Brian Urlacher of the NFL’s Chicago Bears showed yesterday how a gentleman handles being the butt of a politically incorrect joke: he brushed it off and agreed that it was funny.

As reports, the All-Pro Bears middle linebacker hadn’t heard about the incident until a friend told him about it. Beck, on his FOX News TV program, had been looking at photographs of a group of celebrities listed by a website as “The Blackest White Folks We Know” (which, incidentally, was not a very flattering group of people, Urlacher notwithstanding, unless you find Rod Blagojevich, Madonna, James Carville, and Bill Clinton to be models of deportment). Upon seeing the bald, bullnecked Urlacher, Beck said, “I think this guy’s a neo-Nazi.”

That led to much criticism, as apparently is the case with everything Beck says. Beck duly apologized on his Fox News website: “Anyway, I apologize to anyone who was offended. I just made a neo-Nazi joke based on the short hair and white skin; I don’t actually think he has fascist plans to take over the Earth.”

Urlacher would have none of it. “It’s dumb. I think people blew it out of proportion,” he said, according to the Chicagobreakingsports story.

Urlacher realized that Beck was just making a joke and intended no malice, and he made it clear that Beck had nothing for which e needed to apologize in this instance.

“I don’t think the guy was being malicious,” he said. “He has a show, he was being funny, and that’s it. He didn’t know who I was, obviously. Even if he wouldn’t have apologized, it wouldn’t have been a big deal to me. I don’t care about all that stuff.”

Urlacher has had problems himself with the press, who have often characterized him as something of a jackass, whereas he would undoubtedly see himself as simply a free spirit. Hence he could understand what was happening to Beck in this case.

Many other celebrities, however, have experienced the same unfairness from the press but are perfectly willing to let others endure the same ill-treatment with equal injustice, and even indulge in it themselves (cf The Huffington Post). Urlacher showed class and decency in not implicitly endorsing the complaints against Beck through silence. Instead he stood up and said he liked  Beck’s joke. “It was funny,” Urlacher said.

“I don’t care about all that stuff”: what a better world this would be if more people took that attitude.

—S. T. Karnick