Ever since Marshawn Lynch first made national headlines in college as a Cal Bear, he has been a polarizing figure. His relentless running style endeared him to fans, while his on-the field celebrations and occasional off-the-field issues fueled the thinly veiled hateful banter of conservative sports media and fans alike.
As Lynch became a star with Seahawks, the love began to temporarily overtake much of the hate because, after all, winning cures all but whether people cheer or boo the Oakland Raiders running back, one thing is for sure, Lynch has remained the same through it all. Even with his most recent national anthem protest (Lynch has sat several times in his decade-plus career) Lynch’s unbothered, true-to-self demeanor was on full display. When asked to address the elephant in the room, he responded by saying, “I think that elephant just left the room ’cause a little mouse ran in here. Didn’t they say elephants are scared of mouses or something? That motherf–ker left, cousin.” This is a definite addition to the list of great Lynch quips.
Although Lynch’s coach, Jack Del Rio has no problem with the Oakland native expressing himself, Hall of Fame player and Mr. Raider himself, Tim Brown blasted Lynch with the same tired narrative that many other “go along to get along” athletes have shoveled for what seems like forever.
“He has the perfect thing going on in Oakland. Why bring negativity to this incredible [and] positive situation? I just don’t get it,” Brown told TMZ. “I understand these guys, they’re trying to make statements and they’re trying to be a part of this world. But football is where people go to get away from all that stuff.”
Brown continued tap dancing for the gossip TV show, even going as far as saying that he hopes that Lynch’s protest is a preseason thing, because he would hate to see the Raiders’ season marred by people protesting Lynch and “all that kind of stuff.”
Marshawn probably doesn’t give a damn what Brown has to say about him or what he does, but given the fact that the Raiders organization is credited with the employing the first African-American head coach, first Hispanic head coach and first Hispanic starting quarterback in NFL history, it is crazy for Brown to think that Lynch should keep his views and “activism” outside of the stadium.
Ideology along those lines often leaves players on the wrong side of history. Take perhaps the greatest and most outspoken athlete in history, Muhammad Ali for example. Many of Ali’s African-American opponents took shots at his religious and social views. In 1965, Floyd Patterson had the unmitigated gall to say “the image of a Black Muslim as the World Heavyweight Champion disgraces the sport and the nation,” just before his first fight with Ali. He was TKO’d in the 12th round by the way. Patterson—who until Mike Tyson broke his record was the youngest heavyweight champion in history—was a great boxer, but he’s not remembered fondly, meanwhile, Ali was one of the most respected humans on earth. Not only because of his incredible skill in the ring, but also because of his stances outside of it.
Marshawn Lynch is no Ali, hell, he’s not even an activist by the dictionary definition. That is not to say that he isn’t active in his community. Lynch has donated plenty of his time and finances to youth in Oakland via his Fam 1st Foundation. Unlike Kaepernick, Lynch is not going to wax poetic with the media about why he does what he does, he just does it. It is that IDGAF attitude that inspires the community around him. In that sense, he’s not just an athlete, he’s a spokesperson, role model and anti-hero all wrapped up into one guy.
Being from Oakland, a city with a history of Black Nationalism and revolution, Marshawn can’t help but be the way that he is. He represents everything that Oakland is, good and indifferent and that is why people love him. The guy who is “here so he won’t get fined” is the same guy who helped several Seattle teammates set up their 401K’s. The man who has slapped the phone out of a paparazzi-like fan or two is also the man who recently offered 2000 free water park tickets to kids.
In a time where political correctness has given way to over-the top antics and fake woke-ness, Marshawn Lynch is a genuine human being. A walking, talking example of the “don’t start none, there won’t be none” credo. This is why we need Marshawn Lynch and why NFL fans will miss him when he retires for real and fades out of the public’s consciousness.