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49ers Suspend Analyst for “Dark Skin” Comments About Lamar Jackson
AP Photo/Nick Wass

It’s not uncommon for sports analysts to say things on air that they regret. It’s a natural part of a job that requires one to think quickly and talk without much time to filter what is said.

What’s important when a radio host or play-by-play announcer says something offensive is that they learn from the mistake, understand why it was wrong and move on from it. That’s how we progress as a society. Sometimes that’s easy to forget when it pertains to the NFL or NBA, which are our escapes from things that actually matter.

San Francisco 49ers radio analyst Tim Ryan found this out when he was suspended for comments he made on a Bay Area sports talk radio show on Monday. The former NFL player went on 49ers flagship radio station KNBR and said Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson’s ability to fake handoffs on runs works so well because of his “dark skin color with a dark football.”

What Did Tim Ryan Say About Lamar Jackson?

“He’s really good at that fake, Lamar Jackson, but when you consider his dark skin color with a dark football with a dark uniform, you could not see that thing,” Ryan said a day after Jackson rushed for 101 yards and a touchdown in the Ravens’ 20-17 win over the 49ers. “I mean, you literally could not see when he was in and out of the mesh point, and if you’re a half step slow on him in terms of your vision, forget about it, he’s out of the gate.”

Here is a clip of Ryan’s on-air comments. Ryan apologized, telling the San Francisco Chronicle he in no way meant to offend Jackson or anyone else.

“I regret my choice of words in trying to describe the conditions of the game. Lamar Jackson is an MVP-caliber player and I respect him greatly. I want to sincerely apologize to him and anyone else I offended,” he said.

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The 49ers, who have already announced that Ryan won’t call Sunday’s game against the New Orleans Saints in light of his comments, said in a statement that they were disappointed in him. The organization is one of the most progressive in the NFL and, of course, was the last team to employ Colin Kaepernick.

“We hold Tim to a high standard as a representative of our organization and he must be more thoughtful with his words,” the team said. “Tim has expressed remorse in a public statement and has also done so with us privately. We know Tim as a man of high integrity and are confident he will grow and learn from this experience.”

The 49ers reached out to the Ravens to apologize and said the matter was “not being taken lightly.”

Ryan spent four seasons in the NFL as a defensive lineman with the Chicago Bears from 1990-93. After his football career, he joined FOX as a TV analyst working NFL games for 12 seasons. He joined the 49ers in 2014.

The Niners are right. They shouldn’t take Tim Ryan’s comments lightly, and they did the right thing by suspending him for their upcoming game.

I didn’t hear Ryan’s full 22-minute interview on KNBR radio’s “Murph and Mac” segment, and I don’t think Ryan meant to offend anyone, but his comments matter. Black quarterbacks have been scrutinized in the NFL for years, and the common, ignorant thought throughout the league’s history is that they are more runners than they are passers. Heck, even Jackson himself was told to switch positions.

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These types of comments also drive the narrative that when quarterbacks like Jackson, Michael Vick or Colin Kaepernick excel under center it’s because of their skin color and not simply because they are good quarterbacks. Newsflash: they are, and a black quarterback (Jackson or Seattle Seahawks’ Russell Wilson) will probably win the MVP this year.

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Ryan shouldn’t lose his job or stop calling 49ers games in the future. Hopefully, this was a teaching moment for him and other analysts.

MORE: Remember When Lamar Jackson Fought Kentucky on Rivalry Week?

Patrick Pinak About the author:
Patrick has spent parts of the last four years covering University of Florida athletics and spent two seasons with Major League Baseball. He's a baseball junkie who spends his days defending Derek Jeter and the Miami Marlins. A recent Gator grad, Patrick currently resides in Gainesville, Florida.
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