Category Archives: sports

Race, Sports, Music and Immigration Rights Collide In Atlanta

By Arturo R. García

Before it even took place, the irony of the Atlanta Braves hosting a civil rights celebration Sunday had been pointed out, not just because of the team’s name, but because of Georgia’s recent enactment of House Bill 87.

The bill, modeled after Arizona’s Senate Bill 1070, targets undocumented immigrants and their employers, and had set off a controversy even before Carlos Santana, being honored by Major League Baseball at the game, took the opportunity to speak out against both laws. But as it turns out, the Mexican-born singer wasn’t the first pop-culture figure to do so.
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Excerpt: On Race, Class, and the Duke University Lacrosse Scandal

Race, gender and class aside, it is important to note several Duke students sincerely felt this particular team had it coming — a viewpoint based largely on their antics. Like the lawless monolith that was Goliath, they witnessed the lacrosse team carry on unruly and unchecked, a male alumnus describing them as a “rowdy, rambunctious and privileged” group gripped by an elitist attitude whose Friday-night frolics would be felonious if were committed by Duke’s predominantly black football team. Worst, he felt their supporters purported their innocence by virtue of this very privileged identity, as if “there’s no way that these rich guys who grew up in upper middle-class New England could possibly do something like this.” 

He also found fault with the issue of race superseding gender in several of the discussions that ensued in the aftermath. “The main issue should have been sexual assault and gender equality, but [people] can’t look at it without the racial lens. And then, there’s no way to even try to defend either side without it being, ‘Oh you’re just saying they didn’t do it because they’re white,’ or ‘You’re just saying that they did do it because she’s black,’ and I thought that just crowded the whole situation.”

Even as the evidence for legal wrong-doing became scarce and their innocence increasingly apparent, some students, particularly the racial minority and the low-income, still could not embrace the team as wholeheartedly as others. Yes, the legal case was spearheaded by an overzealous district attorney hellbent on seeing the players rot in prison, but when one couples the racial insults that surfaced from that night with African-Americans’ 400-year rendezvous with an unjust criminal system that at several points in time seemed to intrinsically function to disenfranchise them, black folk just weren’t that sympathetic.

I even recall several students thinking it was an opportune moment for influential (read: white) people to be subjected to the biases and corruptions that can rear its head in the judiciary system whenever race and class are influential factors. Don’t cry for them, Argentina. This was a common sentiment amongst several student groups.

– From “Duke Lacrosse Rape Case Still Hits a Nerve 5 Years Later”

A Trailblazer Twice Over: Remembering Wally Yonamine

By Arturo R. García

Ever hear the theory that life depends on a few breaks here and there? In Wally Yonamine’s case, this is literally true. As in, physiologically so.

It’s not hard to imagine that Yonamine was at a personal crossroads around 1948. Yonamine, coming off his rookie season with the San Francisco 49ers, injured his wrist, to the point that it forced him out of the game.  This in itself threatened to be a tragic loss: Yonamine was not only a prodigy, drafted out of high school by the Niners, he was the first Japanese-American to play in the National Football League.

So what’s a guy to do after his history-making accomplishments are cut short? Why, do it another way, of course. Yonamine, who became a pioneer in a way perhaps no one could have imagined, passed away this week at the age of his 85.

Within three years after the wrist injury, Yonamine had transitioned to playing baseball, completing a season apiece with minor league teams in Salt Lake City and his native Hawaii, when Lefty O’Doul, manager of the San Francisco Seals (his SLC team’s parent club), made a fateful suggestion.

“O’Doul told me to play my style,” Yonamine once said. “He told me ‘ you’re going to change Japanese baseball because of your aggressiveness. The Japanese will love the way you play'”

And so Yonamine set out on a journey that was the mirror-image of the one he started with the Niners: instead of being the first Japanese-American NFL star, he became the first American to play professional baseball in Japan.

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Donald Sterling Wants To Welcome You To Black History Month

By Arturo R. García

If you’ve ever wished black history could be celebrated every month, the L.A. Clippers are feeling you – sorta.

No, that picture (via Ball Don’t Lie) is not a fake. It’s a real advert the Clips paid for and ran in the Los Angeles Times this past Sunday, promoting their Black History Month “celebration” … on March 2.

It’s tough to say what’s worse: that the Times would run this ad, or the fact that the typo isn’t even the worst thing about it.

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Epic Fail Of The Week: Youth Football Coach Says Racist Rants Were ‘Taken Out Of Context’

By Arturo R. García

Thanks to Angry Asian Man for pointing out this story in Georgia: When youth football coach Frank Samuelson isn’t leading the 10-year-old squad for the Brookwood Football Association, he apparently likes to share his adventures around Snellville on Facebook (spelling his):

I was dining in an Asian buffet today [big surpise], and I heard this morning how Asian students are suppodely so much smarter than American kids. My personal observation is that those fishheads still eat with chopsticks. It took Western ingenuity to invent the fork. I’m just saying. … they a’int that friggin’ smart.

According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Samuelson (who is thankfully not an English teacher by trade) also served on the board of the association, a position which, one would think, enabled him to see that POC kids make up half of the league’s participants. Not that he didn’t “admire” some skills beyond the gridiron in another post:

How to solve illegal immigration: Arrest the 30+ million illegals that are here first. Have them build a huge brick wall across the border [those guys do great brick work], and make them build it from the Mexican side of the border. Mount 50 calibre machine guns across the top and shoot anyone trying to climb over.

Samuelson has also been quoted as calling South Asians “red dots” and Mexicans “beaners.”

At a meeting Tuesday night, the newly-lawyered-up Samuelson stepped down from the board – though not his coaching position – and apologized for his outbursts, saying they were taken out of context, which led to this exchange with WGCL-TV reporter Michelle Marsh:

Marsh: In what context would those statements have been appropriate?
Samuelson: It’s, you know, it’s, they were friends of mine.

Samuelson’s take was fleshed out in his apology letter, which was quoted by the Georgia Daily News:

The things I remarked about were meant to be humorous or at least thought provoking in front of the eyes of my friends who make up a variety of different people of from every walk of life, race and many national origins. It really, really bothered me to think that people were offended by any of this because if anything, it was meant to either respond to some of my friend’s posts or poke at them in turn. It was never the intention of mine to make anyone feel offended.

Change.org already has a petition up calling for Samuelson’s removal from the sidelines, but whether it happens is anybody’s guess: on one hand, CNN reported that he had his own contingent of supporters at Monday’s meeting.

On the other, if the dispute lingers on, it could hurt the league where it hurts – in the wallet. The Journal-Constitution noted that the BFA has brought in more than $1 million in revenue over the past five years. And perhaps even more importantly than that, in a region of the country where football really is king, it’s an early development system for the area high schools. Given the specter of neighborhood and economic pressure, the BFA might well decide this guy isn’t worth the trouble.

No harm, no foul?: Report On Referee Bias Keeps Harshing NBA’s ‘Flow’

By Arturo R. García

A report re-published this week in The Quarterly Journal of Economics suggests a racial bias among NBA referees. But the bigger story might be watching the league get forced out of its’ defensive stance on the issue.

According to the study by Joe Price and Justin Wolfers, based on analyzing 13 years’ worth of data on referee calls, the refs are 4 percent less likely to call fouls on players of their own race. (No wonder Kobe looks so surprised there.) Also, players score 2.5 percent more points during games involving ref crews of their own race. But don’t tell that to NBA Commissioner David Stern.

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