Tag Archives: sports

Nature, Nurture, And The Pro Athlete

By Guest Contributor Jason Eastman, originally published on Sociological Images

Race as biology has largely been discredited, yet beliefs about one race being biologically superior to another still seem to pervade one social arena: sports.  Claims that different races have genetic advantages to play particular sports persists both because individual athletic ability obviously has some basis in biology (even though that does not mean it is racial biology at play) and athletics appears to be one social arena where racial minorities succeed over whites in certain sports.

For example, according to the Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sports’ 2011 Racial and Gender Report Card on The National Football League, over 2/3 of players in the NFL are African American–far higher than the proportion of Blacks in the general population of the United States.  This report also shows that all other racial groups are under-represented in the NFL relative to their proportion in the general population, including Asians who make up only 2% of the players in the league.

These statistics compel many to assume that racial biology plays a large part in athletic success.  However, the 60 Minutes investigation “Football Island” debunks this assumption during a trip to the place where most of the Asian players in the NFL come from: American Samoa.   This small island is a US Territory in the Pacific and has a population small enough to seat comfortably in most professional football stadiums.  Yet the average Samoan child “is 56 times more likely to get into the NFL than any other kid in America.”

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Sexism, Racism, And Swimming At The London 2012 Olympics

by Guest Contributor Sarah Keenan, originally published at Half in Place

I’ve been a little taken aback this week at the level of racism against China in the British and US media, and on longer-than-usual comment threads on various friends’ Facebook walls. I mean, I know that racism in sport and in the media is nothing new, and I know that being mixed-race white-Chinese, I’m taking the various swipes being thrown at Chinese athletes particularly personally. But still, the obsessive furor that has surrounded the 16 year-old swimmer Ye Shiwen has brought out so many hackneyed Orientalist stereotypes, it would be boring if it wasn’t so hurtful and infuriating.

For anyone who’s been asleep this past week, Ye Shiwen broke the 400 metre individual medley world record, breaking her own personal best time by 5 seconds and powering home in the last 100 meters to take gold in the event. In fact she swam so fast to the finish line that, as has been cited by countless commentators, her split time for her final 50 meter lap was 0.17 of a second faster than that of Ryan Lochte, the US swimmer who won the equivalent men’s event the night before. But rather than congratulating this young woman on an amazing swim and celebrating the small shifts happening to move swimming ever-so slightly away from being the white-dominated sport that it is (I think only rowing has a less diverse group of competitors), Ye immediately became the subject of doubt and speculation. Top US coach John Leonard described Ye’s win as ‘unbelievable’, ‘disturbing’ and ‘suspicious‘, BBC commentator Clare Balding turned to her co-commentator and asked ‘How many questions will there be, Mark, about somebody who can suddenly swim so much faster than she ever has before’, and so began a week of intensive media speculation over whether Ye was doping.

Now like all Olympic medallists, Ye has been tested for banned substances, and has come up clean. But that’s not enough for thousands of armchair commentators who have suddenly become self-appointed experts on what could possibly be the ‘natural’ physique and capabilities of a Chinese girl. The fact that Ye, a young woman, had one lap faster than male Lochte has been bandied around as evidence that she was doping, ignoring the fact that overall Ye’s time for the 400 meters was still over 20 seconds slower than Lochte’s, and that it’s not humanly impossible for women to swim faster than men sometimes. The Daily Mail jumped on board to assert that Ye has an ‘unusually masculine physique’ in an article in which the journalist seems to refer to China and East Germany almost interchangeably. There is of course no denying that Chinese swimmers were involved in drug scandals in the 90s, but to assume Ye is doping because (a) she swum fast and (b) she is Chinese is racism at its most plainly obvious. Continue reading

Ignorance on Parade: Mayweather Insults Pacquiao

by Latoya Peterson

So Floyd Mayweather decided that he was going to be clever, and post a Ustream rant bashing Manny Paquiao – throwing in strategic references to “cats and dogs” and “sushi rolls.”


Floyd Mayweather Going in on Manny Pacquiao
Uploaded by dmotionuser10. – More professional, college and classic sports videos.

So yes, Mayweather is a damn fool – should be no surprise to folks who watch his actions on TV (did y’all see him on What Chilli Wants?)

However, Mayweather’s apology is even worse. Continue reading

Race and the Full Court Press

By Guest Contributor G.D., originally posted at PostBourgie

girls

Malcolm Gladwell has caught a lot of flak for his piece last week on how underdogs win, and perhaps rightly so. His central point, though — that the outgunned can have a fighting chance at success if they ditch convention and play to their strengths — is one worth considering, and given the resilience and tactics of the insurgencies in Afghanistan and Iraq, is a topical one, too.

But in making his point, he goes to some weird places. The framing device for this story is a not-particularly-talented eighth grade girl’s basketball team at Redwood City in the Silicon Valley. There are only two decent players on the squad, and their coach is a TIBCO software executive named Vivek Ranadivé, an Indian emigré who had never seen or played basketball before he arrived in the States. The upshot of that background is that he didn’t have any preconceived notions about the right way to play basketball. So instead of having his players run back on defense after a score or an opponent’s rebound and wait to be picked apart by more skilled players, he instituted the full-court press. His team proceeded to beat up on and frustrate teams with better players, and found themselves in the national championship game. Obviously, the press can make up big gaps in talent.*

But one of the things that raised the eyebrow of my blogmate and fellow sports junkie blackink was the problematic way the Redwood City Girls were described, versus the way their ‘talented’ opponents were characterized.

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Don Cherry’s Xenophobic Remarks on Ovechkin Should Not Be Tolerated

by Guest Contributor Jehanzeb Dar, originally published at Broken Mystic

Someone needs to call Don Cherry out on his childish xenophobic rants. Regarded as a legendary ice hockey analyst and Canadian icon, Don Cherry is known for his often inflammatory and controversial remarks, but it seems that the general public recurrently lets his ethnocentric diatribes slide rather than holding him accountable.

For years, Cherry has been characterizing European players as “cowards” for not understanding the “Canadian way” of hockey. When asked to comment on why he didn’t have any European players on his junior team, he said, “They call me a racist because I don’t want any Europeans coming to play for my Ice Dogs. If a kid comes over here and becomes a Canadian, I’ll put him on in a minute. But I will not parachute him in so that he can grab the money and run.” Cherry took similar jabs at the dazzling Czech center, Jaromir Jagr, accusing him of being “everything that’s wrong with the NHL. He gets hit, he goes down and stays there. Get up!” In the same interview, Cherry compared Jagr to another hockey legend, Tim Horton, a player who, according to Cherry, would stay on the ice and finish his shift even if “blood would be coming down his face.” Apparently, Cherry thinks only Canadians know how to play “tough.”

So what’s eating at Don Cherry these days? See number 8 on the Washington Capitals, a remarkably talented Russian left-winger named Alexander Ovechkin. Actually, to say he is “remarkably talented” is an understatement. The guy is a magician with the puck and arguably the most exciting player to watch in the NHL today. Playing in his fourth season, Ovechkin not only led the league in goals, but he has also earned his place in the pantheon of hockey superstars. Cherry’s beef? Ovechkin’s goal celebrations are too “over-the-top.” That’s right. Ovechkin’s enthusiasm is too much for Cherry’s “Canadian” standards.

On CBC’s Hockey Night in Canada, Cherry complained that Ovechkin was acting like “those goofy soccer guys” by “jumping up and down” after scoring goals. In pure dogmatic fashion, Cherry pointed at the screen and lectured Canadian kids not to act like Ovechkin. Instead, he tells kids that they should behave the “Canadian way” and act like Joe Thornton, Joe Sakic, Brendan Shanahan, Jarome Iginla, and Bobby Orr (all Canadian-born players). I didn’t realize the NHL had a “Canadians only” stamp on it.

What’s more disturbing is how ethnocentric and racist Cherry’s presentation is. He shows clips of dark-skinned international soccer players jubilantly celebrating on the field, calls them “goofs” and says, “Look at this! This is what we want our hockey players to act with?” Then he shows clips of Ovechkin’s celebrations and yammers, “Look at this! Does he not remind you of a soccer player?” For those who missed it, here is the clip:

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Vijay Singh: Categorically Black?

by Latoya Peterson

Over on the Hyphen blog, Erin writes about Vijay Singh, golf star and winner of the 2004 PGA Tour Player of the Year award.

In an entry titled What’s the New Black? Shifting Sands of Race, Erin takes a page from Jeff Yang (who made the argument that Barack Obama’s life story resonates with the Asian American experience) and speculates on Singh’s racial categorization:

In interesting counterpoint to that is a conversation I recently had with a friend who speculated that Vijay Singh — and not Tiger Woods — may be professional golf’s “colored person,” if by that we mean a category that renders invisible, unwelcome, or second-class those who are tarred with it. Singh has been cast as an uppity and hypermasculine threat to a gentleman’s game; he gets a fraction of the press he deserves, and seems to be the guy that the establishment would love to watch fall on his face. So, pointed out my friend Sameer, might it be said that Singh is categorically Black in a way that also transcends biological race?

Thoughts?

Is it sexism or racism? Or racialized sexism?

by Guest Contributor Luke Lee

Let’s say you’re a woman of color climbing the ladder in one of the most male-dominated “boy’s clubs” in America. You’re the assistant to the top spot and when at a meeting with others in your business, a man singles you out asking who you are, why you’re there, what you are and then proceeds to make fun of what he perceives to be your race. While that strikes (and rightly so) everyone as racist, Kim Ng makes an important point here in that when this happens, it’s also sexism. Or more so sexism than racism, according to Ng.

Going on five years ago, Ng’s private journey – the work day of an assistant GM is a mostly anonymous one – became a national story. Bill Singer, a former big-league pitcher and at that time a special assistant to New York Mets GM Jim Duquette, stopped Ng during GM meetings in Phoenix. He asked her who she was. He asked her why she was there. He asked her about her heritage. Ng, recognizing the situation as potentially flammable, patiently answered his questions. He then mocked her in gibberish-speak that was supposed to approximate Chinese.

She calls it, “the Bill Singer incident.” She calls it the worst episode of sexism – not racism – she has experienced.

“I think that’s the ironic thing,” Ng says. “People match it up to race, and I think it was more about gender.”

I remember when the story about Ng and Singer first broke the response seemed to be “wow, what a racist guy. He should be fired” (which he was). Second, people were a little shocked to realize that “hey, a woman is in a top spot in a major baseball organization” but the one and two were never connected. That Singer’s comments weren’t just racist but that he was most shocked to see a woman who is a person of color.

(Photo credit: MLB.com via The New York Times)