Trent Williams’ Silverback nickname makes John Thompson uncomfortable

Redskins offensive tackle Trent Williams likes his nickname, Silverback, so much that he convinced Roger Goodell to use it when calling his name at last year’s NFL draft. But John Thompson Jr., the former Georgetown basketball coach who now has a radio show in Washington, D.C., does not like the nickname.

When Williams was a guest on Thompson’s show, Thompson told Williams that he was concerned about racial overtones with the term.

“How about that Silverback stuff?” Thompson said. “Come on with that. Trent, do you know how many white folks we had to curse at and fuss at that called us monkeys?”

Williams responded, “I understand. But I just feel like this day and age, we’re trying to move past that.”

The exchange between Williams and Thompson apparently took place on July 27, but it had been largely overlooked until Dan Steinberg of the Washington Post pointed it out today.

The 69-year-old Thompson told the 23-year-old Williams that the generational difference between the two of them may explain why they would react differently to a black man being referred to as “Silverback.”

“I’m glad as hell that you’re comfortable with that, and I know your reference does not imply what was implied years ago,” Thompson said. “But you can understand an old man’s interpretation of it. But let’s talk football. We’re gonna talk alone. You and I, we’ve got to talk by ourself about the Silverback stuff, boy.”

Considering that Williams recently spent tens of thousands of dollars on an enormous piece of jewelry commemorating the Silverback name, it’s probably safe to say he won’t be persuaded to stop using it.

81 responses to “Trent Williams’ Silverback nickname makes John Thompson uncomfortable

  1. “I’m glad as hell…”

    That’s an interesting turn of phrase. I’ll make sure to use that one today in the weekly meeting.

  2. Technically, a gorilla is an ape rather than a monkey, but I’m closer to where Coach Thompson is coming from (both in reaction and in age). I cringed when the Commissioner made the draft announcement (but I WAS psyched that the Skins took Williams over Okung … and still am).

  3. If this came from a different person I would appreciate where they were coming from, but John Thompson pulling the race card is like the house winning in black jack…it always happens. If it is a nickname that Trent Williams endorses then people need to back off. I really like what Trent said “I understand. But I just feel like this day and age, we’re trying to move past that.”

  4. “In the late 1980s, Thompson got word that several of his players, including Alonzo Mourning, were associating with noted DC drug lord (and avid Hoya fan) Rayful Edmond III,[3] whose crew was connected to at least forty homicides.[4] At the height of his empire, Edmond became very friendly with several Hoya players. When Thompson confirmed what was happening, he sent word through his sources to have Edmond meet him at his office at McDonough Gymnasium.

    When Edmond arrived, Thompson was initially cordial, and informed Edmond that he needed to cease all contacts with his players post haste,[5] specifically John Turner and Mourning, both of whom had befriended Edmond.[6] When Edmond tried to assure him that his players were not involved in anything illegal, the 6’10” Thompson stood up and pointed his index finger between Edmond’s eyes. Thompson, known for his legendary volatility, quickly boiled over, and unleashed a profanity-laced tirade in which he told Edmond that he didn’t care about his crew’s violent reputation or propensity to commit murder. Edmond had crossed a line with Thompson’s players, and Thompson was not going to allow Edmond to destroy the players’ lives.[7] It has even been alleged, but not confirmed, that Thompson threatened to either kill Edmond or have him killed if he did not leave his Hoyas alone.[8][9]

    By all accounts, Edmond never associated with another Hoya player on a personal level. It was believed that Thompson was the only person to stand up to Edmond without consequence,[10] initially causing some shock and surprise that there was no reprisal”

    You don’t mess with John Thompson.

  5. People who think Silverback is derogatory haven’t seen “Rise of the Planet of the Apes” yet.

  6. Thompson can call me “Cracker Jack” whenever he sees fit and I won’t be offended.
    That should make him feel better.

  7. This makes me sick. Get off your high horses and let the kid have his nickname. If his nickname happens to be a double entendre than that’s his problem.. not yours.

  8. Who cares? We all come from apes and some of us like me and Robin Williams are still mostly ape.

    Thompson should just go away and stop stirring the racial pot.

    Everyone is tired of old timers like that guy who held James Brown’s cape and his like making dumb, outdated comments and using race to get attention.

  9. Interesting that Silverback is contentious for Thompson because of its history, but he doesn’t seem bothered that Williams plays for the REDSKINS.

    I support sensitivity to issues of race, but when someone like Thompson applies it selectively, he comes across as a chauvinist.

  10. “We’re gonna talk alone. You and I, we’ve got to talk by ourself about the Silverback stuff, boy.”

    –I like how he doesn’t understand that Trent doesn’t know the racial undertones behind silverback, as Trent probably doesn’t understand how Thomspon can call him a “boy”.

  11. They should get together and talk about it, that way absolutely nothing will happen. Who cares? If he wants to be called silverback, let him have it. These are different days and times so why base everything we do based on the past?

    I can’t honk my horn anymore because white people used to be called honkies. Trent Williams can’t be the 400 pound gorilla because white people used to call black people monkeys. Marshawn Lynch shouldn’t have any more good games because white people used to call black people monkeys, which are beasts. As a matter of fact, from here on out, nobody should be referred to as a beast in any sport, nor shall they be allowed to go into beast mode. When you get in the shower, make sure you keep your back dry because we don’t want to offend anyone. When you’re on a cruise coming up for a port call, you should be made to stand on the pier right when you get off the boat because you don’t wanna be fresh off it.

  12. the 69 year old thompson and the 23 year old williams…bingo, neither one of them was ever a slave…williams has seemed to continue with his life without the crutch of being a black man…thompson on the other hand, is grouped with sharpton, jackson and the other racist race hustlers…learn something from him thompson

  13. Has Thompson ever been in a locker room? The n-word flies around like nothing. Yet he is “uncomfortable” (what a freaking pansy word) with Silverback?

  14. This is absolutely stupid, I mean how can anyone “get over” racism when everytime you turn around someone is calling something as petty as this racist. He likes the name he wants to be called it,so why just because he is black and the nickname describes a gorilla is this offensive. PLEASE, STOP THE MADNESS!!!!!!!!

  15. Thompson’s concerns are not justified. He’s a part of the old group that won’t let racism and the past die which is why we’ll never get past it!!!

    Now, I’m not naive enough to think that’s the only reason we won’t get beyond that history, but it is a major contributing factor. To me, that and the passing down of ignorance from generation to generation in some white households will keep the wheels of racism greased for years to come!

    Get over it John, the rest of us have. Put the crutch down and come out into the world of Americans, not white’s, blacks, hispanics, asians etc, but Americans. It’s a fun place to be if you could just let go long enough to enjoy it!

  16. good for “silverback” for not feeding into the nonsense. maybe thompson could learn a thing or two from this kid.

  17. In other news, Thompson went to Southeast DC and called out each and every young black male who refers to his fellow young black males as their (something that rhymes with “bigga”).

    Oh wait………that didn’t happen.

    STFU, Thompson. Quit trying to read something bad into something that is basically innocent.

  18. Thompson also went into Ward 8 in DC recently and called out all of those who continue to re-elect Marion Barry (a convicted criminal and known habitual drug user) int0 public office just because of one particular characteristic of his.

    Oh wait……that didn’t happen either.

    Again, STFU Thompson.

  19. I would like to see a list of animals that people of each race should not associate themselves with. As long as morons like Thompson keep talking about it, people will never move on.

  20. Thats funny, Steelers fans have been calling James Harrison, Silverback for years.

    I wonder why Thompson didn’t have that same conversation with him?

  21. spartyfi

    well said. if more of us in this country were worried about being AMERICANS, and not some meaningless particular race, we’d all be much better off.

  22. A prime example of how some of these young black people walk around like buffoons with no sense of history or knowledge even at times of sacrifices made by generations before them.

    The fact that Williams is clueless on how silly he looks adopting such a nickname in this country where racial overtones still dominate far too much is disturbing.

    It’s not the point of the nickname, it’s the point that he needs to understand the history of black people’s legacy of slavery, discrimination, and oppression because as much as the “the past is the past” group wants to trumpet that approach, you can’t move on to a better future until you fully understand and then totally destroy the kind of thinking that went into morons believing that skin color equated to not only the right to “own” another human being, but also to feel superior to those human beings in every sense of the word.

    That’s a sick mentality, and just saying “that was the past” doesn’t kill that kind of mentality, it simply hides it from plain view.

  23. I’m not white…I light brown. You’re not black…you’re dark brown. Actually we’re different shades of the SAME color. Trent said it best…move forward. Morons get off the bus!

  24. Hey, give him a break. Rise of the Apes is no. 1 at the box office. It’s all in good fun. There were all kinds of nicknames….being that a Gorilla could quite literally tear you limb from limb, its a back handed compliment. But, I get Thompson’s point…the irony is ..Williams’ team is the REDSKINS…

  25. interesting coming from a guy who loves the Redskins; can’t quit talking about the Redskins; glad to get players from the Redskins on his show. I guess he does not have the balls to call his employer and most of his listeners racists.

  26. John get over it. THe person who is called that is fine with it. You don’t like tough, You have racial problems move on or hold your stupid grudge, the rest of us didnt live during that time and don’t care. Turn the radio off and lock yourself in your home, everything now a days can have a racial depending on the cry baby bringing it up. SAD

  27. Until people stop giving words so much power over them, racism can never end. Slavery has been abolished, but slavery to a few words goes on….

  28. Okay, this is news? Does anyone really care what “John Thompson” Thinks? The kid wants to be called “Silverback”, let the kid be. Doesn’t make much sense to even have this write up…

    Hows the Redskins preparing for the upcoming season?
    They sure have A LOT of new players on that roster don’t they?
    Tim Hightower fumbling everyday in practice?

    I dunno just some thoughts…

  29. Not sure how prevalent this is but in my circle a “silverback” is a male who is prematurely graying.

    Never would I have ever imagined that the phrase would be automatically considered racist by certain people.

    I can see words like baboon or monkey being inflamatory, regardless of your race really. Nobody wants to be called that. But a silverback is la big badass alpha male gorilla that literally not a single mammal on earth can mess with toe to toe. It is a totally boss nickname for a huge muscular athlete that nobody can mess with. Tell that 60 something guy to lighten up.

  30. God i’m so tired of this. Who cares, why is it that people GO OUT OF THEIR WAY to play the race card? Seriously. Get a life…this guy obviously has already and pretty much put you in your place Mr. Thompson. Oh and calling him “boy” like that is ok for you to do but i’m sure if his white coach called him that then he’s a racist.

  31. James Harrison of the Steelers also is known as “Silverback.” Maybe I’ll let my black friends who are Steeler fans that scream “Silverback!” whenever he lights someone up know that John Thompson JR disapproves.

  32. John Thompson calls everyone Boy that is younger than him because he’s older.

    And for those who cry about John Thomposon “crying” about race….

    Try having your parent threatened to be killed as a “stupid N word”

    Have actually been alive when there were “white only” water fountains.

    Lived in Boston while Bill Russell was getting death threats because he was a black man.

    Then maybe you would understand why he sees race in some things. Yes, the younger generation doesn’t relate the same, but that doesn’t invalidate that man’s experiences. And by the way, if you have never been a victim of racism then don’t act as if you know what is valid and what isn’t. You didn’t experience it so you don’t know. I think I know what my wife went through in labor but I’m a dude so I DON’T KNOW.

  33. Yes, the name Silverback is so racist (ok, and admittedly I don’t watch enough Animal Planet), I thought a silverback was a wolf…

  34. I had no idea the nickname had any racial implications until I read this story about Thompson’s rant. Perhaps Jason Whitlock can weigh in with a story about this too.

  35. “You didn’t experience it so you don’t know.”

    I’ve been excused, told my thoughts are irrelevant because “I don’t know” hence, I no longer care.
    It’s all yours.

  36. im tired of stuff like this… obviously racisim still exists.. but if the dude likes the nickname then who cares…

    most people i hope would never hear the word silverback and conjure up a picture of a huge athleticly gifted millionaire black football player

  37. What I find most disturbing is Williams threatening to purchase an “enormous piece of jewelry.” That phrase should never be applicable to a man, unless you’re talking about the ring he is buying for his “intended.” Something about dudes wearing a bunch of expensive jewels is just disturbing.

    I’m only 43. Always felt this way. Never had my ears pierced. Never would acquiesce to my son getting his pierced. Was very reluctant to let my daughter. Of course, I also don’t understand the sagging pants thing.

    Carry on.

  38. I hadn’t even equated a silverback to a monkey until this article. Then again I’m not Diane Fossey

  39. Hell if he wants to be a Silverback let him be a damn Silverback! May be they can get some silver fur and put it on his uniform! LOL! He can get a gorilla costume and address the media after the game! The new Silverback boy reality show on the NFL channel! Oh I mean guy! Damn I’m being politically incorrect again! What a joke!

  40. The difference between how the two generations view this is the best part of the story. To the 69 yr old civil rights’ warrior it’s a slur but to the kid it means he is awesome – race is not an issue – maybe it means in the near future we’ll be taking Dr. King up on the whole “content of his character and not the color of his skin,” idea.

    Hey! Maybe one day a white football player can be good enough and ferocious enough to be called “Silverback!”

    To me it’s great that he’s not reminded of any of the old hateful expressions or comparisons. Sure, the kid would be well-advised to know his history better but he’s probably only had football on his mind for a long time now – so good for him, and here’s hoping he succeeds!

  41. In related news, the Democratic Party filed a multi-million dollar lawsuit against Trent Williams representing all offended black people as well as whites. They also filed a separate lawsuit against the Federal government for negligence in letting Washington draft Williams without doing the proper background on him and bringing this offensive behavior to Washington DC. Though this lawsuit will cost the government millions to defend, The Demosocialists said it must go on for the greater good and that thought 90% of the award from the lawsuit will go to the lawyers, 5% will go to ACORN and 5% will go to climate control which will raise more taxes and cripple the country more, and 5% will go for racial awareness ribbons that all public school kids will have to wear while on public school grounds. Finally, the other 5% will go to rebuilding mosques in Detroit.

  42. “Silverback” is a racial reference? You know, I would never have even known that had Thompson not brought it up.

    And BTW, did you see he called Williams ‘boy’? Now wait a minute….

  43. People need to stop thinking racism and get the hell over it.

    The only people that scream racism are the racist themselves.

    Who cares what your nickname is, if you like it and go by it, that is all that matters. Move forward and stop staying in the dang past. That is what is holding up movement and growth.

  44. 1). Brock Lesnar is also called Silverback and you dont get much whiter than him
    2). Tell John Thompson not to concern himself with it…if Trent Williams isnt, why should he be!?!?

  45. Yet nothing about the name “Redskins” bothers him?

    That is the first nickname that needs to be changed.

  46. hey every one! remember keith willis? i forget who he played for. “some one i know” use to call him keith willis mcgillis gorillis” hahahahaha. thats funny.

  47. So I suppose that John Thompson is offended also by the Theory of Evolution, no?

    Considering what we all allegedly evolved from according to “modern science”, I find his outrage over the word ‘silverback’ a little more than ironic. He must be a creationist because surely evolution has to be a racist theory.

  48. Rolling eyes…stop making it into something it isn’t John. Seriously. Just about anything, any nickname can be made into something negative or racial if you want it to be that. I see the nickname as a compliment for any O-lineman.

  49. @realfootballfan

    How about we leave the threats and “n word” references from the past in the past. It’s disgusting that we have to even have this conversation on a football forum, particularly when Trent Williams and every other player worth his salt is making millions from the sport. This comes as a result of his hard work and nobody gives a crap about his skin color. Skins fans love him. Football fans should admire him.
    Now, if we must get mired in racial violence I suggest you research the 3 Asians who have died in San Francisco (49er country) as a result of the “knock out game”. Purely racial. Perhaps you can consult Packers fans as they were attacked leaving the state fair by racist mobs, specifically targeting them based on race. Bears fans and Eagles fans can relate a similar story as their cities have been plagued by racist “flash mobs” beating others and stealing their property. Perhaps the racist mobs in England who are currently burning the cities would be illustrative as well. To conclude, those uttering the “n word” are the same as those who are commiting these acts of lawless violence…..and they have no relation to those who shouted such epithets at your family… how about we get back to football….?

  50. guess it would be better being known as Silverback as opposed to brokeback btw weren’t those two guys COWBOY’S…


    Yeah but they were both from Maryland.

  51. Thompson doesn’t like “Silverback”, yet he says “you and I are going to have to talk, “BOY”. Shouldn’t he have an issue with that? I believe “boy” was not a name they liked to be called. Anyway, good for Williams when he said he felt we were at a point where people should get past that. Who’s the President again?

  52. Oh boy can someone please take time away from hugging your tree and tell me how the name Redskins is racist?

    And anyone that listens to Thompson can tell he is racist. As a kid he was told many times he couldnt go somewhere because hes black. most people that grew up like that would be racist. And the person that wanted to know if he has ever been in a locker room… why are you even here commenting on stories when you know nothing about sports. Its easy…when the old man starts going on about race turn the dial.

  53. @tcawa757,

    Yes, because ignoring the injustices that black people endured and thus ignoring the tremendous resentment created by such a terrible breach of trust over the past 50 years has worked out great for race relations in this country.

    It would be akin to me telling a Jewish person, that Holocaust thing was a long time ago, let’s just let by gones be bygones and we shouldn’t let any derogatory terms thrown your way by non-Jewish people roll off your back.

    Those who forget the past (or in this case try to bury and forget the past) are doomed to repeat the past in some form or fashion, which is exactly why this country remains far too divided along racial lines than it should be at this late date.

    We have never had a frank conversation about race relations in this country, which is why so much resentment and distrust exists to begin with.

    Quite frankly, a majority of white people who were complicit in the oppression of black people for close to 200 YEEars has no place in telling them in anyway what they should or shouldn’t be offended by.

    It’s literally absurd for the people who were largely (either actively or silently) in charge of the discrimination to turn around and say, you guys should get over that now because we’re suddenly all enlightened just because race laws changed. No, that’s PRETTY SHORT SIGHTED.

    It’s the reason race continues to be a problem in this country because too many people talk at black people and other minorities instead of talking to them to understand how to mend those relationships going forward.

    Furthermore, I fail to see how John Thompson telling a young black man to be aware of the negative connotations that such a nickname intimates, but we’re to excuse the behavior that made such a label a negative pseudonym for black people.

    I don’t think black people were going around referring to themselves in that way in order to demean each other.

  54. John Thompson is a hero to disaffected utes everywhere. Never mind, off with his head. Jajjaja

  55. …And he plays on the Redskins. Race issues will always be associated with this team.

    I actually had a similar reaction to the nickname when it was announced on the podium.

    I’d say the truth is somewhere in the middle. I do look forward to a day when it doesn’t matter anymore.

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