It wasn’t that long ago when we were being told that black players couldn’t play in “our” games because it would be “uncomfortable.” And even when they finally could, it took several more years before a black man played quarterback. Because we weren’t “comfortable” with that, either.
So many of the same people who used to make that argument (and the many who still do) are the same people who say government should stay out of our lives. But then want government in our bedrooms.
I’ve never understood how they feel “comfortable” laying claim to both sides of that argument. I’m not always comfortable when a man tells me he’s gay; I don’t understand his world. But I do understand that he’s part of mine.
- As aired on WFAA-TV, Feb. 10
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.]
By Arturo R. García
The National Council of American Indians released “Proud To Be” over Super Bowl weekend, a video adding more faces and names to the increasing call for the National Football League to change the name of the Washington D.C. franchise.
The league’s latest effort to skirt the issue came Friday, when Commissioner Roger Goodell refused to say whether he would call a Native American person a “R*dskin” to their face, instead hiding behind the argument that the name “presented in a way that honors Native Americans,” and saying 90 percent of Native Americans support keeping the name. (Of course, the league also denied evidence of the game’s physical and mental damage to players for years.)
Goodell’s statement is probably taken from 2002 and 2004 surveys conducted by Sports Illustrated and Anneberg. But it runs counter to an October 2013 NCAI study showing 80 percent disapproval of the team’s name in Native communities as far back as in a poll conducted by Indian Country Today.
“Neither the Sports Illustrated or Annenberg poll verified that the people they were talking to actually were Native people,” the study states. “They did not ask any questions that would have made a case that the people being polled were Native. The Indian Country Today poll was among readers who were likely to be informed about Native issues, if not informed Native people.”
The Oneida Indian Nation released a response to Goodell’s remarks on Friday:
It is deeply troubling that with the Super Bowl happening on lands that were once home to Native Americans, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell would use the event as a platform to insist that the dictionary-defined R-word racial slur against Native Americans is somehow a sign of honor. Commissioner Goodell represents a $9-billion brand with global reach, yet insists that it is somehow no big deal that his league uses those vast resources to promote this slur. In the process, he conveniently ignores all the social science research showing that the NFL’s promotion of this word has serious cultural and psychological effects on native peoples. Worse, he cites the heritage of the team’s name without mentioning that the name was given to the team by one of America’s most famous segregationists, George Preston Marshall. He also somehow doesn’t mention the heritage of the R-word itself, which was as an epithet screamed at Native Americans as they were forced at gunpoint off their lands. The fact that Mr. Goodell doesn’t seem to know any of this – or is deliberately ignoring it – suggests that for all his claims to be listening, he isn’t listening at all.
While supporting the NCAI’s overall efforts, however, Native Appropriations did point out some problematic aspects of the imagery chosen for the video. Not only were all of the historical figures cited men, she points out, but it relies too heavily on the past for its power:
The whole first minute or so of the clip focuses mostly on powwow images of Native folks in regalia, contrasted with images of reservation poverty, with images of historic figures thrown in as well. Yes, the vast majority of Americans don’t have access to any images of contemporary Native peoples, so the powwow and poverty images are important. But, I really feel like it’s time for us to complicate that narrative. With the historic images, yes, it’s definitely important to recognize the contributions of our leaders in the past–but why do we always have to return to the Edward Curtis photographs and Sitting Bull to make a point about modern Native peoples?
The transcript to the video is presented under the cut.
By Arturo R. García
One of the worst things about the worst responses to Richard Sherman’s interview Sunday night with Erin Andrews might be this: he probably saw it coming, and has decades’ worth of history to back him in that response.
- Black Detroit Woman Shot To Death While Seeking Help In White Neighborhood After Car Crash (Rania Khalek)
f you thought what happened to Jonathan Ferrell last month was horrific, wait until you hear about the slaying of 19-year-old Renisha McBride.
At around 2:30am on Saturday morning, McBride got into a car accident near Dearborn Heights, a suburb around Detroit. Her cell phone battery was dead so she went to a nearby home to seek help. But after knocking on the door, McBride was killed by a gunshot wound to the head. (Update: McBride’s family told Detroit Free Press that she was shot in the back of the head as she was turning to leave.)
Dearborn Heights police initially told McBride’s family that her body was found dumped near Warren Avenue and Outer Drive, but that story quickly changed. Not only are police refusing to release the identity of the man who shot McBride, they’re now saying she was mistaken for an intruder and shot in self-defense on the homeowner’s front porch. Even if that’s the case, and there’s reason to believe it’s not, the shooter still failed to call 911 after shooting an unarmed woman in the head, instead leaving her there to die. Does that sound like the behavior of a law-abiding gunowner who made a tragic mistake?
- Incognito considered black in Dolphins locker room (The Miami Herald)
Well, I’ve spoken to multiple people today about this and the explanation from all of them is that in the Dolphins locker room, Richie Incognito was considered a black guy. He was accepted by the black players. He was an honorary black man.
And Jonathan Martin, who is bi-racial, was not. Indeed, Martin was considered less black than Incognito.
“Richie is honarary,” one player who left the Dolphins this offseason told me today. “I don’t expect you to understand because you’re not black. But being a black guy, being a brother is more than just about skin color. It’s about how you carry yourself. How you play. Where you come from. What you’ve experienced. A lot of things.”
Another former Dolphins employee told me Martin is considered “soft” by his teammates and that’s a reason he’s not readily accepted by some of the players, particularly the black players. His background — Stanford educated and the son of highly educated people — was not necessarily seen as a strength or a positive by some players and it perpetuated in the way Martin carried himself.
By Guest Contributors C. Richard King and David J. Leonard
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.
By Arturo R. García
Advisory: This post deals in part with suicide and brain trauma
At its core, League Of Denial is a story about hurt. The special report by PBS’ Frontline traces the shameful history of the National Football League’s attempts to stymie, then co-opt research into the increasingly hard-to-hide connection between football, concussions and, ultimately, chronic traumatic encephalopathy — the disease known as CTE for short.
And while the report gives due time to the hurt experienced by not only the players affected but their families, another story emerges: how far the NFL went to hurt the career of Dr. Bennet Omalu, the Nigerian-born pathologist who first discovered the fatal link.
- Malala Yousafzai and the White Saviour Complex (Media Diversity UK)
When Malala Yousufzai was shot in the head by Taliban gunmen simply because she wanted to gain an education it sent shockwaves around the world.
The Western media took up the issue, Western politicians and the public spoke out and soon she found herself in the UK. The way in which the West reacted made me question the reasons and motives behind why Malala’s case was taken up and not so many others.
There is no justifying the brutal actions of the Taliban or the denial of the universal right to education, however there is a deeper more historic narrative that is taking place here.
This is a story of a native girl being saved by the white man. Flown to the UK, the Western world can feel good about itself as they save the native woman from the savage men of her home nation. It is a historic racist narrative that has been institutionalised. Journalists and politicians were falling over themselves to report and comment on the case. The story of an innocent brown child that was shot by savages for demanding an education and along comes the knight in shining armour to save her.