This is my first POPSspot post, so I thought that I’d start off with an introduction about why I feel compelled to write about power, oppression, and privilege in sports. As a lifelong sports nut since the crib, I only really wanted to enjoy the games. Over daily heated school arguments with friends on why my New York Yankees ruled the earth, I never said to myself: “when I grow up I want to engage in intellectual discourse on the sports media industrial complex’s correlative relationship to racial oppression, hegemonic masculinity, and deleterious frameworks of heteronormativity that are so prevalent in contemporary society”.
No, I simply wanted to pulverize my brain-damaged Met fan friends while twisting their arm behind their back as they yelled to all in the cafeteria the basic truth that Doc and Daryl couldn’t hold a candle to Winnie and Donnie Baseball. In fact, I still want to squash them more than 20 years later!: Exhibit A in the power of sports.
And while I’m still a sports fan, something also changed along the way.
While I look to continue the spirit of some of my past writing at Cosellout, Sports on My Mind, RealGM , and CounterPunch, the hope is always to help build a larger like-minded community of bloggers, academia, and even educators who currently might not appreciate the full value of sports as a vehicle to promote social justice. The rest of the post below is to give folks a flavor for “why I write” about this stuff. Of course, it is…
Because I am the 28%!
Because I am part of the 28% of white sports fans polled who believe that “the media put more of a spotlight on problems involving black athletes”.
Because I wonder, what are the other 72% of white fans missing, and more iimportantly - why and how?
Because when I regularly make trips to sports Internet comment sections to help find out.
Because other surveys show that Lebron James is viewed more harshly by whites than the NFL’s Ben Roethlisberger and other misbehaving white athletes.
Because this problem is predominantly a white one and should be accurately labeled as such since the vast majority of African-American fans (65%) in the same poll do, in fact, do recognize sports media’s racial bias.
Because this blind spot represents more than a poll, but a pathology that should be explored and remedied.
Because this problem is often driven by a very powerful sport media that manipulates minds – including my own whenever I stop paying close enough attention.
Because even when I am paying attention, it is probably still manipulating my mind.
Because if 30-second commercials could help sell soda, hamburgers, and beer, I can’t imagine the damaging cognitive effect of thousands negative images of athletes of color and women over so many years…
Because for too many cheering, Paterno comes before pedophilia.
Because women’s participation in sports as athletes and as fans are at historically high levels, but 96% of ESPN imagery goes to men.
Because in 2011, big time male team sports is still the only workplace in America where a homosexual has not “come out of the closet”.
Because you don’t even need an official “don’t ask, don’t tell” employment policy when unwritten ones named “fear” work just fine.
Because some of the awesome power displayed by sports owners, sports commissioners, and the NCAA violates the Constitution of The United States in virtually every conceivable way…
Because I suspect that the only reason more “patriotic” Americans are not outraged at this fact has something to do with who is benefitting and who is being exploited.
Because much of sports media is either controlled by or partnered with these same sports owners, commissioners, and NCAA.
Because when billions of dollars are at stake, you no longer have a trustworthy “independent opinion”.
Because Upton Sinclair once famously said, “It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends on his not understanding it.”
Because despite some great corporate media sports reporting out there such as HBO Real Sports, Yahoosports.com coverage of NCAA athletics, and ESPN’s “30 for 30” documentary series, fair-minded mainstream sports reporting from ESPN and the rest of sports media is the exception, not the rule.
Because I don’t believe 72% of white sports fans who don’t see media bias are idiots or bad people, but I do believe that “it is difficult to get a man to understand something when his privilege depends on his not understanding it.”
Because I have seen enough evidence to know that it is still worth trying anyway, but will require sports fans to help occupy sports media.
Because it is not so much about one bad writer here or bad article there, but the awesome power of sports media power to frame the same narratives and national debates.
Because there is a link between the acceptance of the sports media industrial complex and the lack of outrage at the prison industrial complex.
Because if one is unable to detect that the widely disproportionate media reaction to the “offense” of Lebron, Tiger, Michael, Terrell, and Barry, then how can one possibly detect the disproportionate laws and enforcement for “stop and frisk”, “crack vs. cocaine”, mandatory-minimum sentencing, and an overall “war on drugs” that has been called “The New Jim Crow”.
And because that New Jim Crow can be symbolically found in sports with real effects:
It’s when Lebron’s “Decision” receives more negative attention, outrage, and hate than that day’s other big “decision”on the verdict of the officer who killed Oscar Grant.
It’s when Officer Mehserle receives less prison time than Plaxico Burress who only shot himself.
It’s the knowledge that if sports media’s pro-wrestling blueprint chooses to make Lebron a “good guy” again in 2012, it can easily do so while replacing his void with a new media villain.
It’s the knowledge that the executed Troy Davis will never have the option to make such a comeback.
And those are some of the reasons why I write.
In contrast to the 28% figure, the vast majority of people of color – those who have the greatest antennae in experiencing, understanding, and detecting bias — have always recognized sports media bias and have not been shy about sharing their opinions. Writing about and challenging privilege, oppression, and power in sports is nothing new. Beyond some of the good work in big media, that includes narrative-changing perspectives from authors of color such as…
William C. Rhoden, Eddie Moore Jr., D.K. Wison, Michael Tillery, Ron Glover, Patricia Hill Collins, Bomani Jones, Mark Anthony Neal, Theresa Runstedtler, Ben Carrington, Thabiti Lewis, Adrian Burgos, Jr., Todd Boyd, Gerald Early, Earl Smith, Kenneth Shropshire, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, and many others I’m definitely forgetting. And they are joined by many other great authors including:
Richard Lapchick, Dave Zirin, , David Wiggins, Susan Cahn, Andrew Zimbalist, Amy Bass, David Leonard, Jean Hastings Ardell, Marilyn Cohen, Brian Carroll, Michael Messner, Mary Jo Kane, Rob Ruck, Pamela Laucella, Clay Moyle, Abby Ferber, and others that I’m definitely forgetting.
So why aren’t the messages getting through?
My name is Charles, and my blog handle is “MODI” which is also my childhood name. If you have a tip on a great article, please send to firstname.lastname@example.org.