Sports

ESPN analyst Jalen Rose levies ‘Uncle Tom’ charge against black Duke players

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Jeff Poor
Media Reporter

It’s been almost 20 years since the University of Michigan vaunted “Fab Five” first played in the NCAA Men’s Basketball Division I National Championship. They lost that game 71-51 to a Duke Blue Devil team led by head coach Mike Krzyzewski, and former “Fab Five” member Jalen Rose is still bitter.

On Sunday night, ESPN aired its “Fab Five” documentary commemorating the 20th anniversary of the team’s 1991 NCAA tournament run and Rose had some disparaging comments about his championship opponent from that year.

“For me Duke was person,” Rose said. “I hated Duke and I hated everything Duke stood for. Schools like Duke didn’t recruit players like me. I felt like they only recruited black players that were Uncle Toms.”

Jason Reid, a sports columnist for the Washington Post, wrote on Sunday that Rose’s comments were misguided and inaccurate.

“Rose isn’t the first to express such thoughts. There has been a long, ongoing debate among black folk about the issues he raised,” Reid wrote. “As for Rose’s accusations about Duke, he appears to use ‘Uncle Tom’ to refer to Duke players from economically successful two-parent families rather than blacks who act subserviently to whites — the latter being the term’s most offensive and common meaning. I got to know several former Duke players during my time as a NBA beat writer, and none fit the latter description. But this is about more than Rose’s inaccurate generalization, which he could not possibly support without knowing the background of every African-American player Krzyzewski has recruited during his more than three decades at the school.”

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Rose said his view was rooted in a have/have not, us-against-the-world frame of mind.

“I was jealous of Grant Hill,” Rose said. “He came from a great black family. Congratulations, your mom went to college and was roommates with Hillary Clinton. And your dad played in the NFL — a very well-spoken and successful man. I was upset and bitter my mom had to bust her hump for 20-plus years. I was bitter that I had a professional athlete that was my father that I didn’t know. I resented that more than I resented him. I looked at it as they are who the world accepts and we are who the world hates.”