New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski raised eyebrows over the weekend by stepping into the ring at WrestleMania 33 as a surprise participant in the show and leveling a WWE star with a tackle.
It was the latest in a long line of off-field stunts for the lovable tight end, who enjoys his status the NFL's biggest party animal. But according to a report from Bleacher Report's Mike Freeman, some NFL players believe Gronkowski isn't held to the same standard as his peers and that Cam Newton wouldn't be able to get away with the same behavior.
Skip Bayless and Shannon Sharpe reacted to the report on Thursday's episode of "Undisputed," and Sharpe said that fans and media are far more tolerant of Gronkowski than any African-American NFL stars.
There's a double-standard for Gronk
“Absolutely, I agree [there’s a double standard].
"There’s two things at work here. And I don’t want to get too political, but think about what was expected of President Obama, and then look what’s tolerated of President Trump. So we’ll just leave that there, let’s get back to this.
"Skip Bayless, let’s just say for the sake of argument the New York Giants or the Dallas Cowboys or the Pittsburgh Steelers win the Super Bowl, and on the parade route you see Odell Beckham, you see Dez Bryant, you see Antonio Brown grab beers and start chugging them. What would be said? You already know.”
Cam Newton wouldn't be afforded the same tolerance
“Rob Gronkowski has surgery on his back in December. He goes to his bosses in April and says ‘I want to participate in WrestleMania.’
"Now, wrestlers … although it is scripted, they get injured. They tear knee ligaments and fracture their neck and hurt their backs and break arms. So they get hurt.
"Skip, let me ask you a question: If Cam Newton went to his bosses … the Atlanta [Braves], they no longer play at Turner Field, they’ve moved to Cobb County. Cam Newton is from Atlanta. He had surgery on his shoulder. If he went to his bosses and said ‘you know guys, it’s Atlanta, it’s a new stadium, can I throw out the first pitch?’
"What do you think they’re going to say?”
New England can get away with more than any other franchise
“You see what’s happening here?
"Also what’s at play is New England -- they’re viewed differently because they win. And you see this all the time, but he wins.
"Let’s think about this now. In his last five years, Gronk has missed 24 regular-season games and six playoff games. Why did he miss those games? Because of injury.
"This is the way I operate. I don’t think because you win ballgames, I can’t question some of the things you do. A lot of people feel that way. ‘But he wins, so he should be OK!’
The Patriots even got a pass for signing Michael Floyd
“The Patriots can get away with this, no other organization. If another organization had tried to sign Michael Floyd one day after getting released after that video of him being asleep at the intersection drunk, they would have been reamed.
"But it’s, ‘The Patriots did their scouting reports, they called a lot of people, they called his former coach, his fifth-grade teacher. They called all these people, so they’re very, very thorough in what they did.’
"… They gave [Gronk] the green light to do this after having back surgery, after missing, what, seven, eight regular-season games, after missing the entire playoffs.
"He gets a pass because ‘That’s Gronk being Gronk.’ ”
Winslow TownsonWinslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports
People ignore Gronkowski's behavior because 'that's just Gronk'
“Think about this: Let’s go back to the ‘80s. Could Randall Cunningham or Warren Moon have done what Jim McMahon did? Absolutely not.
"That’s the problem. When a white guy does this, ‘Oh that’s just him, that’s just Gronk.’
"Let Odell Beckham do that, let Cam Newton and Dez Bryant do that.”
Greg M. CooperGreg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports
Gronk isn't the first star to get a pass for his lifestyle
“Just for historical perspective, this league has a long and ancient history of romanticizing the off-field drinking and womanizing of white quarterbacks. Putting them on [a pedestal]. Joe Namath, Kenny Stabler. They became folk heroes for their off-the-field behavior.
"Back to Gronk. I have to speak for myself here, and defend myself, because I have never, ever given Rob Gronkowski a pass on television just because he is ‘lovably goofy frat-boy Gronk.’ I just don’t give him that pass, and I have criticized him harshly on the air for his bad-look behavior and for his dangerous behavior that could threaten his ability to stay healthy on the football field.
"If we go back to the second Super Bowl that the Patriots lost to Eli Manning, remember Gronk had torn up his ankle in the AFC Championship game against Baltimore. He attempted to play and limped through that Super Bowl, caught two balls for 26 yards -- and then was captured on postgame video at the team’s party dancing his backend off. And it was just offensive to me."
Jasen VinloveJasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports
Gronk's heart is in the right place, but he doesn't get it
“The other day I was very critical of Gronkowski because allegedly the Patriots had given him permission to do that?! To get in a three-point stance and run full-speed, across the ring and run headlong into another wrestler as a part of WrestleMania? It was obviously choreographed, but it was still a dangerous stunt, I thought, for a guy coming off his third back surgery. Really?
"In the big picture -- I’ve always thought this, from a distance -- Gronk has a big, good heart. It always seems like his heart’s in the right place, but he’s just an immature kid who just doesn’t quite get it.
"Has he grown up some of late? Maybe some. But in the end, he does seem to get some passes from some in the media, in part because he’s the most dominating receiver in pro football, and I’m throwing him in with all the guys who catch passes. When he’s right, no one’s righter.
"And, number two, he’s not a franchise quarterback, so he’s not going to be held to franchise quarterback standards, as Cam Newton is.
"… If Tom Brady did this, he would get hammered for it.”
Greg M. CooperGreg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports
A black NFL player wouldn't have even thought he would be allowed to participate in WrestleMania
“Let’s just say for the sake of argument, a black [player] - Julio Jones, or someone coming off surgery -- says, ‘You know what, I’ve got a charity basketball game’ and they went to the team and [promised], ‘All I’m going to do is stand outside and shoot threes.’ Do you think they’d let that fly?
"First of all, I don’t believe a black athlete would have the gumption after missing eight games, missing all my team’s playoff games and the Super Bowl … I don’t believe a black player would have the gumption to go ask the team to let them do something after coming off injury.
"And look, I want to be crystal clear: Rob Gronkowski has committed no crimes. I’m just saying his behavior and the optics of what is allowed by him as opposed to others.”