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J.A. Adande

He Has to Give Bradley the Error for This

October 08, 2004|J.A. Adande

Once again, Milton Bradley is way off base, caught in a rundown between reason and his own hypocrisy.

Bradley expects black reporters to watch his back and cover his mistakes -- which are mounting like a Dodger late-inning rally -- when he can't even take an extra minute to help a black reporter do his job.

You're out, Milton. Don't try to play the brother card now with The Times' Jason Reid, not after I saw you deal a joker to Art Thompson III of the Orange County Register.

On Aug. 16, Thompson was interviewing another player while Bradley updated a group of reporters about his injured hamstring. When Thompson arrived at Bradley's locker and inquired about the hamstring, Bradley went off on him, told him he had just answered those questions and was sick of people asking the same things over and over.

Thompson went away, then returned, reminding Bradley that Bradley had blown him off when Thompson had introduced himself several weeks earlier, telling Bradley he didn't appreciate the treatment.

Bradley responded, "If I treated you like that the first time, then why the ... did you come back the second time?"

As if it were Thompson's fault Bradley was a jerk.

So that's the way Bradley treats a fellow black man.

But on Wednesday in St. Louis, when Reid asked if any Cardinal fans had heckled Bradley in whis first playoff game after a five-game suspension for throwing a plastic beer bottle back into the stands, Bradley accused Reid of trying to make him look bad in his stories and with his questions.

"You're an Uncle Tom," Bradley said. "You're a sellout."

That's as bad an insult as one black man can hear, coming from another black man. It's an implication that you'd turn your back on your own people.

The argument became heated, and Reid was pulled away by Dodger players.

To paraphrase Chris Rock, I'm not saying Reid should have gone there ... but I understand.

Bradley questioned the core of his character in the middle of the clubhouse.

Bradley, as he said in his tearful apology after the suspension, has some issues. If those issues prevent him from going about the daily business of his job -- and yes, answering reporters' questions is part of the deal -- he shouldn't be on the playoff roster.

There are more issues on the table for the rest of us involved however remotely in this story.

Should there be a different set of rules for black reporters covering black athletes?

In short, no. Every reporter has a duty to be fair to everyone.

But because of the huge discrepancy between the number of African Americans in sports and the number of African Americans in the press box, black reporters have an extra burden to provide the black perspective, a perspective that often gets dropped in the cultural gap between young black athletes and middle-aged white sportswriters.

That doesn't mean all black athletes appreciate the effort. Many don't distinguish between the races of those people covering them. They see white notebook paper and black microphones, and that's it. We're all "the media."

It also doesn't mean I issue a free pass to every black man in a jersey.

There's no racial explanation for 0 for 5 with three strikeouts. And there's no escaping from wrong, whether a crime or an act of stupidity.

For me to ignore these mistakes and offer nothing but excuses would cost me my credibility -- the only merchandise I have to sell in this store.

But I guess I'm supposed to sell myself out, judging from some of the e-mail I've received this week after I wrote a column critical of Kobe Bryant.

"Why don't you do something constructive, like supporting this young brother in this uncertain time," one reader wrote.

Here's a better idea: Why don't we rally behind the people making a difference instead of the ones making court appearances?

I had 200 people bashing me for ripping Bryant, but only a handful of e-mail offering to help after I wrote a column about Eric Davis and the former big leaguer's efforts to bring organized baseball back to his old 'hood in South Central, or saying thanks for introducing them to the latest group of bright minority students who made it through college, thanks to the Magic Johnson Foundation.

For all those who wrote to me expressing their heartfelt concern about the need for black people to support each other in the wake of the Bryant column, I'll give you a second chance to act on it. Go to www.magicjohnson.org and find out how to be a mentor for the Taylor Michaels Scholarship Fund recipients. Or e-mail me to get Eric Davis' number and offer to coach or umpire the next generation of baseball players.

You can call too, Milton. I'm sure the kids could learn from the skills that helped you accomplish your dream of playing for the Dodgers.

Just leave out the part where you toss baseballs and bottles, blow off black writers and call them Uncle Toms.

*

J.A. Adande can be reached at j.a.adande@latimes.com. For previous columns by Adande, go to latimes.com/Adande.

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