An ESPN panel of sportswriters unanimously agreed Wednesday that Johnny Manziel is being treated differently than other athletes by the NCAA because he is white.
“Around the Horn” host Tony Reali asked the roundtable to respond to Dez Bryant’s comments comparing the NCAA’s leniency toward Manziel to the full-season suspension Bryant received while playing for Oklahoma State.
Manziel, known also as Johnny Football, is the Heisman-winning quarterback of Texas A&M, who last year became the first freshman to win college football’s highest award. He has been the subject of intense media scrutiny over the offseason for partying heavily and lying to cops about a fight.
He is currently being investigated by the NCAA for allegedly selling his autograph for $7,500, something that if true is a clear violation of NCAA rules that prohibit scholarship athletes profiting off of their own likenesses.
Despite Bryant making no mention of race being a factor, Los Angeles Times columnist Bill Plaschke kicked off the discussion by suggesting that Bryant’s was subtly saying, “he’s treated differently because he’s white.”
The rest of the panel agreed with Plaschke that the NCAA has a racial bias.
Tony Reali: As this Jonny Manziel story’s gone on and on and on, you’ve no doubt considered how the NCAA handled players like AJ Green and Dez Bryant — and by handle, I mean suspended. Dez Bryant with some quotes today, he said he’s mad, ‘Hell yeah I’ll be mad’ if the NCAA doesn’t suspend Manziel. But also that he doesn’t want Manziel to get suspended, but that he wants the NCAA to be fair, something they’ve had trouble being in the past. Buy or sell Bryant there, Plaschke?
Bill Plaschke: Oh, I’m buying what he says. Especially the part where he said that he thought Manziel was being treated differently because he went to Texas A&M. And what I think that really meant was — I think code word for, ‘He’s treated differently because he’s white.’ And I think that’s something everyone’s afraid to talk about, but I think it’s true. You talk about the Terrelle Pryors and the Dez Bryants and everybody’s ripping those guys and Manziel’s suddenly this social hero? Are you kidding me?
Woody Paige: I’m buying also. I think that because he was suspended 10 games, including for the Cotton Bowl, that Dez Bryant has a right to speak out. He was being frank, forthright, I think that it won’t be a story though. It’s a non-story in about three weeks when Alabama plays Texas A&M.
Bomani Jones: I’m going to buy it because I think people need to remember that the NCAA bullied Dez Bryant and used him as an example. He lied about going to Deion Sanders’ house, and they used that to establish a regime to scare people out lying because that could happen to Dez Bryant. I can see why he would be irate.
Reali: Back to Plaschke’s point though, he believes there’s code here, that he’s speaking in code and that this is about a white player and a black player. You see anything there, Bomani Jones?
Jones: I don’t know if that’s what he’s saying, but I’ll say it. And the other part is, Johnny Manziel’s got money that can stop him from being bullied like Dez Bryant didn’t have.
Pablo Torre: Yeah, I buy completely what Bill’s saying, he’s absolutely right in terms of why we create certain narratives around some guys and not others. And yes, Dez Bryant had no NCAA violations, remember that, zero. He lied to them, yes, but is that worth a whole season-long suspension? I totally see where’s he’s coming from.