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Thursday, March 17, 2011

Grant Hill's Open Letter About ESPN's Fab Five Film Speaks Volumes

ESPN's "Fab Five" documentary examined the impact that Michigan's 1991 freshman class had not only on college basketball but society in general. During the film, the four members of the Fab Five who participated in the project* graphically described how they felt about the Duke basketball program and some of Duke's players. The opinions that the Michigan players expressed--specifically that the Duke players lacked toughness and that the black Duke players were "Uncle Toms" (a powerfully negative allegation for one black person to hurl against another black person)--are ignorant; the Duke players proved their toughness by beating the Fab Five every time Duke faced Michigan (including the 1992 NCAA Championship Game) and the "Uncle Tom" slur is ridiculous: less than four decades ago, Civil Rights leaders marched and died precisely for the purpose of ensuring that blacks would have equal opportunities in the educational system and the work force, so it is foolish to belittle anyone who correctly took advantage of opportunities to create a better life for himself and his family. Duke star Grant Hill was singled out for a lot of verbal abuse by the Fab Five players and he authored an eloquent response that refuted everything they said without personally attacking them; frankly, if I were in Hill's shoes I am not sure I would have made such a measured response. Here is a brief selection from Hill's essay:

I come from a strong legacy of black Americans. My namesake, Henry Hill, my father’s father, was a day laborer in Baltimore. He could not read or write until he was taught to do so by my grandmother. His first present to my dad was a set of encyclopedias, which I now have to remind me of the importance of education. He wanted his only child, my father, to have a good education, so he made numerous sacrifices to see that he got an education, including attending Yale. This is part of our great tradition as black Americans. We aspire for the best or better for our children and work hard to make that happen for them. Jalen’s mother is part of our great, black tradition and made the same sacrifices for him.

It is unbeknownst to me what Jalen meant by his convoluted reference to black players at Duke considering how little he knows about any of them. My teammates—all of them, black and white—were a band of brothers who came together to play at the highest level for the best coach in basketball...

My mother always says, “You can live without Chaucer and you can live without calculus, but you cannot make it in the wide, wide world without common sense.” As we get older, we understand the importance of these words. Adulthood is nothing but a series of choices: you can say yes or no, but you cannot avoid saying one or the other. In the end, those who are successful are those who adjust and adapt to the decisions they have made and make the best of them.

You can read Hill's complete rebuttal here.

While Hill focused specifically on the slurs that the Fab Five directed toward him and his teammates, Jason Whitlock declares that the "Fab Five" film rewrites history:

The legacy of the Fab Five is that they were on the cutting edge of America’s unashamed embrace of style over substance... The Fab Five are taking credit for the real accomplishments of John Thompson’s and Patrick Ewing’s Georgetown Hoyas.

It was Thompson’s all-black, Ewing-led teams a decade before the Fab Five that shook the foundation of college basketball, changed the complexion of starting lineups across the country, opened coaching doors that had previously been closed to blacks and paved the way for black sportswriters at major newspapers.

It's easy to forgive Rose for his lack of self-awareness. It's America. In this country, self-awareness and common sense are our most rare commodities.

What's not easy to excuse is the clueless robbery of what Thompson, Ewing, Bill Martin, Reggie Williams, Horace Broadnax and David Wingate accomplished.

They won championships--conference and national. They scared and intimidated the establishment. They were the inner-city black kids who left a legacy of jobs and playing opportunities for other impoverished minorities that exposes the lack of substance in the fads popularized by the Fab Five.

"Hoya Paranoia" is the story that deserves celebration and should serve as a teaching tool. Fab Five is a safe, harmless story celebrating black kids for choosing style over substance.

*Chris Webber, who later pleaded guilty to a criminal contempt charge relating to his false testimony about hundreds of thousands of dollars that he received from booster Ed Martin, declined to be associated in any way with the film. The court fined Webber $100,000 and ordered him to perform 300 hours of community service; the NBA suspended Webber for three games without pay after Webber pleaded guilty.

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posted by David Friedman @ 4:48 AM



At Thursday, March 17, 2011 12:09:00 PM, Anonymous DanielSong39 said...

I have to disagree with Whitlock; it was the 1966 UTEP basketball team that truly shook the foundations of college basketball - becoming the first college basketball team with a all-black starting five to win the championship, defeating a Kentucky basketball team that had five white starters.

This team is still considered to be one of the landmark teams in all of sports history, let alone college basketball. As for Georgetown - they're better known for being abused by James Worthy in the '82 final, being on the receiving end of Jordan's jump shot then throwing the ball to the wrong team.

At Thursday, March 17, 2011 1:35:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...


Yes, UTEP's seminal role in basketball/cultural history deserves recognition. I think that Whitlock's point is that Thompson broke a barrier by winning a championship as a coach in an era when many people questioned if blacks have the "necessities" to be coaches/GMs/quarterbacks, etc.

It is a bit of a cheap shot to say that Georgetown is primarily remembered for losing in 1982; after all, the Hoyas eventually won a title, so if they are "better known" for that one loss then why should we remember the Fab Five at all? They are "better known" for losing both times they played in the NCAA Championship Game.

At Thursday, March 17, 2011 1:58:00 PM, Anonymous DanielSong39 said...

Fab Five was a classic example of flash over substance. They may have had the street cred but were far from a dominating basketball team. Let's not forget that they were underdogs in both National Championship games and frankly did well just to reach the final both years.

When it comes to substance the '92 Duke team ranks far higher than the Fab Five. I would put that team among the 5 best NCAA champions in the last 30 years.

At Thursday, March 17, 2011 2:21:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


i totally agree with jalen rose grant hill missed the point. 1. almost all duke black players come from surburban backgrounds of affluent parents two parents. not to knock it but they dont recruit or go after kids from the inner city or across the boards like all other unerversites or most of them because it is a private school. what jalen lie about?

2. the uncle tom comment was how jalen thought wen he was 18 years old not now he made that pretty clear. he said he maturd understand it was a private school. and those are kids they go after. he never dissed hill or his family he was respectable. he was upset about hisd father left him and how his mother had too bust her butt 20 years at chrysler. it wasnt at hill at all he said that on documenmtary. u and hill should watch it. before u spin and take out of content wat jalen said. hill knew that jalen let him no that on the court wen he was 18. so its ridcolous wat white media members are doin ur not talking bout the rascvist letters that the fab five got. no u tryin to turn it and make a black on black thing thats unfortunate to me.

At Thursday, March 17, 2011 5:03:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...


1) The objectionable thing is that in the film the Fab Five players use the terms p**** and bitch to describe Hill and the other Duke players. The Fab Five players did not make it clear when/if their thinking changed.

2) Rose did make it clear in the film that he was jealous that Hill came from a good, stable family. I think that Hill objected more to some of the things that Jimmy King said and also that Rose, as the producer, did not do a better job of making clear what the Fab Five players think today. In their recent interviews, Rose and King have sent mixed messages at best.

I didn't know that Grant Hill and Jason Whitlock are "white media members." Hill and Whitlock make several very important points, two of which particularly stand out:

1) Pursuing the best educational opportunities should be praised, not belittled. What future does the black community have if a stable family life and being educated are considered signs that someone has "sold out" and become an "Uncle Tom"?

2) It is wrong to elevate style over substance. The Fab Five were fun to watch but what did they ultimately accomplish? They never won a conference title, let alone the national title, and the misconduct of their best player brought disgrace upon their school and led to all of their wins being vacated.

At Thursday, March 17, 2011 5:09:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...


I agree. There are actually some interesting parallels between the Fab Five and the current edition of the Miami Heat, particularly if the Heat flame out (pun intended) in the Eastern Conference playoffs. It is fitting that former Fab Five star Juwan Howard is ending his career as a bench warmer for the Heat, watching James and Wade commit many of the same mistakes (hubris, lack of attention to detail, celebration of self before actually accomplishing anything as a team) that the Fab Five did nearly 20 years ago.

At Thursday, March 17, 2011 10:24:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


u didnt watch first take or read anything on twitter rose said he clearly and king said thats how they felt then. the two issues rose had with duke. was they only go after affluent kids not giveing inncer city youth a chance or people with lower economic scale majority of blacks a chance there. he was speakin for majority of blacks not minority like whitlock and hill.

at no point did he ever say blacks with stable homes or blacks with a education is a bad thing. thats where u who miss the point. if anything he said he wished he came from that and resented the fact that he didnt. and his dad was a professional athlete left him hanging. and mom had to bust her butt like she did. he never resented grant hill personally he said that in doc. u guys totally took it out content. makeing the uncle tom thing bigger than the rascist letters ignorant whites was giveing them.

wat michigan won or didnt means nuthin to wat jalen said i think he was totally right a standup good guy and gives back to his community and he REAL. he told the truth on that matter. u really think jalen rose would tell black kids to be as dumbn as possible and not pursue a education or anyone. he has chasrter school program helping kids get a education come on david.

At Friday, March 18, 2011 5:44:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...


I watched the film, I watched First Take and I also listened to Chris Broussard's take; Broussard said that the worst thing one black person can call another black person is an "Uncle Tom." I understand the source of Jalen Rose's pain and jealousy regarding Grant Hill but it is still ignorant to call Hill and other Duke athletes "Uncle Toms." Rose did not back away from that characterization in his recent comments, either. I think that Rose should do a better job clarifying what he means, because otherwise the message that he delivers--intentionally or not--is a very damaging one for black youth, namely that getting a good education is equivalent to "selling out."

Obviously the racist letters that were sent to Michigan are despicable. That kind of racism stems from ignorance and fear and the only cure for those things is education. As Broussard said, Grant Hill and the Duke athletes are not "Uncle Toms" or sell outs--guys who cannot raise their kids because they get incarcerated are the sell outs.

The point about Michigan's record is that this particular collection of players has been glamorized completely out of context of what they actually accomplished on the court--and there is a connection between glamorizing style over substance and criticizing well educated champions for being "Uncle Toms": both fallacies represent a loss of perspective about what really matters.

Overall, I found the Fab Five film interesting and entertaining but if Rose and the other players do in fact realize that their attitudes regarding Duke were immature then they should very clearly deliver that message.

I certainly don't think that Rose would explicitly tell anyone to be stupid and uneducated--but the film he produced sends a mixed message, because he exults in how famous the Fab Five are even though the Fab Five did not actually have any tangible on court accomplishments and despite the fact that all of their wins had to be vacated due to NCAA violations. The unmistakable message is that style matters more than substance and being remembered for anything is more important than actually having a tangible accomplishment.

At Friday, March 18, 2011 2:34:00 PM, Blogger Unknown said...

I agree with what was said by Marcel. Rose was saying how he felt at the time as an 18 year old kid. I will also admit that I used to feel the same way about Duke players in the 80's when I younger however my kids grew up in the suburbs in a stable home and both have graduated from college. I remember how they would show how the graduation rates of the Duke players and praise them(which did deserve praise)however Georgetown had similar graduation rates and their players were coming from much lower socioeconomic levels than the Dukies.

At Friday, March 18, 2011 2:55:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...


Rose, King and the others should have made it more clear that, although they were jealous and resentful of Duke at that time, now they have a different perspective. Calling Hill and other black Duke players "Uncle Toms" is very inflammatory. Think of it this way: if someone did a movie about Duke and several Duke players said that they thought that the Michigan players were nothing but "N-words" and thugs what do you think the reaction would be? Would anyone accept that this was just what those guys thought as 18 year olds or would people be rightfully outraged?

In fact, though, the issue is even deeper than just slinging a slur at a group of people; the implication of what Rose, King and the others said--as Hill and Broussard so eloquently pointed out--is that seeking out educational opportunities is somehow equivalent to "selling out"/becoming less authentically black. That kind of thinking is very self destructive.

At Friday, March 18, 2011 4:35:00 PM, Anonymous khandor said...


Here is part of my take on this situation.

I was/am a big fan of what Don Haskins and UTEP accomplished in the 1960's whenthey revolutionized NCAA D1 Men's Basketball in a positive/progressive way which emphasized sound TEAM play.

I was/am a HUGE fan of what John Thompson and Georgetown accomplished from the mid-1970's to the mid-1980's when they revolutionized NCAA D1 Men's Basketball in a positive/progressive way which emphasized sound TEAM play.

I was/am not a fan of what Steve Fisher and Michigan accomplished thru the Fab 5 years when they revolutionalized NCAA D1 Men's Basketball in a largely non-positive/productive way which failed to emphasize sound TEAM play.

Basketball, played at its best, is a fantastic TEAM game.

Unfortunately, not everything which has happened in the game since the 1960's has taken it in a positive/productive direction, consistent with its most basic fundamentals.

At Friday, March 18, 2011 7:32:00 PM, Blogger vednam said...

I agree that Rose was wrong to call Hill an Uncle Tom. I also agree that if Rose's intention was only to say that's how he felt when he was a teenager, then he should be much clearer about what he feels now.

However, I disagree with some of the ways you have interpreted Rose's comments. It's clear that much of Rose's resentment stems from the fact that Hill enjoyed a nicer upbringing which Rose envied. I also think it's clear from Rose's various comments that to whatever degree Rose did/does consider Hill a sellout, it's not because he came from a middle class, two-parent household, but because Hill chose a basketball program that (in Rose's view) shunned black players of a certain background. Rose viewed (and maybe still views) the act of a black player joining such a program a kind of sellout. I didn't get the impression from Rose's comments that he views being educated or from a stable family as "selling out."

Also, unless I've overlooked someone's comments, I'm not sure why wanting to go to Duke is being equivocated with wanting to get a good education. There are lots of good universities (including Michigan) which had/have different recruiting practices than Duke. Criticizing someone's decision to attend Duke is not the same thing as criticizing someone's desire to seek educational opportunities.

I also think you went overboard in the following quote:

"The unmistakable message is that style matters more than substance and being remembered for anything is more important than actually having a tangible accomplishment."

Is any sort of favorable examination of a past team that failed to win a championship somehow discouraging kids from seeking accomplishment? One might argue, on the other hand, that constantly celebrating "winners" while deeming good players/teams that come very close but fall a bit short (like, for instance, the fab five) worthless also sends a destructive message. In any case, I don't think we should be trying to make sports coverage about morals. For most viewers, it's about entertainment, not taking home some sort of life-changing message.

At Saturday, March 19, 2011 3:27:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...


In general, I agree with the sentiments that you expressed.

At Saturday, March 19, 2011 3:42:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...


The problem with the film and with Rose's subsequent comments is that it still is not exactly clear what Rose thinks now and what message he is currently trying to communicate (particularly to black youth). I think that Rose should either have left the "Uncle Tom" comment on the cutting room floor or else he should have made it very clear that he now understands that in no way were the black players at Duke "selling out" their race by choosing to attend that school. Chris Broussard very eloquently explained exactly how Rose's comments fit right in with the unfortunate attitude of some people in the black community that being educated is equivalent to "acting white" and/or "selling out." Rose is doing commendable work with his school in Detroit but I think that the message he delivered in the film--which will resonate far more than anything Rose says in an interview or on Twitter--is lamentable.

Also, Rose has yet to clearly state that he does not currently consider black players at Duke to be "Uncle Toms"; he and Jimmy King waffled more than IHOP on that issue. I fully understand why many fans--and black fans in particular--do not like Duke; no one is saying that rooting for Duke is some kind of obligation (and I am by no means a Duke fan). Somehow, though, Rose transmogrified his negative feelings about Duke into an unjustified attack on Duke's black athletes. I just cringed throughout that whole portion of the film, because if you watched the whole film you realize that Rose, King and the others are a lot more intelligent than the way they came across during that segment.

I just completely reject the idea that being recruited by Duke/attending Duke is somehow "selling out" the black community--and I feel confident that if he were alive today Dr. Martin Luther King would be appalled by that sentiment. Dr. King literally gave his life precisely so Grant Hill, Jalen Rose and millions of others would have better academic and job opportunities.

I don't consider the Fab Five to be "worthless" nor am I saying that only championship teams should have films made about them; I am simply saying that in the case of the Fab Five the hype--not just from this film but in general--has outstripped their tangible accomplishments. The Fab Five were actually a Terrific Three (who each had long NBA careers) plus a pretty good two (one of whom never played in the NBA, the other of whom played in the league briefly); in their two years together they did not win a conference or national title and ultimately all of their wins were vacated. If you just look at their legacy on paper, there really is not much there; I understand that they are a cultural phenomenon and it certainly was interesting/entertaining to watch them play but they are remembered much more for how they looked and how they acted than for their actual results.

At Saturday, March 19, 2011 4:46:00 PM, Anonymous Michelle said...

Vednam, David has not directly addressed your (and Marcel's) point about Duke's recruitment policies, so I'd like to do it instead.

I think that you (and Jalen Rose) are guilty of unintentional racism against the Grant Hills of the world. Strong words? Let me explain.

Grant was raised middle class, oriented towards those values. Duke reflected those values. It recruited athletes who could represent those values. He chose Duke. He fit in splendidly--as he says, his teammates, black AND white, were "brothers"--specifically able to overcome racial differences in light of the powerful values they shared which bound them together.

Isn't this Martin Luther King's dream realized? Shouldn't this be praised?

According to you, no: Grant Hill has an obligation to associate, not with people who share the values he has been raised up with, but with people who hold many values his parents specifically shunned! And why??? All because he and they have the same skin color.

That's straight-up racist.

So what if Duke only recruited middle class blacks? The only thing that matters is that Duke recruited middle class ANYONE. Thats the OPPOSITE of racism.

If Jalen Rose resented Duke because he could'nt get in, I don't blame him. In fact, I strongly admire him (he's long been one of my favorite commentators for his thoughtful articulateness and his strong opinions) for creating a life for his CHILDREN that would enable THEM to attend Duke, if they so choose. But Rose's resentment of Duke should not touch Grant Hill in any way. Just because he's black, he can't go there unless it ALL blacks can go there? That's not freedom. That's racial bondage of the worst sort.


At Sunday, March 20, 2011 12:12:00 AM, Anonymous khandor said...


BTW ...

I, like you, am waiting patiently for the day to come when 'Big' John Thompson finally gets his due for revolutionizing the college game, through the fantastic work which he did at Georgetown University, dating back ... not just to the arrival of Patrick Ewing, Mike Hancock, Ed 'The Postman' Spriggs, Eric Smith, Gene Smith, Eric 'Sleepy' Floyd, Fred 'Oh, No' Brown, etc., but - to the early days at McDonough Gymnasium and the terrific teams of the mid-to-late 1970's led by Johnny Duren. When the 'Beast-o-the-['Big']-East' first rumbled through the West Regional of the NCAA Tournament - as a No. 1 Seed from an Eastern location, which was almost unheard of in those days - with late-night games in 1982, only visible on the Eastern seaboard well after midnight [EST], it was truly a sight to behold ... and, marked the introduction of 'noon-to-past-the-witching-hour' basketball for 'true-hoop junkies' everywhere, like you and me.

[NOTE: One of my favourite college games of all-time actually took place in the 1982 season ... i.e. the semi-final game between Louisville and Georgetown, in which both combatants 'gave no quarter and asked for none in return', for the entire 40 minutes, with the Hoyas finally prevailing, 50-46.]

IMO, Don Haskins [UTEP] was definitely a very special man ... and, so too was/is John R. Thompson, Jr. for whom basketball was merely a tool to be used for the purpose of education.

At Sunday, March 20, 2011 12:53:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...


I agree with what you said and I tried to make the same points, albeit more obliquely (i.e., without saying explicitly that Rose's position is racist). As I indicated in my most recent comment, I think that Dr. King would have been appalled by what Rose said and the way that Rose said it. I don't question Rose's intelligence or his commitment to education but I think that he exercised poor judgment both in how he edited the film and also in terms of what he has said in interviews since the film first aired.

At Sunday, March 20, 2011 1:02:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...


I was not a Georgetown fan--particularly when the Hoyas beat my home town U.D. Flyers in the NCAA Tournament--but I certainly have great respect for what Coach Thompson accomplished.

In 2005, I wrote an article for Eastern Basketball about the newly formed super-sized Big East Conference and I made reference to some of those great Georgetown teams:

Will the Supersized Big East Become the Greatest Conference Ever?

At Sunday, March 20, 2011 1:28:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


i agree with mike and vednam. classic case of people reading wat they want too rather than wat was actually said. jalen never dissed grant family he praised saying he came from a great family. wishing he came from that similar family. he looked at grant hill like why am i in this predicament wen my dad was a PROFESSIONAL ATHLETE as well. but he lived like everyone else in the hood cherosene sugar sandwiches etc. a real tough life. thats not grant hill fought he jus always felt like thats a life he should of had with who his dad was as well.

martin luther king wouldnt be a fan of duke shunning out poor players i dont think either? or going after a certain player not giveing everyone a chance haveing a false preception of people who come from certain areas.

rose did nuthin but tell the truth and stand up for the poor and got killed by some people who didnt read the story for it. he never called grant hill specifcally he called the system duke ran and player shunning of blacks it. grant is not a uncle topm nor is jalen rose a bad guy i commend jalen for his comments and have alot greater respect for him now than i did before.

At Sunday, March 20, 2011 4:15:00 PM, Blogger vednam said...

David and Michelle:

At no point did I co-sign any of Jalen Rose's views about Duke or what Grant Hill should have done. All I did in my comment was try to clarify what Rose seemed to be saying. Note that anytime I mentioned Duke's recruiting practices or what Hill's decision to attend Duke meant, I was only trying to interpret Rose's opinion.

I already stated that I thought Rose's criticism of Hill was unfair. I also agree that Rose needs to be clearer about what his opinion is now as opposed to 20 years ago. I just think that some of Rose's comments have been blown out of proportion and misinterpreted. (For instance, it seems to me that Rose's criticism of Hill was not based on Hill's background, as may are suggesting, but based on Hill's decision to attend Duke, a school whose recruiting practices Rose disliked.) That's the main point I was trying to make in my earlier comment.

I'm not prepared to offer any sweeping opinion of my own, one way or the other, regarding Duke's recruiting practices. It's not something that I have researched carefully enough.

Michelle wrote:

"So what if Duke only recruited middle class blacks? The only thing that matters is that Duke recruited middle class ANYONE. Thats the OPPOSITE of racism."

IF that is indeed true, then maybe it's not racism, but it is classism, which I think is just as wrong as racism.

At Sunday, March 20, 2011 5:49:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...


You apparently only heard part of what Rose said in the film; you are correct that he expressed jealousy/resentment that Hill's family situation was better than his but you are leaving out the part when Rose, King and the others called Hill and Duke's black players "Uncle Toms" (and other derogatory terms).

Dr. King stood for equal opportunity for all people; when Dr. King was marching, many schools did not have any black athletes but thanks to his efforts (and the efforts of others) the amount of institutional racism in our society has been reduced (not eliminated but reduced).

Rose's personal feelings about Hill are one thing but it is ignorant to make a blanket statement that any black person who goes to Duke is an "Uncle Tom." Broussard eloquently explained that such thinking stems from some longstanding pathologies within the black community relating to education (i.e., the idea that being academically successful is "acting white"). These are sensitive issues but they won't be solved by ignoring them and I think that Rose did a disservice to the very people he is trying to help by not making it clear that he no longer holds the immature views that he held as a young man (if, in fact, he does no longer hold those views).

How did Rose "stand up for the poor" by saying that any black person who goes to Duke is an "Uncle Tom"? That makes no sense and reminds me of the statement (I believe it was by Ice Cube) that many people in the 'hood were like "crabs in the bucket"--if one person has a chance to get out, the others pull him down, the way crabs in a bucket pull on each other. The opportunities that Hill had at Duke (and that Rose had at Michigan, which is of course also a top notch school) have enabled them to become well educated, wealthy people who can help others who are less fortunate. If a black athlete used the opportunity to go to Duke only to better himself and did not give back to his community, then perhaps he could be considered an "Uncle Tom" in the sense that he advanced his own prospects in a predominantly white society but did not help out anyone else (this is the criticism that Jim Brown made of O.J. Simpson years before the infamous double murder case, though I am not aware of Brown specifically using the term "Uncle Tom" in reference to Simpson).

At Sunday, March 20, 2011 5:59:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...


I already offered my response to your initial comment, so I don't have much more to add except for one point. Not every person is going to have the same chance to attend every school; not everyone is cut out to be an MIT-trained physicist or a big time athlete getting a full ride athletic scholarship to a BCS school (not because of race, but because each individual has different skill sets and different interests). The point is that, within the confines of a particular school's mission (for lack of a better word), equally qualified candidates should not be discriminated against based on color, race or gender.

The real issue here would be if Rose had been academically qualified to go to Duke and interested in going to Duke but Duke expressed no interest. I don't know this for sure, but it seems that Rose would have academically qualified for Duke--but it is pretty obvious that the 18 year old Rose considered black athletes who go to Duke to be "Uncle Toms." Why would Duke recruit a player who had such disdain for the program? Unless there is some evidence that Duke is discriminating against qualified applicants there really is not an issue here in terms of Duke's recruiting practices. The issue here is that many people in the black community believe that going to Duke or certain other schools is "selling out." This leads to a vicious circle, because the business and government leaders of the next generation are going to largely come from those kinds of schools, so if black people who have the opportunity to go there do not do so they are potentially hurting themselves and their communities.

At Sunday, March 20, 2011 7:32:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


wat black person who went to duke was athelte was poor? maybe 2 of them and coach k done had like 50. jalen is speaking of people like himself u was unaware he was poor at one time. i guess at least u didnt those two dont correlate black players who went to duke went poor. he called them uncle tom cause of the system they run. he standing up for poor people by saying u should go after them as well and not jus kids from well to do familys duke is sayin only good kids come from well to do familys. directly or indirectly by there practices.

rose was wrong to call them a uncler tom. jus based on the fact they went to duke he said it i said it as well. he was a 17 year old recruit wen he though that. rose never dissed haveing two parents or being smart. uncle tom is a black agianst black people. has nuthin to do with two parents or being smart. alot of broussard say is wat blacks used to tell each other it doesnt go on today. i grew up around kids some were in jail and out of jail i have no criminal record speak proper and have always had a job none of those guys ever discoraged me or made fun of me because of that. dont use rose either that was twenty years ago blacks thought diffrent than they do today.

i read the film and heard it properly the people critical jalen did not. they called them derogatory names cause they didnt like them ok wats ur point alot of people didnt like duke. but in the same sense they said they respected them and he said latenear had game he knew once he got on the court with him. plus jimmy king said he would shake hill hand today and he respected everything duke accomplished at the time.

jalen a real hero i respect he standing up for the poor martin would be proud of him. and shake his head at duke only lookin for CERTAIN kind of guys. the uncle tom comment was of a youngster. jalen doesnt think that today he has nuthin to apoligize for. jalen dad left him he never should of had to come up hard as he did. but he perserved was able to make it in life and never forget and try to help people who came from the same background that is a hero david.

At Sunday, March 20, 2011 11:49:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...


Do you think that Duke is recruiting poor whites, the kind of people sometimes inelegantly referred to as "white trash"? Each school sets its own academic standards and has its own standards relating to the on court and off court performances of their student athletes. As long as those criteria are applied consistently without regard to race, religion or gender there is not a problem. Do historically black colleges actively recruit wealthy white kids?

Rose's entire take is contradictory; is he saying that Duke should recruit more inner city kids or that black athletes should not go to Duke because to do so is to be a sellout? It's not even clear what action Rose is really advocating because his message is so convoluted. If he is identifying a problem then what is his proposed solution?

I don't think that Coach K is a racist or that he is running a racist program and I don't think that the many black players who have gone to Duke have somehow sold out their race.

Forget all of the rhetoric about Rose being some kind of hero standing up for poor people. Do you agree with his statement that Grant Hill and other black athletes are "Uncle Toms" for choosing to go to Duke? Do you think that if that statement only reflects what Rose thought 20 years ago he should have made that more clear in the film? After all, many more people will see the film than will see subsequent interviews. If you think that Grant Hill and other black athletes at Duke are "Uncle Toms" then what do you propose such athletes should do when Duke offers them a scholarship? Who is in charge of making up the list of schools that are "proper" for black athletes to attend without fear of being labeled "Uncle Toms"? Do you really think that Grant Hill is a "black against black people"? That is the definition you gave for "Uncle Tom" in your most recent comment.

Jalen Rose was a very good college basketball player and a solid NBA player. He is apparently doing good work in the Detroit area and I enjoy listening to him analyze games on ESPN. He is an intelligent, successful person but he made a poor choice regarding this one aspect of the Fab Five film. If Rose thinks that Duke should broaden its recruiting pool then perhaps he has some specific ideas about how Duke can do so within the confines of the program's standards for on court and off court performance. It is worth remembering that Duke not only dominated Michigan on the court during the Fab Five years but that Duke's basketball program was clean while Michigan's program proved to be so dirty that both of their Final Four appearances were vacated. All Coach K missed by not recruiting the Fab Five was the "opportunity" to face discipline from the NCAA.

At Monday, March 21, 2011 1:37:00 AM, Blogger vednam said...

I'm very confused by your latest response. You wrote:

"Not every person is going to have the same chance to attend every school; not everyone is cut out to be an MIT-trained physicist or a big time athlete getting a full ride athletic scholarship to a BCS school (not because of race, but because each individual has different skill sets and different interests). The point is that, within the confines of a particular school's mission (for lack of a better word), equally qualified candidates should not be discriminated against based on color, race or gender."

This sounds like we were having some sort of discussion about affirmative action, which we weren't. What did I say that suggested I thought everyone should have the same chance to attend every school? I thought it was clear from the context of the conversation that I was talking about basketball players who were good enough to play at schools like Duke or Michigan. In other words, "qualified candidates".

Later, you wrote:
"The issue here is that many people in the black community believe that going to Duke or certain other schools is "selling out." This leads to a vicious circle, because the business and government leaders of the next generation are going to largely come from those kinds of schools, so if black people who have the opportunity to go there do not do so they are potentially hurting themselves and their communities."

It seems that you are implying that going to Duke has been portrayed as selling out because Duke is a fairly selective school with a good academic reputation. However, I thought the conversation was specifically about going to Duke's basketball program, not the university in general. Anyway, I'll just point out that I've never seen athletes who go to other selective schools (Stanford, Georgetown, etc.) labeled as sellouts. I don't think athletes who go to Duke are sellouts in any way. I'm just saying the stigma (wrongly, IMO) seems to be attached to playing basketball at Duke, not going to a selective university in general.

At Monday, March 21, 2011 1:46:00 AM, Blogger vednam said...

In your response to Marcel, you wrote:

"Do you think that Duke is recruiting poor whites, the kind of people sometimes inelegantly referred to as "white trash"? Each school sets its own academic standards and has its own standards relating to the on court and off court performances of their student athletes. As long as those criteria are applied consistently without regard to race, religion or gender there is not a problem."

Am I misreading this, or are you suggesting that discrimination on the basis of economic background is okay as long as there is no discrimination with respect to race, religion, or gender? I have a hard time believing that you mean that, but that's what it sounds like you mean.

At Monday, March 21, 2011 3:47:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...


Marcel is attempting to defend what Rose said by suggesting that Rose is speaking up for black people who are poor. I think that Marcel is neither acknowledging the offensiveness of what Rose said nor clearly understanding the larger issues at hand regarding attitudes toward the value of education and how Duke's recruitment policies should be interpreted.

I am not sure what you misunderstood about my response. Marcel's defense of Rose is that Rose spoke the truth in the sense that Duke--in Rose's opinion and in Marcel's opinion--does not recruit certain kinds of players; my response to that is that every school has its own particular admission policies and standards and it is not realistic to think that every student or every student athlete is an equally good fit for every institution. If Rose has some evidence that Duke is discriminating against "qualified candidates"--to use your phrase--then by all means that is a subject worthy of intelligent discussion. Calling Grant Hill and other black athletes "Uncle Toms" hardly qualifies as intelligent discussion. The yawning gap of intelligence/wisdom between how Hill and Rose express themselves regarding this situation is really quite telling (which is not to say that Rose is unintelligent but merely to say that he has not expressed himself intelligently on this particular subject).

Only Rose can say exactly what he meant by calling Grant Hill and other black athletes "Uncle Toms"; I have no idea if Rose meant to include all blacks at Duke and/or blacks at other institutions, so I am not even going to speculate about that. Whatever Rose meant to say is not as relevant as the fact that what he did say is ignorant and false, not to mention insulting to Hill and many other people.

At Monday, March 21, 2011 4:07:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...


I am not at all endorsing discrimination based on a person's economic background. I am just saying that each academic institution sets its own standards and that as long as those standards are applied equally there is not a problem. Marcel keeps bringing up poor blacks but the reality is that a four year education at a school like Duke is very expensive and it is not realistic to think that every person who is academically qualified is going to be admitted to his/her first college choice.

It is not right to fail to consider an applicant because he comes from a poor background but the reality is that a private four year school with high academic standards is going to be very expensive and is ultimately not likely to have among its student body a large number of people from poor backgrounds. If people are being excluded specifically because they are poor then that is discrimination; if the reality is that more poor people want to attend Duke than are able to do so due to limitations on scholarships then that is not discrimination.

It should be emphasized that I am just speaking generally and I don't have access to specific data relating to who has applied to attend Duke and/or who has been accepted by the admissions department--though I suspect that Rose and Marcel also do not have access to such data.

The bottom line issue here is what specific problem is Rose trying to identify and what proposed solution does he have? Is Rose's issue with Hill and other blacks "selling out" by attending Duke? Does Rose therefore propose that to avoid "selling out" blacks should only go to certain schools? If so, isn't Rose proposing that blacks discriminate against themselves by limiting their academic and career options? Is Rose's issue with Duke being racist and/or discriminating against poor people? It hardly seems logical to say that Duke is racist when the program has produced many black players; the economic issue is more difficult to prove--and the reality, as I indicated above, is that it is more difficult for a poor person to attend a school like Duke regardless of that person's race--but if Rose has some substantive information to back this up then it is worth discussing.

It is weak for Rose to make an inflammatory statement containing vulgar and insulting words in a documentary that he produced and then to dismiss his statements as 20 year old opinions--without even clearly repudiating those opinions! Rose is intelligent enough to understand that those quotes would receive a lot of publicity; indeed, when ESPN promoted the film prior to its premiere, the clips containing some of those quotes were shown in heavy rotation.

Grant Hill wrote a lengthy, thoughtful essay making it crystal clear exactly where he stands; Rose should strongly consider doing the same thing but until he does the only way to interpret his remarks during the film is that they are ignorant and insulting.

At Monday, March 21, 2011 4:48:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...


Is it discriminatory that Ferraris are so expensive that most people cannot afford to buy them? Or is that just one reality of living in a free market economy? On the other hand, if a bank refuses to grant any kind of car loan to a qualified applicant--thus making it impossible for that person to buy a car at all--that is clearly discriminatory.

Apply that analogy to Duke; I doubt that there are many people from poor economic backgrounds at Duke, regardless of race, but even if that is true it does not prove that Duke is discriminating against such people. In that sense, Marcel calling Rose a hero who is sticking up for poor black people makes about as much sense as me complaining that Ferrari's marketing campaigns don't target freelance sportswriters.

Also, no one has really addressed the inherent contradiction in what Rose said: Rose called Hill and other black athletes at Duke "Uncle Toms" while also criticizing Duke for not recruiting certain kinds of players; does that mean that Rose wanted to be an "Uncle Tom" and go to Duke if he had been recruited by the Blue Devils? On the other hand, if Rose had no interest in being an "Uncle Tom" at Duke then why should he care whether or not Duke recruited him?

Again, just to be clear: I don't think that black athletes at Duke are "Uncle Toms" but if Rose thinks that they are then why would he want to be recruited by Duke at all?

The simple truth is that when someone says something that is stupid and offensive there is just no way to spin it that makes it sound intelligent and positive.

At Monday, March 21, 2011 8:29:00 PM, Blogger vednam said...

Thanks for clarifying. Just to be clear, I was talking about candidates for positions where tuition is a non-factor. In particular, the type of basketball players who are going to be offered scholarships regardless of whether or not they would otherwise be able to afford tuition at a place like Duke. If qualified candidates from a poor background are overlooked in favor of better off candidates for positions where ability to pay tuition is not an issue, then that is wrong. In terms of general admissions, it is technically discriminatory to reject qualified candidates because they are poor, but I do not think it is discriminatory to fail to provide scholarships to poor people who need them to actually accept an offer of admission. As you said, that's the reality of the free-market economy we live in. (I know that offering a poor person admission without any offer of financial support is effectively the same as rejecting them, so I understand why some universities might deviate from what I feel is a the correct, non-discriminatory admissions policy and take a person's financial background into account. I don't have a problem with that. I guess it's worth pointing out that a lot of top private schools try to be need-blind anyway, and that they get relatively few applicants from poor students.)

As for whether Rose would have wanted to go to Duke, I think the implication is that if Duke started recruiting players like Rose, then Duke would no longer be a place that shunned players from unstable backgrounds, and it would no longer be an act of (in the opinion of people like Rose) "selling out" to go there.

Anyway, I basically agree with most of your criticism of Rose, so I think this is a good place to end the discussion.

I'll just leave with this thought. I agree that it would be damaging if the type of attitude that Rose has about Duke discourages young black people from attending the university. I don't know to what extent the longstanding unfavorable impression that some black people have about Duke's basketball program has discouraged black students from attending Duke or made it difficult for Duke to recruit black students. But roughly 10% of Duke's undergraduate students are black. That is a higher percentage than most schools in Duke's peer group, and not much lower than the nationwide percentage of black Americans. So despite some strong opinions that have existed regarding Duke basketball, there are a lot of black students taking advantage of the educational opportunities Duke has to offer.

At Monday, March 21, 2011 11:35:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...


I agree that this is a good place to end the discussion.

At Friday, March 13, 2015 8:49:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I read these comments shaking my head at the ignorance. I guess a lot of people hate Duke. I say this because, Duke has had plenty of less fortunate players from poor families. Do you know why most of yo do not know this? Because these players were good enough to be recruited by Private High Schools. Duke recruiters get players from these Schools all the time. Duke has even recruited players from Africa. Luol Deng was born in the Sudan and fled with his Parents to Egypt due to ethnic cleansing. He went to a private school that was charity funded because his Parent's were poor and there he had basic needs met. He was so good at basketball that he was given a starting spot on the National Team. This led to him getting recruited to a Private Academy in the US where he eventually was recruited by Duke. Unless a person were inclined to look into his background, which most, like Rose would never have done, you wouldn't know how poor his family was. There are many other Duke players that came from poor families, so that talk needs to stop. It is one thing to not like a Program, to cast false aspersion's is just wrong. So, why is it ignorant people like Rose have these feelings about Duke??

Duke at the time, the early 90's was considered the cream of the crop of Private Universities. A Degree from Duke could just about punch your ticket into any job in your field of study.

Another factor in the recruiting at Duke is attitude. Mike Krzyzewski recruits player's with certain attitudes. Remember he played for Bobby Knight at Army. Krzyzewski has a very similar Coaching style minus the temper. He respects his player's but demands that they respect him.

Krzyzewski considers his men Soldiers and he leads them like a General. Bad attitudes are not condoned. This is why you do not see very many Allen Iverson's or Jalen Rose's at Duke. Krzyzewski has had a few in more recent years and they have either been one and done's, they transferred, received reduced playing time and have been removed from the team in one case.

As for the Fab Five, has anyone seen the movie "White men can't jump"? Michigan would have been Wesley Snipes, Duke.. Woody Harrelson. They always wanted to look good. Duke wants to play fundamental ball. It is that simple. Krzyzewski plays team ball. He has always tried to have a team of 5 on the Court, not a Team based around one or two Star's. Some Coach's like having a brash, tough, street kid with attitude that can go out and dominate most teams. Coach K wants a Team of five that can beat ALL teams. That is why he has the most win's in NCAA Mens Basketball and he got those in one of the toughest Conference's in College Sport's. Like them or hate them, they are always one of the top teams to beat and proof of how much Coach K means to the program is easily seen by looking back to the season he had to take off to recover from a bad back and back surgery. Duke pretty much stunk. Since then, he learned to have an Assistant Coach ready to take the helm at all times.

Grant Hill and his Teammates out played and beat Michigan every time they played them. They won the Championship against them. To call Grant Hill a b$%ch and a p&$$y was so completely uncalled for, but laughable at the same time due to the fact Rose and Company lost to them every time. How can you say someone that never lost to you is weak?? It is just proof of his attitude and pretty much his lack of intelligence at that time. Since then, I think he has learned to use his street smarts to know when to run your mouth with your brain in auto-pilot and when to log on to the old grey matter and think before you speak. Dealing with Agents and Management must have taught him a little. Still, as one comment said, he should have left those segments of film on the editing room floor. Since he didn't, he will go down in History as an ignorant person, who hurls racially insulting slurs at his own race.


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