While brother Ronde appears to be the very soul of dignity as he continues his future Hall of Fame career down in Tampa Bay, former New York Giants running back Tiki Barber managed to offend quite a few people with a recent comment. Explaining the media scrutiny he's received since he left his pregnant wife to be with his 23-year-old girlfriend, Barber told L. Jon Wertheim of Sports Illustrated that he moved into the attic of his agent, Mark Lepselter, to escape prying eyes.
"Lep's Jewish," Barber allegedly said, "and it was like a reverse Anne Frank thing."
Um, yeah. A millionaire pro football player comparing himself to a teenage Jewish Holocaust victim is going to go over about as well as Adrian Peterson's recent "modern-day slavery" comment, but at least Peterson had a bit of context with which to defend himself. Barber's comment was thoughtless at best and asinine at worst. It's certainly the wrong step to take as Barber tries to rehab his image in the wake of professional and personal failures, and as he tried to convince people that he's got a legitimate future in the NFL as a comeback story.
Barber was never known as the most tactful sort; it's well-known that his way of doing things put off some of his old teammates, especially when he questioned the leadership of the Giants quarterback as a member of the media as opposed to a guy in the locker room who would have to answer for his words. And his concept of himself as a future media magnate hasn't gone as expected. But this is a larger bump in the road. Judging from initial reactions, Barber, who is an NFL analyst for Yahoo! Sports, will have quite a time living this down.
"Holocaust trivialization continues to spread and finds new ways and expressions that shock the conscience," Abraham Foxman of the Anti-Defamation League said. "Tiki Barber's personal behavior is his business. But our history and experiences are ours and deserve greater respect than being abused or perverted by Tiki Barber.
"The analogy to Anne Frank is not funny, it is outrageous and perverse. Anne Frank was not hiding voluntarily. Before she perished at age 15 in the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp, she hid from the Nazis for more than two years, fearing every day for her life. The Frank family's experiences, as recorded in Anne's dairy, are a unique testimonial to the horrors of the Holocaust, and her life should never be debased or degraded by insensitive and offensive analogies."
Lepselter defended his client, according to Pro Football Talk, by claiming that Barber was trapped in the attic for a week, and mentioned that Barber was the guest of Israel's president five years ago.
Most people will ring up a "No Sale" to that, though. I don't believe it's anyone's contention that Barber was actually trying to compare his situation to Anne Frank's. But if there's one thing people need to learn when they're in the public eye, it's that the life of a celebrity doesn't have an "off" switch. If you want your words in the public record, you have to watch what you say at all times. Especially when, like Barber, your history makes you a less than sympathetic character.
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