Football pros talk in macho clichés, so most sports columnists might get a pass for crafting a tortured metaphor out of an Adam Gase line about wanting "alpha dogs" on the Miami Dolphins. But Armando Salguero isn't most sports columnists.
The Miami Herald's NFL scribe has staked out a position as one of the nation's most vitriolic voices on the Colin Kaepernick-inspired protests over police brutality against African-Americans. Salguero has railed against Kaepernick, cast doubt on the idea there's any racial injustice in America, and suggested protesting players were guilty of "a betrayal to the USA."
So, no, Salguero doesn't get a pass when he writes paragraphs such as this one in a column published yesterday and inspired by Gase saying he wanted "alpha dog" players to show up for voluntary workouts:
And alpha dogs don't stay on the porch licking themselves, or whatever dogs do, when their master has an assignment. Alpha dogs get to work.
They not only want to please but are excited about the prospect, with all that tail wagging and such.
Alpha dogs report to voluntary conditioning.
Forget for a moment Salguero's dubious history of writing about NFL players protesting for racial equality. Just take this metaphor on its own.
Seventy percent of NFL players are black. NFL coaching staffs and front offices are still overwhelmingly white. As of October, 26 of 32 general managers are white. Twenty-four of 32 head coaches are white. Thirty majority owners are white.
Salguero covers a sport where mostly young black players are asked to sacrifice their bodies and often their longterm physical health. They do so mostly under the direction of white coaches who work, mostly, for wealthy white men.
Describing those mostly white men as "masters" with "assignments" for their "dogs" — literal animals who would otherwise be "on the porch licking themselves" — is racist. Period. Full stop. (Gase, for his part, should be more careful with his word choices, but "alpha dogs" has become such a cliché in the American lexicon that it's totally divorced from its actual animal associations.)
Not that the Herald sees it that way. Salguero declined to answer questions from New Times about the column and instead forwarded a statement from his editor, Alex Mena.
"This was simply a play on words used by coach Adam Gase," Mena says. "There was no racist intention, and any racial inferences are your own."
First off, a piece of writing doesn't have to be intentionally racist to be racist. But also, Mena's response fits right into Salguero's favorite game of playing both sides of the issue.
Salguero spent all last season writing and tweeting dismissively about the players organized in a clearly explained protest against police brutality and racial inequality — not against the military or the National Anthem. Yet he accused the players of giving the military "the middle finger." He declared that "Christians don't take knees on Sundays in protest." He rolls his eyes at "what they say are racial injustices in America."
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The columnist has clearly taken a position: namely, that the protests are actually about disrespecting the military, that the idea of racial injustice itself is dubious at best, and that black players should shut up and entertain him.
Yet whenever he's confronted about these stances, he declares he's not the only one bringing politics to the fight, so questioning his racial attitudes is absurd. "I do not want to consider your friggan’ social message," he huffed last year. "You’re not going to convince me to march to your drumbeat by playing while I’m eating a hot dog and watching football."
Salguero has spent years writing about race and football. Yet the Herald seems to want its readers to consider his comments in a vacuum, completely divorced from the social struggle at the heart of the sport he covers — unless, of course, he's chiding the players for being on the wrong side of that fight.