I’ve been listening to old editions of the Washington Post’s Talking Points, a 10 to 15 minute on-line segment featuring Michael Wilbon, Tony Kornheiserand Cindy Boren(the sports editor), that goes over the breaking sports stories and cultural events.
There was an interesting point made about racism in sports, focusing on basketball. So apparently during the last March Madness, some blogger (haha) listed the 5 most hated players in college basketball. The guys pointed that four of the five players mentioned are white and all were from big schools. Wilbon made some interesting points (1) there is a large percent of white collegiate athletes, but that number significantly drops off at the professional level; (2) why does Duke University have two players, one (Scheyer) is playing extremely well out of position and the other one (Paulus) isn’t even playing a significant amount of minutes; and (3) only one person on the list should be on the list, because he screams “f— you” at people after he makes routine shots and apparently punched a woman in the face. Kornheiser said this list couldn’t have too much traction because if you’re hating on behavior, one person is deserving to be on this list and if you’re hating on talent, why didn’t Gerald Henderson Jr make the list because he’s the most talented guy at Duke.
Wilbon shared some stories from former white NBA players, Chris Mullins and Tim Legler, and how they were heckled and verbally abused by white fans. They were shocked by everything that they were experienced from the white fans and they weren’t prepared to deal with these kinds situations, usually if someone doubted their skills they would just play ball, but this as just different. How do you prove yourself to someone who’s seen your talent on the basketball court or on the TV? And players like Steve Nash, Paul Gasol, Dirk Nowitzki, etc. don’t receive the same criticism because they’re European, and somehow different, somehow less than their American counterparts.
Legler was talking about how his nephew is a talented basketball player in his junior high, but his brother is talking about switching him to another sport, so that he doesn’t go through the pain of being harassed about being white and playing basketball. Sports is supposed to foster teamwork and self-confidence, and it’s supposed to be color blind, but how can it be any of those or even create any of those ideals if the audience’s behavior counteracts any positive gains created by sports?
Sports in many ways is a mirror of society and society is a mirror of sports, but sports is credited sometimes with paving the way for society, at least in the States. What would American society be like if sports hadn’t accepted Jackie Robinson and he hadn’t found a place for himself in sports? Fun fact: football and track were actually his better sports and he actually played in the Major Leagues when he was past his prime. Jackie Robinson was the living example, the proof that Martin Luther King Jr. could expand upon in his speeches that all men are created equal and all should be given equal chances. Did he really endure, and did Rachel Robinson, for that matter of fact, everything that they did so that sixty years later, white athletes can feel criticism, discrimination, and prejudice for the color of their skin?