Johnny Manziel may have enough quarterbacking Texas A&M star power to land on the cover of Time magazine, but it's his white face and "act black" persona that's taking the sports world by the horns.
The 20-year-old dubbed Johnny Football by fans, and a Miley Cyrus mockup by critics, has a college career that's put him at the crossroads of one of America's most sensitive and divisive current political issues: race. The freshman-winning Heisman trophy recipient just isn't fitting the image of what America expects.
His background is wealth, The Guardian reported. But he's more like nouveau riche — the French term of disdain for those who flash their good fortune and brag openly of their fame, like a "spoiled brat," as The Guardian put it.
Other criticisms: He's not low-key, or humble, like Tim Tebow. He hangs in his downtime with rap artists. In short, he showboats and just "act[s] black," raising hackles among some who admire talent that takes a more low-key approach, The Guardian said.
And yet, the black community isn't looking with loving eyes on Mr. Manziel, either. In fact, he's been called Miley Cyrus with a football — white, but acting stereotypical black, but ethnically challenged on both fronts.
A final straw? When Mr. Manziel was accused by the NCAA of taking money for autographs, The Guardian reported. He was suspended for the first half of the first game of the season. Meanwhile, black athletes like Dez Bryant — who played with Oklahoma State University before moving on to the Dallas Cowboys — was labeled a "bad seed," suspended for the last 10 games of his college career, and suffered a dramatic draft hit because he let an ex-NFL player buy him a meal.
As The Guardian reported, the quarterback position has been historically tainted by racism, with whites dominating.
Mr. Manziel — who's arrived on the scene at a time when black quarterbacks are rising in number and prestige, but not to the point of championship wins — raises that specter once again.
At least one professional quarterback, Tom Brady, with the New England Patriots, gave a subtle hint that Mr. Manziel might want to tone down a bit.
In a Thursday interview on CNBC's "Squawk Box," Mr. Brady was asked for his opinion on Mr. Manziel's "showboating," as host Joe Kernen put it.
Mr. Kernen: "What's the biggest thing you ever done in terms of flaunting. ... I've seen maybe a fist pump, that's about it, isn't it?"
Mr. Brady: "I get pretty emotional. I have a lot of respect for the teammates, for my teammates, for my organization, and certainly for other guys in the NFL. There's not a guy playing in the NFL who hasn't earned the right to be here, and who isn't supremely talented. [Mr. Manziel's] probably been the best athlete in his high school class, in his elementary school class. So when you look across the ball, you have respect for those guys, and you treat them with respect because football's a physical game. And as RKK [Patriots owner Robert Kraft] would say, if you're a turd, it's going to come back to you."
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