New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski announced on Instagram that he’s retiring from pro football after nine NFL seasons, five Pro Bowl selections, being a four-time First-Team All-Pro, and finishing his career as a three-time Super Bowl champion. Affectionately known as “Gronk,” the 270-pound tight end changed the NFL by being both a dominant physical force and one of the game’s greatest pass catchers ever at 6-foot-6. The matchup nightmare truly is one of the best football players of all time, but he’s also one of the NFL’s biggest idiots ever.
On too many occasions, Gronk was given free passes for childish behavior on and off the field, making deliberately sexist remarks aimed at female reporters, and in one instance, being openly racist to the point that he had to be stopped.
Time and time again, the saying “Gronk being Gronk” suddenly replaced “boys will be boys” as a perfect excuse for one guy’s misplaced manliness.
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It all started at 20 years old on stage at the NFL draft when my dream came true, and now here I am about to turn 30 in a few months with a decision I feel is the biggest of my life so far. I will be retiring from the game of football today. I am so grateful for the opportunity that Mr. Kraft and Coach Belichick gave to me when drafting my silliness in 2010. My life experiences over the last 9 years have been amazing both on and off the field. The people I have meet, the relationships I have built, the championships I have been apart of, I just want to thank the whole New England Patriots organization for every opportunity I have been giving and learning the great values of life that I can apply to mine. Thank you to all of Pats Nation around the world for the incredible support since I have been apart of this 1st class organization. Thank you for everyone accepting who I am and the dedication I have put into my work to be the best player I could be. But now its time to move forward and move forward with a big smile knowing that the New England Patriots Organization, Pats Nation, and all my fans will be truly a big part of my heart for rest of my life. It was truly an incredible honor to play for such a great established organization and able to come in to continue and contribute to keep building success. To all my current and past teammates, thank you for making each team every year special to be apart of. I will truly miss you guys. Cheers to all who have been part of this journey, cheers to the past for the incredible memories, and a HUGE cheers to the uncertain of whats next.
In 2013, Gronkowski was videotaped at Bar Louie in Foxborough mocking an Asian man wearing his jersey. After egging on the man to dance for the crowd, Gronk said the guy “could only cook fried rice” and called him “Leslie Chow,” a reference to Ken Jeong’s character from The Hangover films. Quickly, a man runs over and reminds the entire room that they “signed waivers” and had to turn over any footage of the incident before leaving the party. The incident happened around the same time as Richie Incognito’s racist attacks on teammate Jonathan Martin, so it was essentially swept under the rug.
But that was just Gronk being Gronk, right?
During a FoxSports1 segment titled “House Party by the Bay” in 2016, Gronkowski gave the show’s female host an uncomfortable lap dance while she threw money at him. The Chicago Tribune’s Shannon Ryan, who has covered the NFL and college basketball for years, made this observation of the misogynistic segment:
“There’s an unspoken and unfair burden most women in sports media work with, an understanding that we are not to undo the painstaking work of women decades before us who almost literally had to break down locker room doors for equal access and credibility.
“Women in this career are still far more likely to be subjected to vile misogynistic online threats and insults than our male colleagues. Our work is questioned merely on the basis of our gender. When ESPN.com’s Dana O’Neil simply stated on Twitter that she found Gronkowski’s lap dance segment offensive she was subjected to a slew of nasty insults.”
— Shannon Ryan, Chicago Tribune
In 2017, The Roast of David Ortiz was meant to raise money for Ortiz’s charity and would be broadcast on local news networks. During the event, Gronkowski joined a slew of comics tasked with poking fun at the former Boston Red Sox slugger, but Gronk again crossed the line with cringe-worthy jokes aimed at the Jewish faith, and a “third base” joke that had him laughing harder than anyone in the room.
The special was pulled from airing on television due to the offensive nature of many jokes that night, not only from Gronkowski but others as well.
Gronk’s crowning moment of ignorance was in January 2019 when he made a sexually suggestive remark to a female reporter. When asked about the chances he retires after Super Bowl LIII against the Los Angeles Rams, Gronk pointed to the woman and delivered yet another ill-timed reference to the number ’69’ that he’s (not surprisingly) mentioned more times than you or I could count over the years.
“You [know the number],” Gronk said about the percentage he’d retire, pointing out the female reporter. “I can see so. She knows the number, so ask her.”
Gronk is a grown adult acting like a kid. On multiple occasions, he’s showed that a post-football career in acting and on television could translate into a rousing success. That doesn’t mean his generational football talent should overshadow what a shallow-minded human being he’s proven to be over and over again.
Gronkowski is likely to be a first-ballot Hall of Famer when he’s 34 years old, which would make him the youngest inductee since Gale Sayers, who received induction at the same age. Again, that doesn’t mean one of the best tight ends in NFL history should be heralded as a hero for generations of pro athletes to come.
Go ahead and bash me. You’d prove my point by doing it. It’s not alright to demean and denigrate another person based on race and gender because you think it’s funny. In every one of these instances, Gronk was wrong, but everyone just laughed and let him get away with it.
After all, being blind and ignorant is just Gronk being Gronk.