Virginia U.S. senate candidate George Allen is getting harangued on Twitter today after a local news reporter, who happens to be tall and African American, got tired of Allen asking him about sports. In a tweet sent on Tuesday, NBC 4's Craig Melvin wrote: "For the 2nd time in 5 months, fmr. gov. and sen candidate George Allen asks me,'what position did you play?' I did not a play a sport." Earlier today, Allen tweeted Melvin an apology. "@craigmelvin sorry if I offended, ask people a lot if they played sports Grew up in football family found sports banter good way to connect."
Sure, it could've been an innocent question. Allen's father, after all, coached the Washington Redskins. But when you have a history of calling people of color "macaca" (an epithet used by francophone colonialists in the Congo), it's not going to look good.
Reason's Tim Cavanaugh featured the moment in his "Today in Racism" story, calling Allen "Old Dominion's gift that keeps on giving." Lee Fang at Think Progress concludes that "In Allen’s worldview, every tall African American is a sports player." Meanwhile, Tommy Christopher at Mediaite sympathizes with Allen:
Many people can relate to an explanation like this. I recall, several months ago, that I nearly asked Ed Schultz the same question at the White House when struggling for small talk. Schultz has the build of a former athlete, after all, and the only other thing I could think to ask was “What the hell are you doing here?”
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.