Calling guest Terry Crews “the most positive, optimistic guy,” Seth Meyers brought on the Brooklyn Nine-Nine star, former NFL player, and pal of Muppets everywhere on a week where even Crews’ signature, indefatigable enthusiasm has hit a wall. For one thing, Crews told Meyers that he and his Brooklyn Nine-Nine cast members have been having some seriously soul-searching talks about what the next season of a hilariously goofy show about a diverse and ethical team of New York police officers will look like after the actual police (in New York and elsewhere) have provided so much glaring proof that feel-good fictional cops are just that. Crews didn’t mention anything about following costar Stephanie Beatriz’s lead and donating his cop show salary to Black Lives Matter-related causes, but it probably came up. Instead, Crews told Meyers that the Brooklyn Nine-Nine Zoom calls have been full of “somber talks” and “really eye-opening conversation,” so here’s to the writers room in their attempts to balance pepper-spraying, suspect-murdering, intransigently racist reality with breezy half-hour network comedy.
Eye-opening itself was Crews’ take on his time in the National Football League, where the notoriously imposing former linebacker told Meyers about the “plantation” mentality under which he and other black players worked. Sure, it’s decent money (although not necessarily if you’re a well-traveled journeyman player like Crews was), but he told Meyers about an entrenched culture where a white coach thought it’d be a hoot to rechristen Terry as “Tyrone” for a season, where black players were uniformly thought of as fakers and malingerers when it came to injury, and where he—while playing for the Los Angeles Rams during the 1992 riots—was held at gunpoint by two cars’ full of officers during a routine traffic stop. Telling Meyers that NFL commissioner Roger Goodell’s recent apology for the league punishing and denigrating black players protesting police violence was akin to President Obama’s first inauguration (in that he thought he’d never see it), Crews joined those in blasting Goodell for not once mentioning Colin Kaepernick by name. Calling the blackballing of the vocal quarterback “still the most glaring example of racism that the NFL has ever had” (and Crews would know), Crews said that words are nice, but until Kaepernick gets back on an NFL field, that’s all they are.
Speaking of getting roasted, Crews also addressed his current time in the Twitter doghouse over posted criticisms of what he termed a (deep, wincing sigh) “black supremacy” element in the current, worldwide protests against racist police violence. Meyers isn’t wrong in pointing to Crews’ characteristic optimism and positivity in turning his life into a daily billboard for self-actualization and improbable midlife musculature, but this time, his desire “to be the solution” rather than a problem saw him angering a whole lot of people in the Black community. And while a lot of the Twitter discourse has been predictably, um, blunt, Crews’ calls for “love” and “reconciliation” have been viewed as both facile and wrong-headedly critical of those (most without a lucrative second career in show business) on the literal front lines of what has become a daily and dangerous fight for a substantive change. Still, Crews wasn’t backing down on Late Night, saying, “It’s Twitter,” and “taken out of context, anybody can roll with anything,” while at the same time playing defense against those calling him out for what might be charitably called an overly rosy position of privilege. “I do not want to see us get more and more extreme,” explained Crews, while calling out those “gatekeepers who decide who is Black and who is not,” who have, according to Crews, “determined I have been rendered moot because I am successful.”
Looking for ways to advocate for Black lives? Check out this list of resources by our sister site Lifehacker for ways to get involved.