Black Athletes in the Media

Andrew James
    Staff Writer

Many still doubt that an athlete’s race really affects the way the media portrays them. They purportedly believe that America has pushed itself past the racism that the likes of Jackie Robinson, Marlin Briscoe and Hank Aaron faced throughout their sporting careers.

They may truly have convinced themselves of that; but that just means they are ignoring the facts.

That just means they are ignoring a 2001 Rick Reilly column that took shots at Barry Bonds — before the steroids allegations — using quoted insults from his white teammate Jeff Kent, yet failing to see his double standard in not pointing out Jeff Kent’s own wrongdoing.

Jeff Kent, as it turns out, had similar or even worse interactions with his teammates. It was not Kent that was selfish, though, according to the media.

That just means they are ignoring the fact that The Blind Side movie turned Michael Oher — an incredible story of rags-to-riches that Americans love — into a mumbling, dim-witted physical beast who knew so little about football that he did not know when to stop pushing his opponent down the field.

Oher’s former teammate with the Baltimore Ravens, Brett Osemele, spoke on the matter. “Real life Mike Oher is better,” Osemele said. “He’s a lot more confident. He’s way more intelligent than they portrayed him to be.”

That just means they are ignoring how Washington Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III’s injury-plagued season of struggles in 2013 was handled, as opposed to how Andrew Luck’s injury riddled, statistically much worse campaign in 2015 was depicted.

Ever since his inability to reclaim Pro Bowl form, Griffin has been called “egotistical,” “lazy” and depicted as a player with athleticism without skill, despite his excellent passing statistics in his rookie season. Luck, on the other hand, has been constantly bailed out by the injuries he faces, and is still considered “promising,” “intelligent” and “hardworking.”

That just means they are ignoring what happens when an African American quarterback like Cam Newton wins the MVP award.

In a more modernized, subtly discriminant version of the way Hank Aaron was so vehemently rejected by many baseball fans as he threatened to overtake Babe Ruth’s homerun record, Newton is being constantly undermined by the media after becoming the second black quarterback to be named as the best player in the league.

First there was the criticism of his signature celebration, “dabbing,” as proof that he was a low-class professional athlete, despite Aaron Rodgers facing few complaints for his “Championship Belt” celebration that was prevalent during the 2011 season.

Then there was the postgame Super Bowl drama, which somehow has overshadowed the Broncos victory as a news story. Cam Newton is under fire for leaving his interview in the middle of the press conference.

Even though, just six years ago, Peyton Manning actually left the field after a Super Bowl loss and headed to the locker room without even congratulating Drew Brees or shaking his hand. It was considered the act of a fierce competitor who could not accept the loss.

Just weeks ago, when the Panthers were defeated, Newton met Peyton Manning at mid-field to show his respect. Yet, Peyton is always going to be portrayed as the classier of the two quarterbacks, by both media and the fans.

For those who still do not buy that skin color has an impact on the image that the media molds for an athlete, they should ask themselves: can they picture Peyton Manning, and everything they have heard about him, as a black man? Or Cam Newton as white? Can they replace the picture below Peyton Manning headlines with a black quarterback, and it will still seem like a normal article?

Until that answer is yes, it cannot be denied that people in the media — along with everyone else — are not immune to racial prejudices.

No, Cam Newton is not Jackie Robinson.

Black athletes today do not have to face constant death threats from opponents and teammates, or dehumanizing reports from white supremacist journalists. But they are still African American athletes enduring the perpetuated stereotypes that seem to linger around forever.

Categories: Here & Now, Uncategorized


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