A few days after the 2015 Super Bowl XLIX, during the ESPN Radio Mike & Mike sports talk show, Mike Greenberg returned to the debate over Seattle Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch, while also mentioning New England Patriots Rob Gronkowski‘s appearance on ABC’s Jimmy Kimmel Live.

Lynch has received considerable criticism for his behavior during required media sessions as well as crotch-grabbing after scoring touch downs.

Greenberg has more or less argued that much of that criticism (except for the crotch grabbing) is misguided, including calling for everyone to leave Lynch alone. Since Arizona Cardinals linebacker Larry Foote (and others) has recently claimed Lynch is a dangerous role model, especially for inner-city youth, Greenberg pointed to Gronkowski’s comments to Kimmel, offered jokingly:

“I got pushed or something, and it was the last game of the year, and I was like, ‘Screw it, I’m throwing some haymakers,'” Gronkowski said Monday night.

Further, Greenberg highlighted that Gronkowski had also said the last book he read was in ninth grade, To Kill a Mockingbird, pointing out that Gronkowski had attended the University of Arizona.

The intersection of judgmental reactions to Lynch with, as Greenberg emphasized, most people viewing Gronkowski (playfully referred to as “Gronk”) as a lovable goof who likes to have a good time, partying and dancing (even after post-season loses), prompted Greenberg to wonder why Lynch and Gronkowski receive such different public responses.

Two important messages are presented in that intersection and Greenberg’s inability to understand it.

First, the closing seconds of Super Bowl XLIX included a “scrum that marred the end” of the game, ESPN reported, noting Gronkowski was not ejected. While viewing the fight with Kimmel, Gronkowski laughed about the incident:

“I don’t think I did. Roger, no, I did not,” the tight end said with a smile when asked by Kimmel whether he threw punches, referring to commissioner Roger Goodell.

Gronkowski said he did not want the league to fine him, jokingly saying he needed money for an upgraded party bus.

“Roger, that wasn’t me,” Gronkowski said as video replay of the fight was aired during the interview.

In a season highlighted by the NFL receiving several black eyes and bloody noses for players involved in off-the-field violence and the league appearing to fumble how to handle those public failures, and against the on-going pressure and fines bombarding Lynch mainly for not talking to the media, both the fight and Gronkowski’s role in and attitude about it expose the cavalier and hypocritical barbarism of the NFL itself.

Every play in the NFL depends on violence—but only the sort of violence endorsed by the shield. Fights after a violent play are forbidden (apparently because the sport has some sort of ethical code?). And violence off the field is now also forbidden since those incidences have been made public.

Especially New England fans, but virtually everyone who weighed in on the fight, directly and indirectly drifted into why Lynch receives more criticism and hatred than Gronkowski—those Seahawks revealed who they really are (hint: thugs).

Setting aside that moralizing by Patriots or Patriots fans may be one of the most hypocritical events in all of sports, how the media and public responded leads to an explanation for Greenberg’s question.

The NFL maintains a tight grip on its shield, hoping to hide behind it, but the inherent hypocrisy of the sport and business is gradually being exposed. As well, the NFL provides ample evidence of the power of racism remaining in the U.S.

The media and public cry, Why doesn’t Lynch know his place?

And then the media and public guffaw with Gronkowski: “The people of Boston could not love him more.”

Lynch Gronk
Lynch and Gronkowski posing as role models?

Those different responses are literally black and white.

Of the two, the far worse role model is Gronkowski—whose nudge-nudge-wink-wink to “Roger” was clearly disrespecting authority (but remains safely in the Joe-Namath playboy template of good ol’ U.S.A. middle-class hypocrisy), whose response to the fight never rose above what we should expect from a nine-year-old, and whose reading comment may be the most troubling of all.

Of the two, Lynch deserves a much different response—as Jay Smooth explains far more eloquently than I could:

Delusion is a powerful thing, and in the U.S., our entertainment is certainly some of the ugliest examples of our delusions.

Those delusions of entertainment, however, reveal some hard truths.

The selective barbarism of the NFL is our barbarism.

But the most barbaric reality about the NFL is the racism shielded as moralizing condemning Lynch but exempt for Gronkowski.