Blacks In “White” Sports

What would the reaction be, a correspondent of mine wonders, is some white sports announcer said he was tired of watching the NBA because there generally were fewer whites on the floor than at a NAACP convention? He, and I, suspect the reaction would not be kind.

But how different would that comment be from what NewsBusters reports from Bryant Gumbel recently? (HatTip to RedState):

“Finally, tonight, the Winter Games. Count me among those who don’t care about them and won’t watch them …. Like, try not to be incredulous when someone attempts to link these games to those of the ancient Greeks who never heard of skating or skiing. So try not to laugh when someone says these are the world’s greatest athletes, despite a paucity of blacks that makes the Winter Games look like a GOP convention.

Unfortunately, racial drivel like Gumbel’s is not rare. “White Snow, Brown Rage” appeared on SLATE yesterday, in which author Reihan Salam, a Bangladeshi, writes:

I still vividly recall the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta, when my middle sister and I cheered on every wiry, diminutive American athlete of a darker hue. When you squint, a fearsome Latino bantamweight looks not unlike one of the burnt ochre Salams.

And of the famous Jamaican bobsled team featured in the movie “Cool Runnings”:

But even as an 8-year-old, I was hoping for something more. Specifically, I was hoping to see this Third World band of brothers humble their colonialist oppressors with furious bobsled action…. Call it tribalism of the basest sort, but I will never apologize. I want some brown sugar, on ice.

O.K. I will. This is tribalism of the basest sort.

Also, see what commenter MarshallStall calls it in his 2/15 comment, beginning:

What’s bizarre about this essay, and (inadvertently, I assume) comical, is the assumption that all the dark-skinned people in the world have something in common, by virtue of being other-than-white. So Salam, a Bangladeshi, roots for the Jamaican bobsled team, as if a victory for them would be a victory for post-colonials everywhere. Think the Jamaicans feel that way? Alas, I doubt it….

Me too.

Say What? (10)

  1. CGHill February 16, 2006 at 8:48 pm | | Reply

    I honestly don’t get this.

    This year and next, due to Hurricane Katrina, the New Orleans Hornets are playing most of their home schedule in Oklahoma City, a place which doesn’t come to mind when you think of “racial diversity.” (In fact, the population is about one-third nonwhite.) I haven’t heard one person in this town even mention that the Hornets starters are five black men, or that there are only two white members of the team.

  2. Stuart Buck February 17, 2006 at 11:18 am | | Reply

    If I’m not mistaken, Reihan Salam is the same guy that posts at the (fairly conservative) American Scene blog. I took his Slate article as very tongue-in-cheek.

  3. Stuart Buck February 17, 2006 at 11:24 am | | Reply

    Actually, no need for me to speculate: Reihan appears in the comments section at his blog to discuss the Slate piece:

    It really moves me to read two comments from two guys who can read. I thought I was poking fun at Mau-Mauing militants; then I read comments suggesting that I “go back to Bangladesh.” Hey man, the last time I was there I caught dengue fever and spent all my days watching “Kenan and Kel”! That’s when I wasn’t puking! My editor (who is awesome) cut my favorite line:
    Mind you, I am rooting for the United States. Born and bred in Brooklyn, I am so American that I’ve seriously contemplated getting an enormous tattoo of Uncle Sam flipping the bird at the Moon across my back.

  4. John Rosenberg February 17, 2006 at 10:14 pm | | Reply

    Stuart – Good catch! My apologies to Mr. Reihan. I have often commented — and now inadvertently demonstrated — that it’s getting harder and harder to distinguish parodies of liberalism from liberalism.

  5. Cobra February 18, 2006 at 12:24 pm | | Reply

    Skin color stratification is a global pheonomenum. The Winter Olympics, as opposed to the Summer Olympics, is a predominantly Nothern Lattitude (away from the equator) event. Dark-skinned peoples are not the primary focus of the media machinery of most northern lattitude nations.

    Combine these irrefutable factors and you will get commentary like you had in the afforementioned posts.

    –Cobra

  6. superdestroyer February 18, 2006 at 7:32 pm | | Reply

    Cobra,

    If you look at all of the results of the summer olympics, “dark skinned peopled” are still underrepresented as competators and in the winners circle. I have not seen a lot of dark people winning rythmic gymnastics or team handball either or yachting. It just makes Bryant’s comments even more ignorant and racist is taht he did not look up any of the data on sports participation rates or winnng rates. Gumbel based his commentary on anecdotal observations instead of actually looking up the data.

    What is also underreported is how black sports reporters under report women’s sports and how the black community in the US just refuses to support women’s athletics. So no only is Gumbel a racist but he is also sexist.

  7. Cobra February 19, 2006 at 12:15 am | | Reply

    Superdestroyer,

    First of all, there is a “paucity” (I’m going to make that my catch phrase!) of black sports reporters. There are some prominent ones, primarily on the national publications, and ESPN, but for the most part, they’re few and far between, especially in fields where the ex-athlete-turned media personality is not the rule.

    Second, after Saturday’s results, the biggest story and rivalry in these Winter Games as far as the U.S. is concerned revolves around the U.S. Speedskating Team, where Shani Davis and Chad Hendrick.

    >>>”TURIN, Italy – It can get lonely being the only black person in an entire sport, hearing snickers on the starting line, opening your website to find racist messages, always feeling just a little out of place.

    But Shani Davis, a 23-year-old from Chicago, never let that get in the way of his love for speedskating, and Saturday he proved he more than belonged, racing 1,000 meters in 1 minute, 8.89 seconds to become the first black athlete to win an individual gold medal at a Winter Olympics.

    “Most black athletes choose track and field, basketball and other sports, but I chose a different route,” said Davis, who picked up speedskating in first grade when his mother’s boss, who was involved in the sport, suggested he try it. “I love what I do and wanted to be the best.”

    Thousands of Dutch fans, who are more aware of Davis than his own countrymen, rose to their feet and roared as he accelerated in the final 600 meters to seal the historic win. They gave him an ovation afterward, even though he finished ahead of Dutch bronze medalist Erben Wennemars.”

    Shani Davis makes history

    Now, the thing that gets ME, is that the DUTCH fans, whose speed skating hero was the bronze medalist, were more aware of Davis than the Olympic hype machine that is NBC, who did a brief segment about Davis on a Nightly News telecast this week, and his hardscrabble, against all odds story leading up to this moment. For those who criticize Bryant Gumbel in his comments, this is the VERY thing I believe he’s talking about. NBC Sports put all their hype eggs in the basket of Bode Miller, Michelle Kwan, Michael Weir and Winter X-Game kids.

    The Shani Davis story is something that if done properly, had all the human interest, drama and conflict that makes the Olympics riveting at times. The showdown between Davis and Hendrick during the 1500 on Tuesday could be the most interesting thing in these games, at least from the human interest point of view.

    If there are still some folks out there who don’t think there are those who have a issue with black athletes at the Winter Olympics, take the words from Shani Davis himself:

    >>>”On racism: “On my website, there are a lot of derogatory remarks in the comments, wishing me to break my leg and fall down, using the N word, a lot of ignorance out there. But things happen to a lot of people. I’m one of a kind, the only black speedskater. We don’t know what it’s like to be a white guy in the NBA, or running the 200 meters in track and field. We just have to adjust.”

    He skated on LEVEL ICE and won

    –Cobra

  8. superdestroyer February 20, 2006 at 7:12 am | | Reply

    Cobra,

    I knew you would pull out Shani Davis just like the Republicans pull out Condi Rice not realizing that the exception makes the point. It is like blacks who claim that blacks dominate golf because of Tiger Woods even though their is not another black in the top 200 golfers. Or that Blacks dominate tennis because of the Williams sisters even though they are the only two black women in the top 50.

    If Bryant Gumbel wanted to talk about world class athletes and the lack of blacks, then he should have talked about the lack of blacks at the Ironman Triathalon in Kona?

    I also noticed that you did not call for Gumbel to be fired for implying that blacks are, by nature, better athletes than whites.

  9. Cobra February 22, 2006 at 10:53 pm | | Reply

    Superdestroyer writes:

    >>>”It is like blacks who claim that blacks dominate golf because of Tiger Woods even though their is not another black in the top 200 golfers. Or that Blacks dominate tennis because of the Williams sisters even though they are the only two black women in the top 50.”

    And your statement here is exactly what Bryant Gumbel is discussing.

    It WOULD be hilarious for you to trot out a list of the “World’s Greatest” golfers WITHOUT including Woods. It WOULD be hilarious for you to trot out a list of the “World’s Greatest” tennis players without mentioning the Williams sisters.

    And it WOULD be hilarious to call a group the “World’s Greatest” athletes and NOT include numerous athletes of African origin.

    –Cobra

  10. NiggaInDaSnow February 25, 2006 at 9:36 am | | Reply

    This is just what the sports world needs, another white guy whining about blacks or other non-whites expressing proudness over black victories.

    As soon as blacks succeed in previously white dominated areas, be it classical soprano singing, sports (icehacky, golf or skating) or accounting, whites cry ‘racism!’ when we stress happiness over our succes.

    “”What’s bizarre about this essay, and (inadvertently, I assume) comical, is the assumption that all the dark-skinned people in the world have something in common, by virtue of being other-than-white. So Salam, a Bangladeshi, roots for the Jamaican bobsled team, as if a victory for them would be a victory for post-colonials everywhere. Think the Jamaicans feel that way? Alas, I doubt it..””

    Doubt it all you want, but we Jamaicans DO root for Morrocans, Indians, Pakistanis or Brazilians etc. more than for whites. As long as they don’t play AGAINST us, of course ;) ;). And yes, we DO HAVE something in common, it’s not an assumption. It’s fact.

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