Tampa Bay Buccaneers Head Coach Todd Bowles pushed back on race-baiting questions from sports reporters during a press conference on Thursday.
One reporter asked Bowles if he viewed his team’s upcoming match-up with Mike Tomlin’s Steelers as special since both head coaches are black. Bowles rejected the reporter’s attempt to inject race into the press conference and noted that he has a good relationship with Tomlin. “We don’t look at what color we are when we coach against each other. We just know each other.”
“I have a lot of very good white friends that coach in this league as well, and I don’t think it’s a big deal as far as us coaching against each other, I think it’s normal,” he continued. “And we coach ball, we don’t look at color,” the head coach added.
“But you also understand that representation matters too, right?” another reported immediately interjected. “And that when, ya know, aspiring coaches, or even football players, they see you guys, you know they see somebody that looks like them. Maybe grew up with them. That has to mean something?”
“Well, when you say we see ‘you guys’ and ‘look like them’ and ‘grew up with them,’ means that we’re odd balls to begin with,” Bowles replied.
“And I think the minute you guys,” he continued in reference to the mainstream media. “Stop making a big deal about it, everybody else will as well.”
ESPN’s Jenna Laine — who posed the second question — received criticism on Twitter from users who thought the injection of race into the press conference was unnecessary. Laine shared a prior clip of Bowles speaking on the value of representation, though the coach stressed that he wanted to see black coaches hired on merit above all.
“Being a person of color, you wanna get hired off of your ability,” Bowles said in the March 31 press conference. “But as a kid, to see some people like us in these places and these jobs, it gives hope to a-lot of people,” he continued.
“You don’t coach for that reason, but being a kid growing up and going around neighborhoods, and speaking to people, you understand the impact that it has on their lives; and we just try to be the best coaches that we can be going forward.”
“My line of questioning was directly in line with Todd Bowles’ own comments that day. I would never tell someone whose life experience is different from my own and whose shoes I haven’t walked in, how to feel. My job is to seek clarity and to gain understanding,” Laine wrote in a tweet Friday.
“I also would never try to insinuate with my questioning that every Black head coach or Black person grows up the same. Three different coaches with three different life experiences. My intent was — in a group of people, a person can look to one and perhaps identify,” she added.
Bowles has received praised from several prominent conservatives and others who voiced displeasure for ESPN’s attempt to inject race into an otherwise standard game week press conference.
“Todd Bowles didn’t get the woke memo on NFL racism,” wrote Outkick founder Clay Travis in a tweet. “Listen to the questions he gets from left wing reporters and his responses.”
The tweet has garnered over 125,000 likes as of October 14.