Tag Archives: NFL

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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‘Chink In The Stands’: An Asian American Fan’s Notes

By Guest Contributor Jen Wang, cross-posted from Disgrasian

I sat down to write about the fallout that’s ensued since ESPN editor Anthony Federico wrote that “Chink In The Armor” headline a little over a week ago, and I ended up with a bunch of stories about myself. In some ways though, I think these notes better articulate my frustration and anger over many of the conversations that have taken place about Jeremy Lin with regard to race than explicit words to that effect would have. Or maybe I just really like talking about myself.

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For most of my life, I’ve been a sports fan. I was born and raised in Texas, so it was mandatory. More to the point, I was born and raised Chinese American in Texas. I couldn’t look like my peers, I couldn’t be accepted as an equal by many of my peers, but I could root for the same teams as my peers. And somewhere deep down, I probably figured that if I could demonstrate the same devotion to the idols of my peers, they would eventually come around to the idea that I wasn’t all that different from them, and perhaps even accept me as one of their own.

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My father arrived in College Station, Texas from Taiwan in 1965 on a student visa. He was one of several students from Taiwan who went to Texas A&M to pursue graduate degrees in the sciences that year. They all lived together. They all had nothing. Only two years before my dad began his studies at A&M, the school admitted its first African American students. My dad recalls that was right around the time the school shut down its campus chapter of the Ku Klux Klan. He and my mom met a few years later when she came over from Taiwan to attend a nearby women’s college. I have to think the cultural climate of small-town Texas was what put their relationship in fast-forward. They met one Thanksgiving when all of the American students from their schools were home with their families, married a year later, had my brother less than a year after that. My mother has stories from that time of being told to sit at the back of the bus; my father, who only had a bike in those first few years, used to get run off the road by other students in cars who thought it was funny to see a Chinaman in a ditch.

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The White Coach’s Burden

Courtesy: Sports Illustrated/The Dan Patrick Show

By Guest Contributor Dr. David J. Leonard

During my “glory days” playing high school football–among other positions I played linebacker–there was a game where, after several tackles (pretty amazing tackles if I remember them correctly), I found myself rolling on the ground in pain. Their running back decided to thrust his helmet into my gut leaving me gasping for air. I would later find out that the opposing coach encouraged his players to “take me out”: a helmet to the gut would do that for at least one play.

The fact that a nobody player in a nothing high-school football game between two tiny private schools in Los Angeles was “taken out” illustrates how encouraged violence is part and parcel to football culture, even if there were no “‘knockouts’…worth $1,500 and ‘cart-offs’ $1,000, with payments doubled or tripled for the playoffs,” rewards uncovered as part of the New Orleans Saints’ “bounty program” last week.

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The God Squad: Tim Tebow, Jeremy Lin, And Religiosity Of Sports

By Guest Contributor Dr. David J. Leonard

Among the virtual saturation of Jeremy Lin online has been a poster of him with the words “We are all witnesses.” At Monday’s New York Knicks game, fans donned “black T-shirts that read “The Jeremy Lin Show” on the front” and “We Believe” painted on the back.

Encapsulating the hoopla and hype, while referencing the similar promise that LeBron James brought to Cleveland and the NBA (how’d that work out?), not to mention the spectacle of his meteoric rise, “the witness” iteration illustrates the religious overtones playing through the media coverage.

Since Lin emerged on the national scene while at Harvard, he has made his faith and religious identity quite clear. While refusing to abandon the “underdog” story, Cork Gaines focuses readers attention on his religious beliefs: “But there is more to Jeremy Lin than just being an undrafted Asian-American point guard out of Harvard. He is also a devout Christian that has previously declared that he plays for the glory of God and someday hopes to be a pastor.” Noting how post-game interviews often begin with Lin announcing his faith – “just very thankful to Jesus Christ, [his] Lord and savior” – Gaines uses this opportunity to deploy the often noted comparison that Jeremy Lin is the NBA’s Tim Tebow.

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Making Sense Of The ‘New’ Michael Vick Experience

ESPN has certainly hitched its’ promotional wagon to Michael Vick, but first things first: don’t blame Touré for the question, “What If Michael Vick Were White?” – or for that pic above of said hypothetical “White” Vick.

“I had no knowledge of or say in the title of the story and the horrific, misguided picture of Vick in whiteface, which dismayed and disgusted me when I saw it,” he explained in a column for CNN. “I think careful readers will note that the story and the image don’t really interact. They’re like two people who kinda know about each other but don’t really know each other. But this has happened to me before.”

He made a similar disclaimer on Twitter, according to Colorlines:

My essay on Vick is nowhere near as inflammatory as the pic of him in whiteface which contradicts me saying you can’t imagine him as white.

I wrote an essay about Vick & race. ESPN the mag titled it & added art without me (normal procedure). Judge me on the story not the art.

In his CNN piece, Touré also mentioned that he wanted to talk about football more in his Vick column, but that ESPN “was less interested in that.” Reading his essay on the Philadelphia Eagles quarterback again, I think his editors let him down in the process.
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Brett Favre: The Chimercal Trickster of American Sports

by Guest Contributor invisman52, originally published at Max Protect

After Brett Favre threw an interception at the end of the NFC Championship Game–a fatal mistake that cost his team a chance to make the Super Bowl–I knew that if the Saints would go on to win the game in overtime, many in the media would bemoan the end of Favre’s incredible, improbable season.  (At age 40, he had the best statistical season of his career.)  Since the Saints did win the game in the extra period, I was immediately attuned to how those in the football punditry would react to the game.  To be fair to Favre, with the exception of that crucial late-game turnover, he played remarkably.  Yet, in a twisted sort of poetic football justice, and if Favre retires, his last pass as a Minnesota Viking will be an interception.  His last pass a New York Jet: an interception.  His last pass a Green Bay Packer: an interception.  For all of Favre’s success, he has also thrown more interceptions than anyone in the history of the league.

Many will attribute this fact to his longevity and durability, that Favre has played so many games.  This argument is often coupled with the notion that Favre is a “gun-slinger,” risking whatever it takes to help his team win.  But what underlines most of this line of defense is a love affair that many in the media have for Favre; and it is much more than a so-called “man crush.”  What is clear to me is that what courses through pundits’ constant approbation and excusing of Favre is a deep, racialized identification.  That is, many white pundits in the media are quick to absolve Favre of any kind of blame because of his particular brand of whiteness–a whiteness that I argue is consciously performed.
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