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Their words were better left unsaid

Jalen Rose and Adrian Peterson are proof that bad things can come out of the mouths of good people.

Rose, a former NBA player and current ESPN analyst, made disparaging remarks about Duke basketball in the compelling ESPN documentary about the Fab Five, Michigan's famed 1991 freshman basketball class of which Rose was a part. In the two-hour film, Rose said the only African-American players recruited by Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski were "Uncle Toms."

Responding to the NFL's labor unrest, Peterson, the Minnesota Vikings' All-Pro running back, compared the league's treatment of its players to "modern-day slavery."

Rose and Peterson have a right to their opinions, whether you agree with them or not. The problem is their racially incendiary comments were completely out of bounds.

For African-Americans, there is not a more offensive or hurtful label than "Uncle Tom," especially when it is directed at someone of color by a member of one's own race.

On Monday, Rose said his opinion has changed with more maturity. He pointed out that his thoughts about Duke in the documentary came from a teenager with no filter between his brain and mouth. Growing up poor and without a father also may have played a part in his bitterness toward Duke.

I buy the notion that teenagers are prone to saying stupid things. Haven't we all said or done something at that age we'd like to take back?

But Rose did say he believes Duke recruits "a certain kind of African-American player," one that is well-spoken and comes from economically sound two-parent families. He still believes Duke won't touch inner-city players because they wouldn't be good for its image.

Rose isn't the first to express such thoughts. As someone who grew up in Durham, N.C., where Duke is located, I know a lot of people who still feel the same way.

The thinking is obviously flawed because it implies some African-Americans are "more black" than others just because of their life experiences. Coming from an affluent background, speaking proper English, living in the suburbs or choosing to attend one of the finest institutions of higher learning doesn't reduce a person's "blackness."

And unless you know the background of every African-American player Krzyzewski has recruited, it is wrong to make assumptions about them.

As for Peterson, he made his slavery analogy right after the NFL Players Association decertified last Friday. It was probably said in the heat of the moment, but don't mistake this as an apology on his behalf.

Peterson does little to advance the labor issue by playing the slave card. And it certainly doesn't gain any sentiment from fans. After all, it's hard to feel sorry for a player due to make $10.72 million this season as Peterson will.

You would hope Peterson realizes the error of his ways. If not, perhaps a history lesson is in order.

Peterson doesn't have to play football if he doesn't want to. He's got the freedom to pursue any vocation he wants. Slaves didn't have a choice. They were stolen from their homeland and forceably brought to this country in chains.

NFL players are getting paid millions of dollars for their services. Slaves were rewarded with a life of pain and suffering for their labor.

What Peterson and his NFL peers are going through is not slavery and shouldn't be compared as such.

So the lesson to be learned from Rose and Peterson is this: Making blanket statements about race or any other subject should be avoided by the uninformed.

e-mail: awilson@buffnews.com

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