Thursday, November 12, 2009


Phil Mushnick is usually right on. He's right about how late start times are bad for the future of sports. He's right to attack greedy owners on PSLs. He's right to attack the WWF every time another superstar passes before their time. In Monday's column, he was wrong to state that Jimmy the Greek was fired for saying the same stuff that rappers like Jay-Z are embraced for. He cites how the Yankees' adopted Jay-Z's "Empire State of Mind," as an example of supposed hypocrisy because the song uses racially offensive language. He goes on to state, correctly, that Hovie's lyrics glorify violence, drug dealing and disrespect towards women.

The distinction that Mushnick fails to make is that Jimmy the Greek spoke for himself, while Jay-Z writes fiction set to music.

For whatever reason, the mainstream media holds rap to a different standard than other forms of pop culture. Robert DeNiro and Joe Pesci are not attacked for playing gangsters on film. Richard Price is not attacked for writing violence-soaked, offensive language-filled crime novels. More to the point, The Rolling Stones, Van Halen, Aerosmith and other bands whose music is used at sporting events, are not attacked for lyrics celebrating drug and alcohol abuse and general misogyny. Frank Sinatra and Liza Minnelli didn't lead the cleanest of lives, yet the Yanks play their music.

Unless we want to return to a world where Oscar Wilde is put on trial for obscenity or Pat Boone covers Little Richard's "Tutti Frutti" to make it more safer for impressionable white youth, then we should continue to allow artists in all forms of pop culture to express themselves freely.

It would be different had Jimmy the Greek written a work of fiction where a character expressed racist opinions. But he didn't. He spoke for himself at a time when he appeared on network TV as himself. CBS had every right to dismiss him. What the Greek said in real life is not the same as what Hovie says in song. Moreover, while some of Hov's lyrics are offensive, to ask the Yankees or any other sports team to not use songs by bands or artists that are not "offensive" is to ask them to use no music at all as you'd be hard-pressed to find a band or artist from the past 50 years of popular music who haven't offended someone at some time or another. Sean Salisbury aside, it's much easier to find unoffensive studio analysts.