Tag Archives: college football

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Open Thread: The Presentation of Michael Sam

By Arturo R. García

After getting scooped by Sports Illustrated when Jason Collins announced he was gay last year, ESPN maneuvered itself into being perhaps the most visible outlet for Missouri University star Michael Sam’s own public coming-out over the weekend. But even if the network appears to be going all-in with the story, there’s some interesting pockets of silence around him thus far.

For starters, it should be noted that the announcement was not made on the network’s flagship football show, NFL Countdown. Instead, ESPN’s critically-lauded newsmagazine, Outside The Lines, broke the story along with the New York Times and Outsports. OTL specializes in big-picture, human interest stories (it recently reported [trigger warning] on the university’s apparent mishandling of a swimmer’s mental health and sexual assault) and Chris Connolly did ably cover at least some of the immediate questions surrounding the road ahead for Sam.

But it’s been nearly two days since Sam’s announcement, and we haven’t heard from Countdown host Chris Berman or his lieutenant of sorts, senior analyst Tom Jackson. The only member of the Countdown cast who has been featured in ESPN’s coverage as of Tuesday evening is correspondent Chris Mortensen.

Meanwhile, SI reported that Sam’s announcement is already cause for concern among league administrators.

“I don’t think football is ready for [an openly gay player] just yet,” said an NFL player personnel assistant. “In the coming decade or two, it’s going to be acceptable, but at this point in time it’s still a man’s-man game. To call somebody a [gay slur] is still so commonplace. It’d chemically imbalance an NFL locker room and meeting room.”

All the NFL personnel members interviewed believed that Sam’s announcement will cause him to drop in the draft. He was projected between the third and seventh rounds prior to the announcement. The question is: How far will he fall?

“I just know with this going on this is going to drop him down,” said a veteran NFL scout. “There’s no question about it. It’s human nature. Do you want to be the team to quote-unquote ‘break that barrier?’”

And the thing is, Sam is as close to an “ideal candidate” for this moment in history as you can ask for: He was co-Defensive Player of the Year in the ultra-competitive Southeastern Conference, for a team that finished in the Top 10 nationally, and was projected to be picked in the third or fourth round of the draft. So for Sam not to get picked would be really suspicious, to say the least.

But what do you think about the Michael Sam story thus far?

[Top Image via Michael Sam Facebook page.]

The Racialicious Links Roundup 12.19.13: Jim Brown vs. Kobe Bryant, Beyoncé, and more

Brown’s statements about Kobe earlier this week weren’t shocking for a man who has always taken athletes to task. On The Arsenio Hall Show, Brown made it clear that he doesn’t consider Kobe to be a socially conscious black man.

“He is somewhat confused about culture, because he was brought up in another country,” Brown said. (Bryant spent part of his childhood in Italy, where his father played professional basketball.) “[Bryant] doesn’t quite fit what’s happening in America.”

Back in the 1960s, Brown hosted a gathering for top black athletes interested in social activism. “If I had to call that summit all over,” he said, “there would be some athletes I wouldn’t call. Kobe would be one of them.”

Jim Brown is old school—from his walk to his unrelenting focus on youths in the community. He is what many black men aspired to be before heroin and prison and success came and ravaged their sense of accountability. He believes that to be a world-renowned athlete who doesn’t contribute to the community or the conversation about being a better black man is to waste one’s athletic gifts. Because for Brown it is bigger than sports, and always has been.

Beyoncé’s feminist credentials are always in question. Whether it’s her attire, her husband or her concert tour titles, you can always find pieces that declare she isn’t feminist enough on almost any pop culture site. Not all of the criticism is unwarranted, but the tone of the critiques often hinge on the idea that feminism is an either/or proposition. Admittedly, feminism has always struggled with representing all women. Whether the discussion is racism in feminist circles, or arguing that disability should be why abortion must remain legal (despite the protests of disabled feminists), feminist discourse has a problem with inclusion. As a result, women who are reaping the benefits of the work done by proclaimed feminists often shy away from the label. Even when they do claim the label, their individual interpretations may not be in line with existing academic theories. Yet, they are living many of the tenets of feminism—just on their own terms.

Pop culture feminism, albeit flawed in concept and execution, is nothing new. In fact, it is often much more accessible to young women who aren’t necessarily familiar with the history or academic theories of the movement. Beyoncé’s use of an excerpt from Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s We Should All Be Feminists has given Adichie an unprecedented platform. Libraries are reporting an uptick of interest in Adichie’s books, and while it is too soon to predict the long-term impact, it is safe to say that at least some eyes will be opened. Does that mean Beyoncé is the new ideal feminist? Of course not. Just look at Jay-Z’s verse on Drunk In Love, in which he references Ike Turner and that infamous line “Eat the cake, Anna Mae,” a reference that many will recognize from the abusive diner scene between Ike and Tina Turner in “What’s Love Got To Do With It.” The song is clearly not intended to be a feminist anthem. If anything it is likely an exploration of sexual dynamics.

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Silence and Spectacle: How the Sports Media Sanctions Racist Mascots

By Guest Contributors C. Richard King and David J. Leonard

Image by Keith Allison via Flickr Creative Commons.

One would hope sport media outlets might take their civic duty to foster critical thinking, public engagement, and informed debated seriously. Their approach to the representations in Native Americans in sport suggest otherwise. Under the veil of fairness and balance, they opt to speak for, to be silent and to silence as preferred pathways.

When ESPN columnist Rick Reilly offered a defense of Native American mascots because the American Indians he knew did not have a problem with them. Flouting his whiteness and playing his privilege with little regard, he spoke for Native Americas. His word – his whiteness, his platform – made their words meaningful. His editors neither batted an eye nor cleared a space for Native Americans to express themselves.

In fact, Reilly misrepresented his key source, his father-in-law, who wrote a lengthy retort in Indian Country Today that noted he found the name of Washington D.C.’s National Football League team to be objectionable. Reilly still stood by his piece and neither he nor his publisher have offered a correction or an apology.
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Racism Ain’t Natural: Skip Bayless, RG3, And White Fans

By Guest Contributors David J. Leonard and C. Richard King

Washington quarterback Robert Griffith III. Courtesy: The Grio/ESPN.

The Washington R*dskins (given the history and meaning of this term, we have decided to disidentify with its accepted name) sparked a minor controversy with their selection of two quarterbacks in this year’s NFL Draft. The franchise had given multiple draft picks to move up in the first round to select Robert Griffin III and then surprised many fans and pundits by picking Kirk Cousins, suggesting the latter was a developmental project, who would be groomed with an eye toward a future trade.

For a team hurting at almost every position, this move struck many as imprudent at best. Simply, the R*dskins decided to draft Griffin, a.k.a, “RG3,” last year’s Heisman Trophy winner, for being the best college football player in America. Despite their weakness at virtually every position, the selection of Cousins, who was less vaunted and certainly less heralded at Michigan State, raised eyebrows because some saw him as someone with tremendous upside and potential to start one day. This decision undercut Griffin as leader, as franchise player, and as the future from day one.

Stephen A. Smith (l) and Skip Bayless.

Enter ESPN pundits Skip Bayless and Stephen A. Smith, who have emerged as the sports version of the old CNN show Crossfire.Without a quarterback controversy to speak of, Bayless has created one. As our combustible elements, and avatars of the sports punditry industry, Bayless and Smith are often a bigger story than the athletes himself

It is fair to say Smith is known for bringing a type of “blackness” to his commentary while Bayless paints himself as being “traditional” despite his unfair and unbalanced sports commentary. Bayless, long castigated for his unrelenting criticism of LeBron James and Terrell Owens as well as a fascination with media darling Tim Tebow, embodies the reactionary racial politics of today’s mainstream sports media.
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What The Hell Has Penn State Become?

By Arturo R. García

TRIGGER ALERT for subject matter relating to rape

For the sake of their safety, we don’t know the race, or any other identifying detail, of any of Jerry Sandusky’s alleged victims. But the tweet above is still right: what happened at Penn State University Wednesday night was about privilege. And it’s time sports fans started owning up to that.

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Are You Ready For Some College Football Racism? Fox Sports Sure Is!

By Arturo R. García

Labor Day weekend brought with it the opening strains of the college football season, and according to Deadspin, Fox Sports wasted no time in going to the bottom of the “coverage” barrel.

In a segment at which only Alexandra Wallace could’ve LOL’ed, “investigative reporter” Bob Oschack set out to give the Universities of Colorado and Utah “an All-American welcome” to the Pac-12 Conference by going to the University of Southern California. The twist being, he only talked to non-white students.

More specifically, Oschack – a comedy writer by trade, if you’re generous enough to call Mind of Mencia “comedy” – focused his mock-report on what appeared to be international students who weren’t football fans. I say “appeared to be” because the students are given a textbook Othering: they’re never identified, nor are their studies mentioned. But that’s not what Oschack is going for here, of course. As Deadspin’s Emma Carmichael put it, “in the world of misguided network television humor, foreign accents and unfamiliarity with good old-fashioned football is funny.”

As Media Matters reported, Asian students made up just over 20 percent of the USC undergraduate student body as of Fall 2010, with international students making up 11.2 percent. About the only thing Oschack got “right” was the fact that USC’s enrollment is more diverse than Utah’s (75 percent white enrollment, according to a “Fast Facts” PDF) and Colorado’s (77 percent white, per CollegeProwler).

Fox quickly pulled the video from its site (although you can still watch Oschack’s compelling – and by “compelling” I mean “creepy wanna-be Daily Show” – report on why Oregon’s cheerleaders are “so f-cking hot”) and issued an apology promising to “review the editorial process” and the usual boilerplate expressions of contrition. No response from Oschack himself, but I’m betting he won’t get the chance to deliver it on any Fox Sports shows anytime soon.

UPDATE 9/7/11: The Associated Press is reporting that Fox Sports has cancelled The College Experiment, the program that aired Oschack’s segment, “effective immediately.”