No, Roquan Smith Is Not Rosa Parks

Today, dear reader, I’m using you as my therapist. (Thanks in advance.) You see, most times when you write a column or blog or book or anything really, they tell you not to write something obvious.

How engaging is a dissertation on 2+2=4 going to be, right?

But today, for the sake of my sanity, I have to share this: No, Roquan Smith is not Rosa Parks.

I have to share this, because this seemingly straightforward truth is not so straightforward to everybody.

Enter Alabama columnist Kevin Scarbinsky.

Now, the work of Scarbinsky, at least that which I’m familiar with, is normally very good. He’s a talented writer, and typically insightful. He’s shown an ability to be extraordinarily gracious in the past, revisiting stories when he didn’t them just right.

In other words, don’t take what I’m about to say as an indictment on his ability or common sense in general.

However, Scarbinsky today said he made a comparison that could be considered “over the top, out of line, disrespectful,” and he’s absolutely right.

It is indeed all those things.

What was Scarbinsky comparing? Rosa Parks role in the civil rights movement, and Roquan Smith’s refusal to sign a letter of intent, which allows him to wait until the first day of class for him to pick which college football team he’ll play for.

What Smith is doing is worthwhile and perhaps trendsetting. Too many athletes are bound to a school only to have their coach or position coach leave after Signing Day. Indeed Scarbinsky’s defense for using the Rosa Parks metaphor is that the issue is deserving of attention, so he needed an attention-grabbing analogy.


(Again, Kevin whom I otherwise like.)

Rosa Parks was arrested. She lost her job. She received death threats. The price of her taking a stand was very, very high.

In case you were unaware, Roquan Smith is not risking a lynching for what he has done.

In the comments section of his column, Scarbinsky asks readers why they are downplaying Parks’ courage. He doesn’t see the irony of how he’s done exactly that by drawing a parallel between what Parks did and what Smith is trying to do.

He’s asked by one reader why he didn’t make the more reasonable comparison between Smith and Curt Flood, the late Cardinals outfielder who challenged baseball’s reserve clause and and set the stage for free agency.

“Curt Flood is a good comparison and one I considered” Scarbinsky’s responds. “But his name doesn’t resonate with as many people today.”

Yes, and there’s a reason for that. Flood also didn’t risk his freedom and his life.

We’ve seen this a few times lately: Well-meaning people hoping to spotlight something important, only to distract from the issue by instead casting an even brighter spotlight on their own attention-grabbing tactics. (Think of the Nationwide commercial that aired during the Super Bowl.)

If you want to compare Rosa Parks and and Roquan Smith, in other words, you can do what my friend did and highlight what the two actually have in common.


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