Only six months after joining the network, former NFL star and TV host Ahmad Rashad is leaving the Golf Channel for the Back9Network, reportedly due to friction with “Morning Drive” co-host Kelly Tilghman. As someone who has only had a very brief but extremely intense encounter with Rashad, I can tell you personally that I’m not surprised.
I was an intern for the NBA’s Video Production department back in 2008. I worked in Secaucus, NJ, where the NBA films most of its original content and puts together its commercials, season-in-review specials, and so on. It was a great summer to work for the league — the Celtics and Lakers were in the Finals and the “Redeem Team” was storming its way through Beijing. I even got to help brainstorm ideas for making the WNBA a viable commercial endeavor.
All jokes aside, one day I was asked to help bring a cake to Ahmad Rashad. Some sort of milestone had been reached for “NBA Access,” Rashad’s show — the final episode of the season, or maybe its last episode on ABC, or something like that. I was given a big box and told to make my way down to the set, where the surprise cake would be delivered after the last take.
I heard Rashad’s booming voice as soon as my fellow interns and I crept onto the set. My heart began to race. As a child of the early ’90s and huge basketball fan, I was ecstatic to meet the host of a show (then known as “Inside Stuff”) I had watched religiously every week. I remember thinking that no one was as engaging and fun as Rashad was while detailing the inner workings of the league I hoped to one day be a part of. That never happened, of course, but that’s another story.
Several production assistants spotted me, and one came over to whisper directions for optimal surprise cake delivery. Suddenly, Rashad broke off. There was silence for a moment.
“Who the fuck is talking?” he asked.
No one moved.
“Seriously, we’re trying to finish this shit. Who the fuck is talking?”
Finally, a timid-looking man who I had to assume was the director spoke up. “Can we please keep it down, people? Sorry, Ahmad. We’ll do it again.”
“I’ve got shit to do, man. Let’s not be whispering on the set, alright?” It wasn’t a question, obviously. The cameras began rolling again, and this time the assistant guided me wordlessly behind the curtains of the set. After a few minutes, I heard Rashad sign off, finishing the episode. Everyone clapped. I feared for their lives but apparently that truly was the end. That’s when I stepped out with the cake.
“Oh, what is this?” he asked, as I placed the angel food cake down on the table in front of him. “Congrats,” I think I managed to say, for what occasion I can’t recall. The production team cheered as Rashad raised his hands and said, “Thank you, thank you all.”
A knife was presented for him to cut the first piece. He took it and looked down at the cake. “What is this white people cake?” I took that as my cue to back out of the way, slowly. “Get some black people cake next time, alright?” he called out, sliding the knife into the confection. After cutting a slice and heaving it onto the plate, he clapped his hands once and said, “Alright, I’m out of here.” He walked off the set, leaving a bunch of confused white people to eat their white people cake in a state of what I can only call collective relief.
Was Ahmad Rashad having a bad day? Totally possible. Can you take anything more from this interaction than you can from the fact that he’s been married and divorced four times? Probably not. But when I heard that he had left the Golf Channel altogether this morning, I was instantly transported back to being a nervous little intern holding out what was supposed to be a celebratory cake for a guy I had once admired. Instead I got a harsh lesson on meeting your heroes: They’re not always what they appear to be on-screen. In other words, from what I can tell, Ahmad Rashad is not the easiest person to get along with. Here’s to hoping the Back9Network knows where to find some black people cake, whatever that is, when his birthday rolls around.
Photo via Getty