Recent events have brought back to light the topic of race relations in sports. Some who have played on sports teams would insinuate that modern day sports teams and fans are more color blind than ever before.” Black, brown, white, orange, or lavender with a hint of blue, it doesn’t matter. If you can ball, you can ball.” That statement is true in a sense that movies such as Remember the Titans, The Express, White Men Can’t Jump, and Glory Road hold little to no relevance to the issues of today. But far too many times there is notion that there is no issue at all, and that alone is a problem.
In the past few years alone many racial issues have appeared in the mainstream media of sports. In the summer of 2013 Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver Riley Cooper dropped the “N” word at a Kenny Chesney concert, a recording of wrestling legend Hulk Hogan surfaced dropping numerous racial slurs against African-Americans, and former Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling also had a phone conversation leaked where he spoke of his disdain for African Americans specifically NBA hall of famer Earvin “Magic” Johnson. As a side piece on Donald Sterling, it was also reported that he didn’t want Caucasian male NBA player J.J. Reddick on his team, simply because he was a Caucasian male. Sterling among others in sports seem to be stuck in the 1950’s where white men can’t jump and black men can’t eat at the same restaurant as him.
Just last week a racial incident occurred that caught the attention of the general public. Terrell Owens, former star NFL player was caught on tape by TMZ Sports in an altercation at a Starbucks where he was taunted and called just about every racial slur possible by a heckler. Even though this incident isn’t directly between two individuals who both work in sports it is relevant because it is between a fan and a player, both of whom coexist in the spectrum of sports. This is interesting because it further shows the strains of race relations in sports includes fans as well as the people who play and also because the heckler was not of Caucasian descent. The man using racial slurs was a Muslim. His people historically have no ill will towards the African race and yet he slanders as if he harbors the anger of multiple generations. This instance reminds me of Rapper Wale’s song “Varsity Blues” in which he says
“They don’t think you a nigga as long as you fill up they bleachers
Yeah they always defend you, look how they say your name
But if you rupture a tendon I bet them feelings change”.
Maybe back when Owens was playing this man was a fan of his. Maybe after he retired he became bitter and disgruntled. One could speculate for days on the matter. But this Wale lyric speaks more broadly about race relations in sports especially when pertaining to African Americans. It’s not just a black and white issue. Stereotypes come from all races and walks of life. For those that still live in the past there is an open invitation to join the new age of progressive thinking. Not all tall black men are destined to play basketball, not all men of Hispanic descent are amazing baseball players, and yes contrary to popular belief some white men CAN jump. Alhough the sports world is in fact leaps and bounds ahead normal society in terms of race relations and racism as a whole, there is clearly still much work to be done.