ESPN’s Jalen Rose’s Comments About Duke Cause Media Firestorm, Race Debate

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Former Michigan basketball star Jimmy King weighs in on former Duke basketball star Grant Hill's comments to the New York Times.

“I hated Duke, and I hated everything Duke stood for. Schools like Duke don’t recruit players like me. I felt like they only recruited black players that were Uncle Toms.” Uh-oh, Jalen Rose, you probably shouldn’t have said that.

While the ESPN commentator says his comments in a documentary released Sunday do not reflect his thoughts now, the careless choice of words caught him up in a nation-wide media brouhaha when fellow NBA alumni and former Duke player Grant Hill called him on it with an op-ed in the New York Times.

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“In his garbled but sweeping comment that Duke recruits only “black players that were ‘Uncle Toms,’” writes Hill, “Jalen seems to change the usual meaning of those very vitriolic words into his own meaning, i.e., blacks from two-parent, middle-class families. He leaves us all guessing exactly what he believes today.”

Hill goes on to accuse Rose of suggesting black players in the Duke team of selling out their race, setting off a set off a discussion on race, education and black identity. Commentators from ESPN, the Washington Post, the Miami Herald, the Huffington Post and even the Wall Street Journal all dove into the fray to give their two cents on the situation.

Some defend Rose saying he was misconstrued; others applaud Hill’s commentary, and others yet use it as a chance to comment on what they see as a festering sore in the black community – this idea of something being more “black” than another.

Rose responds to Hill on ESPN’s First Take, and while he rebuts the claim that he likens African-American players playing for Duke to selling out their black heritage, he did add this:

“Well the bottom line is this, they do recruit a certain kind of player. They recruit a lot of players from private schools… I’ve never seen Coach K in Detroit.”

Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski opted not to add to the debate. “I’ll let my players, my former players, and the people in our program comment on all those things,” he told the New York Times as the NCAA tournament kicked off Thursday. “To me, you got to be in this moment, not in somebody else’s moment.”

Duke Guards Nolan Smith and Kyrie Irving also declined to comment on Rose. But when asked if he was offended by the “Uncle Tom” comment, the reserve guard Andre Dawkins said: “That’s a kind of sticks-and-stones thing. People are going to say what they want, people will always have their opinions, and they’re entitled to them. If that’s how he feels, obviously I don’t agree. But what can you do? I’m not going to transfer because someone thinks I sold out.”

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