, the controversy will fizzle away soon, and we will have blown another opportunity to use a celebrity racial tirade to prompt much-needed discussion about how we can call ourselves united against a so-called Middle Eastern menace yet still not be able to trust one another.
Perhaps Imus will think about that before he returns to work in two weeks.