Tuesday, July 15, 2008

The White Stripes and the Myth of Racism in Pro Sport

As much as I want to shake my fist in the manner of an octagenarian that was overcharged by 80 cents on his grocery bill, as much as I want to pout like those cute twins in "Big Daddy," as much as I want to fuss like that badassed black woman in the grocery store with the rollers in her hair when her kids grab yet another toy and say "I want that," I cannot do any of those things this morning without admitting first that I brought this upon myself. Its my own fault that I am so perturbed this morning.

So I will not be like the proverbial obese person blaming his weight on poor genetics midway through a third can of potted meat chased with cheez-whiz, capers, and pork rinds. I will not be like that slutty friend of yours who blames you for giving her tequila last night, when she know good and goddarn well that she was gonna let the squad run up in it even if she had been doing shots of O'Douls.

I am accepting blame and faulting myself for being red-assed today. And not in the cute way that those baboons are. That said ...
I read a report on Yahoo! Sports (which actually occasionally has good commentary though I am not a gigantic fan of Dan Wetzel, who is far too apolitical and snarky) announcing that a study was recently published on racial bias in NBA refereeing. I immediately thought that this would be an interesting and timely discussion (more on the timeliness later) and that perhaps it would spark some heated, but ultimately interesting debate on the intersection of race and sport. I knew, deep down, that players would be mum about the issue, or face suspension and fines, but hoped that analysts would give the issue some serious thought and examine the report dutifully. And even if nothing came of it, the fact that the debate was had could be a sign of times to come; a time that William Rhoden calls for in Forty Million Dollar Slaves, wherein he claims that black athletes have become ignorant of the history of embedded racism in professional sport and thus are incapable of defending themselves from the onslaught of racism when its ugly face rears time and time again. Racism exists. Period. As if the world of sport would be immune to it.

Like when European soccer fans call African players simians. http://www.brown.edu/Students/INDY/archives/2005-03-10/articles/sports-hu_soccer-racism.htm. Or when Fuzzy Zoeller called Tiger a watermelon-eater http://select.nytimes.com/gst/abstract.html?res=FA0C1EF93D540C708CDDAC0894DF494D81. Or Zinedine Zidane was provoked to violence by an Italian soccer player who allegedly called him a "dirty terrorist." Or when Don Imus called Rutgers' women's basketball team "nappy headed hoes." Or when ...

But this is my fault. It is my fault that I expected better of ESPN. It is my fault that I expected better of Disney. It is my fault that I expected better of Yahoo! Sports. It is my fault that I expected better, for once in my effin life, of the American sport media.

The report, published by Justin Wolfers, from frikkin Wharton (translation, this guy is not pullin info out of anus) states that white referees make more foul calls against black players than white players, and that black referees call more fouls on white players than black ones, though not as frequently as their white counterparts. The short of it is that it appears that unintentional racial bias occurs in foul calls in the NBA.

Now look guys, I'm not jumping on Wolfers' bandwagon just yet. First of all, he didnt even review game tape, only box scores. This means that he isnt closely analyzing or contextualizing the foul calls (the fault, IMHO, with purely statistical analyses). Second of all, of course white refereees are calling more fouls on black players ... theyre the only kind of players to call fouls on!!! I mean really, would you call a foul on this guy? http://www.nba.com/suns/news/nash_wheaties_060418.html. I mean come on. How else can you say it ... he's adorable!!! And Canadian! The ony other option of calling a foul on a white guy is what? To call a foul on 3/8 of Jason Kidd? Posthumously on Pete Maravich? To call a foul on Jack Nicholson for Anger Management?

Also, this is the guy who published the study http://bpp.wharton.upenn.edu/jwolfers/index.shtml. I'm going to exercise some of my own bias ... since when did Ron Howard dye his hair blonde and become a basketball expert? There is such a thing called "ethos." He co-published the study with a Cornell graduate student. Lets hope he was a power forward for the Fighting Big Red Ithacans.

But still, regardless of the merit of the study, I am severely disappointed in Yahoo! Sports and ESPN for dismissing it without even discussing the underlying issue the article raises. That its possible racism impacts professional sport. As always, they trotted out the black ambassadors to dismiss the accusation of racism. LeBron: "Its (the study) stupid!" Kobe "I get more techs from black refs! Thats reverse racism." Charles Barkley "Its asinine." Kiki Vandeweighe "These remarks are made by people who dont understand basketball. End of Story." No offense, Kobe and LeBron, but when y'all get your GED's, I'll talk sociology of sport with you.

Wow. That was harsh. Sorry guys, that's just the indignance talking.

We all know what happens to political black athletes. Actually, we dont. Thats really scary. Has anyone seen Stephon Marbury? I'm really worried about him ... last I heard they'd frozen him like Han Solo so that his shoes wouldnt cut in on Nike sales http://www.hometeams.com/stmamc5fi.html.

And with that, the issue is dead. No more discussion ... hell there wasnt even a discussion in the first place. No one sat and debated it. Scoop and Dave Zirin were evidently unavailable for comment. Harry Edwards was off somewhere being black I guess. Richard Lapchick was on vacation with Aquaman and Chris Tucker.

Also unavailable for comment, conspicuously, was Tim Duncan, who was recently ejected from a game by a white referee who was later suspended because he had a "vendetta against" Duncan. But that's not racism, I guess. He was discriminating against Duncan because of his ...umm ... really cool name for a basketball player (close seconds are Joseph Schuten, Alvin Steels, and Marcus Threesixtyslam. He's dutch-irish I think).

We also havent heard from Shaq, the "Big Aristotle." Heh, more like the Big Thrasymachus!!! Who's with me on that one? He knows what I'm talking about (points at unsuspecting dude in next office)! I'm sure he would have said, in his sleepy monotone: "Thats nonsense black refereees and white referees call fouls and sometimes dont its part of the game next question (smiles) now I'm gonna go and let the air out of Kobe's tires and shoot at cubans cuz I'm a cop. Bush for president!" ***

So I got all worked up, expecting serious debate and reflection and introspection. Instead, I got progpaganda and one-sided "news" reporting that gave Rupert Murdoch a stiffy so hard he wants ESPN made into a pill form that would replace Levitra.
And its all my fault. I do now and have always known better than to expect serious discussions of race and racism in American media.

I call that foul on myself (and I'm black, so Wolfers' theory is refuted. End of Story).

***remember, this is the guy who once said that his skills were like the pythagorean theorem, there's no answer to it. Oh and also said "I'm tired of hearing about money, money, money, money, money. I just want to play the game, drink Pepsi, wear Reebok." And without a hint of irony. God bless you you big footed bastard.

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