The Word: Reaction to McNabb ...

Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb told HBO this week that black signal callers face more criticism than their white counterparts in the NFL.

The Bee hit the streets of downtown Modesto to see what locals' thoughts were.

"Donovan (McNabb) is just bringing an issue up that people are scared to talk about," said Bob Parks, 43, of Modesto. "Why is there no call for Drew Brees to get benched? He's been worse than Donovan by far this season.

"A black quarterback struggles and it's time to bench him. A white quarterback struggles and he's just in a slump."

Modesto's Matt Tyler, 26, countered: "The race card is fast becoming 'The Boy Who Cried Wolf.' Scream it too many times and it loses all effectiveness.

"What about Rex Grossman, Kyle Boller, Chad Pennington, Trent Dilfer, Eli Manning or Joey Harrington? They haven't been criticized enough? In fact, didn't Philly cut a perfectly good white quarterback (Jeff Garcia) who was winning, in favor of the overhyped, overrated McNabb?"

One thing was clear: There wasn't much gray area in this matter. People felt strongly in favor of McNabb's comments or wrote him off as whining.

"The truth hurts," said Adriana Rodriguez, 36, of Waterford. "Because Donovan (McNabb) spoke the truth.

"He took the Eagles to several NFC championships and almost led them to a Super Bowl victory with receivers you wouldn't put on your son's JV team.

"White people really think that racism is a thing of the past when it is still here in full force today."

Modesto's Eddie Herd, 31, believed McNabb was on his last legs and looking for a way out of Philadelphia.

"I think quarterbacks who overthrow, underthrow and can't adapt on the fly face greater scrutiny." Herd said. "He's trying to deflect some attention from his bad start.

"I wouldn't be surprised if he's in Chicago next season."

Some didn't believe the divide ended with quarterbacks.

"The New England Patriots coach gets a pass on cheating," said Brenton Harper, 39, of San Jose. "Yet, if it was Tony Dungy who was caught cheating, the white sports writers and most white sports fans would be saying the Colts should forfeit their championship.

"People need to recognize the double standard in this racist country."

Tracy's Mike Maldonado, 33, believed it was a good national debate and was glad McNabb took a stance.

"I think there's a lot of truth in McNabb's comments." Maldonado said. "I don't think there's a sinister motive behind it, but black quarterbacks are scrutinized more closely than white quarterbacks, mostly for the simple reason that there are far more white QBs (26) than black (6).

"I do wonder if a white quarterback had scored a 6 on his Wonderlic test (like Vince Young did) if it would have been as widely publicized.

"I also think that there is a perception that a lot of black quarterbacks are nothing more than glorified running backs with strong arms, so when they do mess up, there is a louder reaction."