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Howard Cosell-Alvin Garrett Incident Love him or hate him, Howard Cosell was pretty much the personification of ABC's Monday Night Football from its inception in 1970 through the 1983 season. During the first Monday night game of the 1983 NFL season between the Washington Redskins and the Dallas Cowboys, Howard Cosell made the following comment about diminutive Washington wide receiver Alvin Garrett: "That little monkey sure gets loose, doesn't he?" Immediately Cosell came under fire from a black minister, the Reverend Joseph Lowery of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. Lowery called the remark racist and demanded Cosell apologize or be fired. Cosell was stunned by the allegation. He said the term 'little monkey' was a term of endearment--which he often used to describe his own grandchildren. Indeed, anyone who fairly examined Cosell's body of work knew he had supported black athletes time and time again in truly divisive racial disputes. Jesse Jackson and Muhammad Ali both publicly supported Cosell. Garrett himself said he knew that Cosell meant no harm. Someone even found a clip from a preseason football telecast from 1972 in which Cosell referred to Mike Adamle--a small Caucasian player--as "a little monkey." Nevertheless, Cosell's tenure with Monday night football ended without much fanfare at the end of the 1983 season. He covered the boxing tournament at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics and not much else afterward. When Cosell was not assigned to work ABC's coverage of the 1985 World Series, it was obvious that ABC had quietly put the aging Cosell--its iconic broadcaster--out to pasture.
Tags: Howard  Cosell  Alvin  Garrett  racism  incident 
Added: 11th July 2015
Views: 1404
Posted By: Lava1964
Posted by: Lava1964 on 2015-07-10 
I often cite this so-called incident as the first shot fired by the politically correct crowd and the birth of the outrage industry. Calling Cosell a racist had zero basis in fact, but it did not matter to the accusers.

Sports commentary, political commentary, just about anything you hear on the airwaves has suffered in quality and honesty ever since the PC crowd has vigilantly quashed free speech. I hope to live long enough to see the backlash. I know it's coming someday.
Posted by: Steve on 2015-07-11 
I remember watching this game with my brothers and our jaws hit the ground when we heard him say that.
Posted by: Lava1964 on 2015-07-11 
I recall having the game on as background noise that night (September 5, 1983). I may have heard the comment, but I wasn't really paying too much attention to it. If I did hear Cosell's remark, it didn't make much of an impression on me.

Cosell said far more controversial things about sports and sports figures in general without ever having his remarks heavily scrutinized. As soon as there was the slightest hint of racism though...
Posted by: Steve on 2015-07-11 
My brothers and I are avid Redskin fans and I remember saying Oh my gosh he called him a monkey!
Posted by: Lava1964 on 2015-07-11 
The hypocrisy of selective outrage is what annoys me. Here are a few examples from the sports world:

At about the time Cosell was under fire for the 'little monkey' comment, heavyweight champion Larry Holmes (whom I quite like) said he enjoyed fighting white opponents because they bleed a lot. No outrage.

Before Oakland played Toronto in the 1989 ALCS Reggie Jackson said he was cheering for Toronto instead of his old team because the Blue Jays had a black manager. No outrage. What would have happened if a white player had said he was cheering for Oakland because the A's manager (Tony LaRussa) was white? I think we all know the answer.

Dusty Baker, while managing the Chicago Cubs, once said he preferred having black and Latino players on the Cubs' roster because white players 'can't stand the heat' of the many day games played at Wrigley Field. No outrage from MLB.
Posted by: Classico on 2015-07-17 
It should be remembered that Alvin Garrett felt greatly hurt by the unintended characterization made by Cosell. Many bananas were delivered to his locker and he was humiliated by this.

As for political correctness and its impact on sports, you have to go back many years to the days when Giants manager Al Dark was quoted (misquoted he said) as saying Latin ball players were incapable of thinking and just not able to perform up to the white ballplayers when it comes to mental alertness. He got fired at the end of the season for causing dissension on the team. Years later he apologized for his comments and he became friends with Cepeda, Mota, and the Alou brothers among others.

Years later San Francisco sports radio host Larry Krueger saying Brain dead Caribbean hitters hacking at slop nightly. The quote cost him his job.
Posted by: Lava1964 on 2015-07-17 
In 2014, on the 40th anniversary of Hank Aaron breaking Babe Ruth's record, Aaron stated in an interview that anyone who didn't support president Obama was akin to a KKK member. The Atlanta Braves were flooded with complaints about this since Aaron is still affiliated with the team. The Braves did absolutely nothing to rebuke Aaron. MLB commissioner Bud Selig, a friend of Aaron's, did nothing. That's why I saw the hypocrisy of selective outrage of political correctness is galling.
Posted by: Classico on 2015-07-18 
Well, that's a political matter and I don't believe we are allowed to discuss that here.
Posted by: Steve on 2015-07-19 
Politics can be discussed if we don't get all emotional and starting hating on each other.
Posted by: Lava1964 on 2015-07-19 
I don't see anything political in my comment. It just reminded everyone of a well-chronicled incident that shows the obvious biases and hypocrisy of the modern-day 'outrage industry.' (Remember, I reside in Canada, so I don't even have a say in who occupies the various political offices in the USA.)
Posted by: Classico on 2015-07-19 
Oh, ok.

I thought mentioning Pres Obama and the lack of rebuke was political. But then, I am reminded that nobody was more attacked than were the Dixie Chicks for their comment on Bush. Turns out that this type of comment was not politically correct though attacks on Obama such as the empty chair bit was acceptable.

Well, re Cosell, yes it was a most unwise crack. But no, he was NOT a racist as Muhammed Ali was one of his very best friends. Having done some free lance sports reporting years ago in NYC where I grew up, I knew several people who were well acquainted with him and they would swear Cosell was one of the most unprejudiced and open minded people anywhere. This is a finding I most heartily agree with.

By the way, when Cosell passed away in 1995 his critics still had a field day attacking him. Alvin Garrett spoke of him with much fondness. And I sincerely hope he will be remembered more for the good he did than for his mistakes.
Posted by: Lava1964 on 2015-07-19 
Since we're back to the original topic of this post, I find it amazing that Cosell was well known for only about two decades. Bob Costas, Al Michaels, and others have had longer tenures than Cosell ever did. He first became prominent after Ali won the world heavyweight title in 1964--a fight where Cosell was doing color for ABC radio. He was in his late forties when he and Ali became something of an act on Wide World of Sports. This led to Cosell working the Olympics and Monday Night Football. By 1985 his broadcasting career was largely over--at least in a prominent way.
Posted by: Classico on 2015-07-20 
IIRC Costas and Michaels became prominent in nationwide tv sports just after leaving school. By contrast, Cosell entered the service in WW II and reached a distinguished rank, and practiced law for many years before finally arising to sports prominence in the early 1960s. To his ever lasting credit, Cosell paid his dues, rose up the hard way, and had to face much criticism from those who opposed his left leaning politics.

Yes, he may have been a bit pompous but I will swear he was one darn good guy and well deserving of the great prominence he earned.
Posted by: Lava1964 on 2015-07-21 
Agreed. Cosell courageously changed careers as an adult after graduating law school. I believe his first sports job was interviewing Little League ballplayers for a radio show--hardly glamorous work. Sometimes I liked Cosell; sometimes I didn't. He was the first broadcaster who regularly criticized athletes when they blundered--which was a breath of fresh air. Cosell certainly added something to the telecasts he was on.
Posted by: Classico on 2015-07-21 
I'd even go a step further as there were a very small few broadcasters who criticized players when they bungled it. But NONE dared challenge officials or administrators such as the Olympic Committee. Cosell was outspoken in his criticism of the way Olympic officials allowed the USA to be cheated in girls gymnastics and men's basketball in 1972. No one else dared to do anything like that.

I used to listen to his Speaking of Everything radio shows on Sunday nights back in the day. As above he boldly spoke of needed reforms in society no matter what criticism he got from demagogues who resisted change. People like Cosell come around only once in a lifetime - I am very glad to have followed his career for so many years.
Posted by: Lava1964 on 2015-07-21 
Yep. Thus Cosell's consistent record of striving for positive change in the sports world makes the accusations that he was a racist in the Alvin Garrett incident all the more ridiculous.
Posted by: Classico on 2015-07-25 
I am reminded of a Howard Cosell roast back in the day - Muhammed Ali stepped up to the podium and yelled out to him laughingly I made you!.

Ali, like Garrett, had great praise for Cosell.

Oh, and lest I forget, it will be remembered that Cosell stood up for Curt Flood when he dared to challenge baseball's reserves clause. In fact. Flood got death threats for doing so. No one else in journalism dared to criticize the wealthy elites for fear of losing their jobs or possible even getting attacked by those wealthy oligarchs. But Cosell would not be intimidated and he boldly spoke up in defense of Flood. Today, many athletes in baseball and other sports are profiting quite well due to the words and deeds of these two sports heroes.
Posted by: Lava1964 on 2018-12-18 
Recently a basketball announcer earned the ire of the PC crowd by saying a player on a hot shooting streak was out of his cotton-picking mind. Somehow that was considered racist. Stop the world, I want to get off!
Posted by: Lava1964 on 2018-12-18 
Recently a basketball announcer earned the ire of the PC crowd by saying a player on a hot shooting streak was out of his cotton-picking mind. Somehow that was considered racist. Stop the world, I want to get off!
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