Racist Remarks 'The Greek' Got What He Deserved

Posted: January 20, 1988

One of the best-kept secrets in all of sports is that Jimmy "The Greek" Snyder is a closet sociologist. Jimmy, who handled color commentary at sports events for CBS television, was fired last week for doing what apparently comes naturally. With a closed mind and open mouth, the Greek launched into a soliloquy concerning the benefits of slavery.

In the WRC-TV interview in Washington last week, Snyder said blacks had been bred to be better athletes since the Civil War, when "the slave owner would breed his big black with his big woman so that he would have a big black kid. That's where it all started."

He added that blacks were "bred" to have "high thighs and big thighs that go up into his back. And they can jump higher and run faster because of their bigger thighs, you see. The white man has to overcome that, but they don't try hard enough to overcome it."

Snyder added that if blacks "take over coaching jobs like everybody wants them to there's not going to be anything left for the white people."

I always thought of slavery as a negative part of black history. I never appreciated the advantages of people being held in chains, forced to work the fields without pay and the destruction of family units. Now Jimmy tells me I should recognize the value of slavery.

The CBS network fired Jimmy the Greek from his nearly $500,000 a year job and issued an apology.

What disturbs me is that such nonsense is being heard far more frequently than it was in the past. Racism once remained underground. But increasingly, we find that many whites are willing to speak openly about their fears and innermost feelings.

Many insist such comments are not racist, but a slip of the tongue.

Some of those who have uttered loathsome remarks about Hispanics, Jews, blacks and Asians, should know better. I disagree with Jesse Jackson and Bill Cosby who gushed that Jimmy The Greek should not have been fired.

The truth is that Jackson has evolved into a true politician. His offensive references to Jews was the biggest blunder in two political campaigns. Jackson's knee-jerk forgiveness of Snyder is really a blind appeal to voters on his own behalf.

Last April, Los Angeles Dodgers vice president Al Campanis was asked if racial prejudice still existed in baseball. Said Campanis: "No, I don't believe it's prejudice. I truly believe that they (blacks) may not have some of the necessities to be, let's say, a field manager, or perhaps a general manager.

"So it just might be - why are black men, or black people, not good swimmers?" he asked. "They just don't have the buoyancy." Campanis, with the Dodgers organization for 40 years, was fired the next day.

In 1983, Tom Brookshier was suspended from his job as a CBS sportscaster for a slur with racial overtones he made during a promotion of a nationally televised NCAA basketball game. Brookshier referred to the Louisville team having "a collective IQ of about 40." Since the team's starting five were all black, it was generally accepted that Brookshier's comment was racially motivated.

Analyst Rick Barry in 1981 referred to play-by-play man Bill Russell's wide grin as a "watermelon smile." Barry was fired.

Such abuses have not been limited to the United States. Former Japanese Prime Minister Yasuhiro Nakasone denied that his comments concerning the poor level of education among blacks and Hispanics were racially motivated. His comment caused an international furor and Nakasone quickly issued an apology.

Sportscaster Howard Cosell's reference to Washington Redskins' Alvin

Garrett as "that little monkey," caused widespread resentment among football fans. Like others, Cosell denied his remark was racial.

Arizona Gov. Evan Mecham, now under indictment and facing a possible recall, has been involved in several controversies. First he rescinded the holiday in his state named for the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and later made a reference to black children as "pickaninnies."

CBS's Mike Wallace was taped making a reference to blacks and Hispanics involving watermelon and tacos. Wallace quickly apologized.

Former Secretary of Agriculture Earl Butz told a racial joke which demeaned blacks. He had to resign.

It's easy to apologize for racist remarks, after the damage has been done. Jimmy The Greek Snyder may somehow be a decent guy, but his remarks were ignorant and insensitive. America is one of the few countries in the world where a man who has lived 70 years can earn hundreds of thousands of dollars, while stumbling around in the darkness of his mind offending huge segments of the population.

CBS was right in firing Snyder. Odds are, he'll never understand what he did wrong. But ignorance is no excuse. Racism, even when it's casually uttered, is not acceptable.

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