Sports Still Not Color Blind

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Sports Still Not Color Blind

Of the many topics that can come up in conversation to get people riled up, sports and race have to be up there as two of the biggest.

Those two topics on their own can cause massive conflict. But when you combine them, the discussion is almost guaranteed to cause verbal riots. And if you ever take a peek at the comment sections of articles and blogs, it is much of the same.

The latest cause of racial tension in sports came when Joel Ward, a right winger for the Washington Capitals who just so happened to be black, scored the game and series-winning goal to defeat the Boston Bruins. What should have been a monumental occasion for the Canadian native and one of the few black players in the NHL, was tainted by the ignorance of Twitter accounts that could not stand to see a black man have success in “their” sport.

The tweets were as vile as they come, with the “N” word not in short supply. Fans representing the Bruins claimed that a black man scoring the goal made the loss hurt that much worse. They also said that Ward should go back to playing a “black” sport, and they claimed “white power.”

To his credit, Ward never let the racist taunts get to him, at least not in the public eye.

“I think it is just kids,” Ward said in an interview with USA Today. “It has no effect on me whatsoever. I’ve been playing this game long enough and I’ve not had any encounters of that nature.”

This is far from the first time that fans have let their racist viewpoints be known on black NHL players. In the fall, Philadelphia Flyers player Wayne Simmonds had a banana thrown at him during a preseason game.

Now I know that not all NHL fans are racist, and I actually feel bad that a couple of bad apples are going to tarnish the reputation of a good amount of fans. But the simple point is, no matter how much anyone, black or white, wants to deny it, racism is alive and very kicking.

As a black man who played college football, I have not been the subject of a great amount of racism in sports. But as a senior undergraduate at Jacksonville University, I had a professor who told me he initially did not think I was a good writer solely based off of what I wore when he first saw me. It took me aback at first, but I realized this would happen again.
But back to sports. I do not want to single out hockey as being the only culprit. The NFL, with over 60 percent of their players being black, still has to deal with stereotypes. For instance, the question about whether blacks are intelligent enough to play quarterback. This question is not nearly as prominent now, thanks to the success of quarterbacks like Donovan McNabb, Randall Cunningham, Michael Vick and, most recently, Cam Newton. But the prevailing thought is that black quarterbacks are better off using their athletic ability than trying to read the defense. It’s sad.

And the front office is probably the biggest travesty in all of sports. With as many black players as there are in pro and college football, there are currently 15 black head coaches in the Football Bowl Subdivision. That’s less than 10 percent of the coaches in the FBS.

The worst part? That’s actually a great improvement over years past.

The Rooney Rule meant to help more black coaches get jobs has had minimal effect, with most teams only bringing in “token” black interviews, just so they can say they did it. Established in 2003, the Rooney Rule required NFL teams to interview at least one minority candidate for head coaching and senior football operations positions. Most recently, Bill Parcells was called upon to fill in for New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton, who will serve a season-long suspension next season as punishment for the team’s bounty program. Yet before Parcells could be hired, a minority candidate would need to be interviewed, even if they merely served as a placeholder to uphold the rule.

My father always told me when I was young that as a black man you have to work 10 times as hard as others to get to the same places. I didn’t fully get it then, but as I have gotten older I see it quite clearly.

This may come off as slightly militant, but it is done to get a point across. Racism is still prevalent. Yes, it is. Even in 2012. It is unfortunate.

But if you’re reading this and are one of the comment posters on those blogs, just take a second to realize exactly what you’re doing.

White, black, Asian, Latino, we are all equally people.