ESPN’s Ryan Clark emotional after ASU DB son faces overt racism
Filled with emotions, ESPN analyst and former NFL defensive back Ryan Clark spoke Friday about the story of his son, Arizona State cornerback Jordan Clark, facing racism while attempting to get food Wednesday at a Tempe Whataburger.
According to the three players’ accounts posted to Twitter, Clark, ASU tight end Nolan Matthews and safety T Lee went on a walk to a Whataburger and arrived to learn it was only operating via the drive-through. They said they approached a white woman to ask for her to order them food with their money.
After she declined, a man agreed to order for them.
As they waited, the woman they initially approached used a racial slur multiple times and complained to the restaurant’s manager, who comped her meal despite hearing her say the slurs, according to the players.
After reading the players’ accounts and speaking with his son, Ryan Clark spoke on ESPN’s Get Up about the emotions that ran through him.
“As a black man and a father of a black young man, I’m happy he’s alive, period,” Clark said. “That was my first thought. And then that immediately turned to anger. What’s crazy is I wasn’t mad at the young lady or the woman, I wasn’t mad at the manager. I was mad at myself, I was mad with Jordan. I’m not necessarily sure that’s the right emotion to have.
“Nothing pisses me off more than being scared. Even though I knew the moment was over, I was still in that moment as his dad … I’m playing out other scenarios in my mind (of the woman feeling threatened and turning violent). I believe that if that woman pulls a gun at those young men and that woman pulls the trigger, I believe that she’s never punished.”
Ryan Clark said the story is all too similar to one his father told him.
It also happened at a fast food restaurant. When the elder Clark was dating a lighter-skinned woman, he was jumped by a group of white men.
“(My father) said, ‘I never thought that this many years later, my grandson would be experiencing the same racism that I did,” Ryan Clark said.
As a father, Clark felt guilt that, as a pro athlete who gave his son privilege as he grew up, he didn’t prepare Jordan for the reality of racism still existing as it does. Though Jordan had heard racial slurs and experienced some racism before, never before had he been in a situation where his father thought his life could be in danger because he was black.
“It never affected him in this way, and I felt like I didn’t prepare him for this situation enough,” Ryan Clark said. “As a black man, you can’t walk up to cars. You can’t wave down cars with white people in it because your life is not of value to all of them.
“This isn’t just a fear for me everyday. This has been a fear for black people forever.”