African American athletes can be everything: grand slam champions, Olympic medalists, explosive, magical. Everything, that is, except benign
What’s a brother gotta do to catch a break in sports? Asking not for myself, a black sportswriter, but for a friend. OK , not for a friend. For DeShone Kizer, the beleaguered rookie quarterback of the terrible Cleveland Browns.
Early one Saturday morning last month Kizer ducked into a downtown bar for a infringe, a little bit of release. The pressure on him at the time surely pinched, what with the Browns being 0-6 and his passer rating at a league-worst 27.3. He is of legal drinking age, didn’t infringe any laws and didn’t violate any sacrosanct policies held by the team. But a Zapruder-grade Snapchat video emerged of Kizer at the bar- although he appears less like a starting NFL quarterback than a rebel prep-schoolboy as he attempts dialogue on the fringe of a loud and mobbed dance floor.
A local Tv station went on to cover the tale like it was the Paradise Papers. Naturally, these findings speedily discovered their style into a press conference with the Browns coach, Hue Jackson, who was sympathetic to Kizer at first.” A guy’s personal time is his personal period ,” he said.” I’d be surprised if that happened. I don’t think DeShone has that various kinds of character or personality that route .”
But when a reporter from the station that scored the video insisted to Jackson that, yes , not only did this night out happen, but” to a guy trying to learn the playbook”, the coach changed support. “You’re right,” he told the reporter.” I appreciate you guys sharing that with me .”
You’d think that Jackson, a man who makes a living breaking down videotape, could see the Kizer video for the gotcha moment that it is. You’d is considered that Jackson, a black coach-and-four, could appreciate how often black athletes feature in such gotcha moments. But , no. Confirmation bias against black athletes is so permeating that it’s practically conventional wisdom. Even when they don’t do anything wrong, they must be guilty of something.
It’s a pretzeled logic that springs from decades of media conditioning- or so reasons Dr Cynthia Frisby, the University of Missouri’s School of Journalism professor behind a 2016 examine that examines how black male athletes are portrayed in the media. After investigating a decade’s worth of clippings, she found that black athletes received” significantly more negative coverage”- hard news tales about domestic and sexual violence, in other words. Meanwhile, their white counterparts- the minority group in the landscape of big-time sports, ironically- get the opposite: softball features about drive and commitment.
What’s more, the sisters can’t catch a break either. In the last four months alone we’ve seen Serena Williams caricatured in antiquated style, as a big ol’ brute- this time in a recent memoir by Maria Sharapova, an oft-vanquished peer who happens to be five inches taller than the American. And we’ve seen Simone Biles dishonor for having the boldnes to go on holiday after dominating the gymnastics at the Rio Olympics. We’ve been reminded that black athletes can be everything: grand slam champions, Olympic gold medalists, explosive, magic. Everything, that is, except benign.
Kevin Durant knows. Last month the Golden State Warriors forward was expelled from a road game against the Memphis Grizzlies, and heckled by fans on his way out. To silence them, he created his ring finger, a nod to the championship he led the Warriors to last season, and was immediately accused of flipping off the crowd. The verification bias was obvious, so much that Durant had to laugh about it afterward:” I’m sure everyone thinks I’m the angry black athlete ,” he said.
How could he not be when we’ve been conditioned to believe that the angry black athlete can literally be every one. They can be Curt Flood or Muhammad Ali or Colin Kaepernick, entitled to their rage. They can be Latrell Sprewell or Terrell Owens or Floyd Mayweather, hot-blooded. They can be Durant, the “mamas boy” who delivered one of the all-time Hallmark moments in sports with his league MVP acceptance speech three years ago. Ultimately it won’t matter since they are all appear the same- like” inmates running the prison “.
Those, of course, were the immortal terms Houston Texans owned Bob McNair used in reference to NFL players utilizing the national anthem as a platform to protest a justice system that’s equally demonizing of black men. Frisby’s study underscored this point in her survey, which quotes research that arrived at three dominant media images of black humen: entertainers, athletes and felons. Donald Trump also underscored this phase when he dismissed genuflecting players as sons of bitches. Kizer, among those protesters, was quick to respond.” I’m no son of a bitch ,” he said.