Casual rascism unacceptable
Athletes unfairly judged by complexion
Todd Colin Vaughn
Let’s try an experiment.
Imagine four different sports: Hockey, basketball, baseball and golf.
Now think of the first race you associate with each sport. For a great many people, it would be a lie to say they didn’t think Caucasian for hockey, African-American for basketball, Hispanic for baseball and white for golf respectively.
These are unfortunate stereotypes that sport has ingrained into our thought process. Stereotyping in the mind, for now, is almost an inevitability.
Luckily, the majority of rational fans, we are able to see the absurdity of these stereotypes, and recognize athletic skill as a human trait. Not a racial one. Unfortunately, some media members are unable to see past these archaic distinctions and it shows up in their writing.
The explosion of New York Knicks point guard Jeremy Lin in the basketball world has been an unprecedented phenomenon. Lin, an Asian-American and Harvard University basketball standout has came from seemingly nowhere to be a premier player for one of the largest basketball markets in the world.
The majority of the coverage on Lin has not been on his skills as a playmaker. They have instead focused on his Asian heritage.
This was never more apparent than when a headline showed up on ESPN’s website after the Knicks lost their first game with Lin at the helm. The headline read “Chink in the armour.”
The post was taken off the website within 20 minutes and the reporter responsible has since been fired, but the headline is an example of the unfortunate comfort people have with casual racism in sport.
Rather then focus on Lin as an exceptional athlete and a real-life Rudy Ruettiger, the media focuses on his race. In essence, they create the narrative that Asians can’t play basketball and therefore Lin had to battle through the handicap of his race.
Race is not a handicap. End of story.
The real story about Lin is about a kid who worked his ass off to make the NBA. The real story is that a player from a non-sport focused school like Harvard is electrifying the league. The real story is that he did this all while living on his brother’s couch.
What the media has done in effect is created this story of race for cheap and divisive readership. This is by no means a new tactic for the media.
In golf, often considered a game played by rich Caucasian people, the most dominant player up until just recently has been Eldrick “Tiger” Woods. Tiger, despite dominating the PGA tour, has continually had his race being part of his story.
When he made a mistake in the now famous 2009 infidelity incident with his wife, the media was all too quick to railroad him despite infidelity remaining a personal family issue.
Race was never explicitly mentioned, but the question has to be asked, “Would the media be all over him if he was white?” Maybe not, but as sports reporters, it is their job to cover sport-related material. A man’s fidelity is not a sports story
The fact of the matter is a subtle racism exists in the sports world, which undermines the integrity of all fans and athletes. Race is treated as a hurdle to success in sports and is glorified by those who cover it.
The race story is the easy one for the reporter and that’s why it is incorrect. The media props up athletes like Lin because of his Asian heritage the same way they bring down Tiger because of his. Both stories are wrong.
The harder story is one that takes investigation. Questions like “What did Lin learn at Harvard that has contributed to his success?” or “How many hours a day does Tiger Woods train?” need to be asked more to understand the commitment it takes to be an elite-level athlete.
Lin worked hard everyday to get where he is and is an unlikely hero in sport. Being Asian is irrelevant to his success.
Tiger made personal mistakes that were shocking, but did not deserve the global media attack that poured down on him from everywhere. Tiger was railroaded for his mistakes by a rich white establishment existing in the golf world.
So maybe next time you turn on the television to your favourite sport, remember that being a professional athlete takes a lot of talent and skill. Talent and skill are universal human abilities and are not defined by race.