Mar 21, 2011; Waco, TX, USA; Baylor Bears quarterback Robert Griffin III (10) warms up before the Baylor pro day at the Allison Indoor Facility. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-US PRESSWIRE
Since none of Baylor's athletic teams played games in the last 24 hours, the Baylor news cycle has been largely dominated by two stories, one much more than the other.
The first involves a report that surfaced yesterday morning from an NFL.com reporter named Albert Breer (@AlbertBreer) stating that at least two long-time NFL scouts had referred to Baylor QB Robert Griffin III as having "character issues" of one sort or another. Breer quoted one scout as saying that Griffin seems "selfish" sometimes and that he treats the people around him badly. He went on to wonder whether RG3 has the same sort of support from the people around him at Baylor that Cam Newton had at Auburn, where Cam was supposedly universally loved. These comments and others like them ignited a firestorm of sorts on twitter where Baylor fans (including myself) rushed to defend RG3 and respond to Breer's comments. Other notable sports personalities began chiming in from across the twitterverse about their interactions with RG3 (which were almost uniformly positive). ESPN's Colin Cowherd used the episode as a talking point in his radio show this morning and claimed that RG3 has been handled with kid gloves and he doesn't understand why people are upset.
I don't think I have to say once again that I have almost no objectivity when it comes to RG3. I think, quite simply, that he is the greatest athlete and ambassador that Baylor has ever seen, and that our school is better for every moment he spent on our campus. I can, however, tell you a fact: I have never met anyone with anything negative to say about him personally, athletically, or otherwise. That doesn't mean those people aren't out there, obviously, I'm just saying I've never met him. I've spoken with former teammates, coaches, and other people in the athletic department both now and in the past. All have expressed their opinion that RG3 is one of the finest student athletes Baylor has ever seen. I've never heard the word "selfish" used to describe him before Breer's tweets yesterday.
As I posted the other day, RG3 is on the cover of this week's edition of SportsIllustrated, and inside the magazine, SI's Peter King (who I often criticize for reasons completely unrelated to his ability to write about the NFL) penned an article that you should absolutely read about the Manning/Leaf parallels people try to force onto Luck/Griffin. Just an excerpt from that article:
When you meet Robert Griffin III, you're instantly impressed with his genial presence and his savviness. He's not just a glad-hander. He answers questions expansively and earnestly. "He's got a way to make you feel at ease when you first meet him," says Chiefs coach Romeo Crennel, who interviewed Griffin at the scouting combine in February. "Not only he is very sharp about football, but he's sharp about life. He's not going to have trouble adjusting to our game."
Here is Draft guru Mike Mayock's response (also on SI.com) to Griffin's supposed character issues as relayed by Chris Burke.
And in case you can't get enough, here is a piece from Don Banks about DC's embrace of RG3 and his reciprocation.
Now that's out of the way, here's what I think happened. I mentioned on twitter yesterday afternoon that it seemed remarkably coincidental to me that these supposed character issues came to light in the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel on the same day that the Indianapolis Colts leaked their decision to take Andrew Luck with the #1 pick in the Draft. From what I have read about the interaction between Jim Irsay (Colt's owner) and his staff and the general speculation about that decision, it was apparently not a unanimous one. Colts fans seem to be similarly divided about the pick with a majority probably siding with Luck. What better way to unify your fanbase around such a pivotal decision than by floating a rumor discrediting the choice not taken? The fans of Luck feel vindicated by the news because it supports their theory that he was better all along, and the fans of RG3 feel a little less sure that they were right and may actually come around on Luck. There is no downside because the sources are all anonymous. It's just my theory, obviously, since I have zero evidence. I just find the timing a little curious in that none of these concerns existed in the public consciousness before yesterday.
This is getting somewhat long, so let's take the next issue-- Brittney Griner's decision not to participate in the Olympics-- below the jump.
The second bit of major news for Baylor fans broke late yesterday evening when Brittney Griner announced that she was withdrawing her name from consideration for the 2012 US Olympic team. As you may recall, 11 of the 12 roster spots on that team had already been filled, and there was substantial speculation that Griner might be chosen for the final spot after the WBB season ended. With her announcement yesterday that she was not going to participate because of family and school reasons, she ended that possibility.
Almost immediately after ESPN reported her decision, the entirely predictable reaction started up (primarily from the fans of a former Big XII conference member) that Griner had really made her decision in order to dodge genetic testing at the Olympics rather than to be with her sick mother (who was so sick just a few weeks ago that she could not travel to Denver to see her daughter win a national championship) and/or to finish school so she can graduate next year. Her real motivation, according to these conspiracy theorists, is to hide the fact that she is actually not 100% female. This baseless speculation soon turned into indisputable fact; it must be that Griner is dodging the testing because she would undoubtedly go to the Olympics otherwise! Baylor has an interest in protecting her from this testing because then the truth would come out and we would be ruined!
I'm not going to go into great detail about how absurdly inappropriate this line of thinking is because Jessica Lantz of SwishAppeal did it this morning in a better way than I ever could. I will say, however, that Brittney Griner is a 20-year-old girl. She is someone's daughter. It is the height of cowardice to say things like this on the internet-- things that you would never say to Mr. Griner (Brittney's father, a 6'2" former Marine)-- and then hide behind your cloak of anonymity. Griner owes no justification for her decisions and no duty to anyone or anything to do anything other than what she thinks is in her best interest. Until something other than moronic message board rumor comes out that disputes her stated reasoning, she is entitled to the same respect and privacy that any other athlete (regardless of the laundry they wear) gets in the same situation.
I invite people to share their thoughts on this situation because that's what we do on SBNation, but know that the leashes will be short.