The history of racism at the quarterbacking position is not a pretty one. It might even be said that to some extent, the history of anti-black sentiment, at least at the quarterbacking position, is the history of the CFL. Or vice versa.
It may be difficult to talk about. Especially when an “unbiased” mainstream media generally shies from such subjects. But considering where we are in history, and where we are in football, where else but to your friendly neighborhood Alouettes Blog can you turn for an analysis of such a sensitive topic? So I’ve come out of retirement, perhaps “just this one time”, to give it a whack. We’ll see if we can ferret out what’s happened to Alouettes quarterbacks, and why.
Ok. So let’s kick this off by discussing the Rakeem Cato situation. I’ve been surreptitiously polling friends and acquaintances about why Cato doesn’t have a job anymore. The consensus seems to be that, because of his blowup with Duron Carter, Cato proved he’s an out-of-control hothead and has no place in football. Let’s examine this narrative for flaws, shall we?
Duron Carter is an asshole. Let’s get that out of the way for starters. Do a Google search or not. He’s been described by fellow players as the “worst teammate ever”. When Carter was signed by the Alouettes, he believed his quarterback was going to be Kevin Glenn. He figured that with Glenn, he had a good chance of becoming the league’s leading receiver, and would take a GIANT step along the road to his dream: a career in the NFL. Just like Daddy.
As for Cato, in his 2nd year he believed that his role was to backup Glenn. Glenn would then be a mentor to our young, talented quarterbacks, taking the heat off and easing their way into the starter’s role with his leadership, experience and calming presence.
With a disastrous Oline anchored by left tackle Jacob Ruby, Glenn was leading the league in being pummeled, mangled and sacked. And the Alouettes, under offensive coordinator Anthony “Zombie” Calvillo and GM, HC and GOD Jim “Asshat” Popp, were floundering at the start of last season.
Determined to dump some salary on a losing team, and what was presumed to be a squad WELL over the Cap, Popp traded Kevin Glenn for a 4th round pick in the 2018 draft. A 4th round pick for a potential Hall of Fame quarterback!
But the insult to Glenn was nothing to heaving a dysfunctional squad of squabbling players and incompetent coaches SQUARELY on the sloping shoulders of a second year quarterback, one year removed from NCAA football. But that was not the worst of it.
Duron Carter, incensed that his chances at morphing into the “world’s greatest receiver” had been dealt a death-blow, freaked out and proceeded to attack and belittle the Alouettes’ newest starting QB. And here’s where things get a little difficult.
I’d said to a few friends that I was sure that Cato’s “ghetto” way of expressing himself was going to get him into trouble. I had no problem with it. AT ALL. But anyone who’s spent ANY time dealing with racism had to know that lurking there, just out of the corner of everyone’s eye, was this issue, just waiting to pounce the moment it got a chance. Oh. Nobody was going to come out and accuse Cato of not being fit to quarterback the Als because he was too “street” or TOO black. But you’d occasionally hear enough “dog whistle” hints that Cato needed to “improve his ability to communicate” to know this thing was NOT going away.
So when the blowup with Carter happened, Cato’s explanations, as he was obviously still upset and hell…I get incoherent when I have blood pulsing in my ears…made little sense to anyone. What Cato was attempting to say by, “respect due to a dog” was that Carter, arrogant ass-shit that he is, was destroying team morale, and personally attacking him for not being Kevin Glenn…essentially.
When I wrote the post touting Cato as the “New Sheriff in Town”, I may have been attempting a little damage control. Still, with what I’d observed in my not infrequent visits to the Alouettes’ practice facility, and of course on TV during games, was a team ENTIRELY bereft of leadership, and Cato, a 2nd year quarterback attempting to bring order where there was none. After all. He couldn’t have been numb to the fact that his career was on the line. And that suddenly he’d gone from the heir apparent, sitting patiently behind a veteran starter, to the guy who had to lead this team moving forward. It was a ridiculous situation. And Cato went STRAIGHT at the MAIN problem: Duron Carter.
If anyone still doubts Carter was the main issue with the players on the Alouettes, I’d be interested in hearing WHY Chapdelaine’s FIRST act when he took over from Popp as HC, was to get rid of Carter and his cousin/flunky Kevin Stafford.
So much for what happened.
The response to what happened was MORE than predictable. Cato was blamed…WHOLESALE. Instead of supplying the background for WHY Cato reacted as he did, the media’s blame was placed entirely on him. One might say he was slowly drummed out of the league. But WHY?
Cato’s play was no worse than Glenn’s. The Alouettes still led the league in being sacked. Jacob Ruby was still a revolving door with a sign stating: THIS WAY TO CRUSH OUR QUARTERBACK. And yet, once Chapdelaine took over, and Cato had his opportunity to shine with a new Oline and better playcalling, that’s exactly what he did. But I knew…oh I was SURE. That last game Cato played, where he ran for over 70 yards on that one play, to everyone’s amazement, my only thought was: “Keep running kid. You ain’t NEVER getting back on this field”.
And I was right. So what was behind it all? There’s no doubt Cato made some powerful enemies when he blew up at Calvillo/zombie on the sidelines. But Cato was 100% RIGHT. And Calvillo was replaced for his zombie offense, and his incomparable incompetence…just as he was 100% right about Carter. After all…Calvillo and Schonert before him were tanking Cato’s career…just as Carter’s peevish narcissism was ruining the Alouettes and Cato’s chances in 2016. How SHOULD he have felt about that?
And yet one can’t help, in these circumstances, but wonder if race had anything to do with it? Am I saying a white quarterback could have done the things Cato did and still be playing? Obviously that may be true, but that’s NOT my point. Any black quarterback who WASN’T recognizably “ghetto”, who presented a well-groomed and Oreo-approved facade would, at the very least, have a job in football right now. Cato is a “folk hero” in one of the most brutal ghetto-warzones in America. And he looks and speaks the part. If anyone DOESN’T think that had a HUGE part in Cato’s fate…then let me introduce you to Colin Kaepernick.
Some might suggest that NFL owners are in quite a pickle with this Kaepernick situation. There are racists in the White House. Hell…it’s the Goddamn Racist Renaissance in the United States. Kaepernick’s “Black Lives Matter” advocacy might make signing him a REAL problem at the turnstiles. Of course, there are probably as many NFL fans ready to boycott the NFL if Kaepernick ISN’T signed.
The issue is OBVIOUSLY a racial one. Still…despite everyone freaking out WHENEVER a black man expresses ANY negative emotion…the slogan “Black Lives Matter” is about as non-threatening as it gets. They could have made it “Please Mr. Policeman, don’t shoot us. We’re human beings”, and some racist somewhere would take offense. Taking a knee in the support of a political cause is HARDLY a blip on the radar when it comes to NFL players’ behaviors:
…you cannot have people [in the NFL] associated with double murders, dog fighting, rape, drug use, vehicular manslaughter and violence against women, from owners all the way down to rookie players … [and] a man who takes a knee and says we can be better [as a society], cannot even be given a chance to compete for a roster spot.”
The contention that owners or their representatives haven’t met and blackballed Kaepernick, considering his career and skillset, and the fact that he still doesn’t have an NFL contract, borders on Trumpian covfefe*. And as Pete Rose continues his fight to be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame, I’m reminded of another blacklisted Alouette, accused but never convicted.
Adrian McPherson may have been talented enough to make the CFL Hall. We’ll never know. If I EVER write anything serious about the Alouettes, the title will be something like: Adrian McPherson: The Best Quarterback that Never Was. McPherson was accused of betting on his NCAA games. And while Rose presumably bet against his own team and then made sure they lost and he collected, McPherson WON all the games on which he was accused of betting. While inadvisable, and showing REALLY bad judgment, it’s hard to understand why betting on yourself to WIN is anything more than EXTREME overconfidence.
But McPherson was blackballed his whole CFL (and NFL) career. Hell…they even had the Saints’ team mascot run over him with a golf cart, injuring him and ruining his ONE chance to be an NFL quarterback. No shit. That actually happened. McPherson went down swinging with the Alouettes. To the last, he claimed that he hadn’t been blacklisted. Despite almost NEVER seeing the field in 5 seasons…in ANY meaningful game. And the ONE game he DID play in, he almost set a record for Alouettes QB rushing, and beat the Ticats in Hamilton, something the zombie only did ONCE in his interminable career. There were MANY people who belittled me, claiming that blacklisting players NEVER happens, in any sport. I’m sorry Adrian. I guess I should have been more insistent when we talked.
Well I’m not Trump. And I believe what I see with my own eyes. Blackballing happens. And racism is as good an excuse as any other. It’s a difficult topic to talk about. More difficult still is the fact that everyone has racist feelings, sometimes hidden deep inside, motivating behavior and decisions without our knowledge. And even more difficult is suggesting to a friend that any such decision might have had a racist motivation. Nobody wants to hear that.
But when racism greases the easiest path available, or the easiest explanation, that greasy path may trip up the career of a talented and deserving athlete, and human being. I have championed McPherson and Cato BECAUSE of that hidden motivation and agenda in others, and I will continue to fight against injustice, wherever I see it rear it’s VERY ugly face.
Maybe not here. But I will.
This I pledge.
*“Congratulations. You are the 1 millionth person to use the word “covfefe” in a Trump-related article, blog or comment board.”
“Cool. What do I win?”
“Win? WIN? You win nothing. Trump wins. Isn’t it enough you get to quote our glorious LEADER?”
“No. Not really. Um…”
“What is it?”
“This is/was a sports blog. Canadian at that. I’m not sure I qualify.”
“Nope. You’re right. Never mind.”
“Whew. Dodged a bullet there. Cheap bastard.”