Tiki Barber stirs up controversy with ‘Anne Frank’ remark

New York Giants runningback Tiki Barber attends a news conference following his final NFL football game in Philadelphia, in this January 7, 2007 file photo. The all-time leading rusher, took the first step towards returning to the NFL on Tuesday and ending a four-year retirement. Barber filed paperwork with the league to remove him from the reserve-retirement list, according to a report on Sports Illustrated magazine’s website, clearing the way for a return. REUTERS/Ray Stubblebine/Files (UNITED STATES – Tags: HEADSHOT SPORT FOOTBALL)

Tiki Barber clearly has fallen on some rough times. It’s because of his own actions that he’s fallen on those rough times, but I digress.

Now, he would like to play football again and he’s trying to repair an image tarnished when he decided to leave his pregnant wife to be with his 23-year-old girlfriend. The problem is that he can’t stop putting his foot in his mouth long enough to repair said image.

While recently trying to explain the media scrutiny that he’s received since leaving his wife (did we mention she was pregnant at the time?), Barber told L. Jon Wertheim of Sports Illustrated that he moved into the attic of his agent, Mark Lepselter, to escape the prying eyes of the public. Doug Farrar of Yahoo! Sports breaks down the comment that has landed Tiki in some hot water.

“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.

“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.”

I thought Farrar summed up the situation perfectly in his closing paragraph:

…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.

What he said.

I’m sure in his down time Barber found a little irony in the situation and thought it was funny. But it’s not funny and as Farrar pointed out, in a day and age when you have to watch everything you say, it’s just not wise for a millionaire athlete to be drawing any similarities between himself and Anne Frank. He probably meant no harm by the comment but this is the problem with Barber – he just doesn’t think. It’s one of the many reasons why he’s in the mess that he’s in.

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