By Dominique R.
There’s no denying that America is always in a constant battle to put racial stereotypes to rest, but within the professional sports culture, it seems that racial stereotyping is very much alive. In our society, we have stereotypes toward almost every race; African Americans, Caucasians, Asians, and Latinos.
Professional sports in America is predominantly African American. In the National Basketball Association African American athletes comprise 77 percent, National Football League 65 percent, and in Major League Baseball 15 percent. To explain this statistic, Susan Eastman says people stereotype blacks in describing them as “naturally athletic, quick, and powerful”. In contrast, she explains that people think white athletes are talented due to their “hard work, effort, and mental skill”. As unfair as it is to both blacks and whites, these are the most often used stereotypes to describe how Americans usually generalize athletes and their races. In an experiment in Jeff Stone’s book “White Men Can’t Jump”, they had a group of people analyze white and black basketball players in a game. They described the blacks to have “significantly more athletic ability and having played a better game”, as opposed to whites “exhibiting significantly more intelligence and hustle”.
So, blacks are freak athletes, and whites are smart and try hard. This stereotype is not only unfair to whites, because it diminishes their credit for having athletic ability, and in turn discredits blacks for having the same amount of intelligence. Athletes need impeccable athletic ability but their job also requires an enormous amount of study time. All NFL players need to remember plays, variations of plays, and different formations and positions for each play. This can amount to having to memorize 80 new plays per week. They spend an equal amount of time in meetings, studying film, learning and implementing plays as they do on the field or in the weight room. So to say that blacks lack intelligence when it comes to sports is an inaccurate assumption. Fans only see what happens on the field, they don’t see the amount of work these players put in behind closed doors.
Even with these bold assumptions, it’s taboo in our society to speak about it, and offense is especially taken when it is said by someone from the opposite race. It’s a unavoidable yet controversial topic. Frank Deford, an author and sports writer said, “People feel if you say blacks are better athletically, you’re saying they’re dumber. But when Jack Nicklaus sinks a 30-foot putt, nobody thinks his IQ goes down”. Jack Nicklaus is a talented white golfer, whose race is rarely in conversation, if at all. In 2003, Rush Limbaug made a statement saying Donovan McNabb was an “unqualified player and only got his position because he is black”. These type of comments seem all too common in our racially controversial society today.
Blacks and whites are not the only races stereotyped against in professional sports. Football players of Hispanic decent, have judgement passed on their skill because Hispanics make up less than 1 percent of NFL players. A topic of conversation amongst Hispanic sports fans is about Tom Flores, a Hispanic super bowl champ. He has broken a vast amount of records as a player, coach and GM, yet he has been ignored by the NFL Hall of Fame committee. According to John Lopez, a journalist for CBS Sports, “The NFL Hall of Fame committee should be ashamed of itself for not recognizing Flores among the all-time greats”.
Jeremy Lin, an NBA player of Chinese decent asserts that his race is the reason why he didn’t get scouted from high school and went undrafted. He played against Oklahoma City Thunder player Russel Westbrook in high school, and ended up getting the All-State high school spot over him. However when Russel Westbrook, an African American, was recruited to UCLA on a full ride scholarship, Jeremy Lin didn’t receive one offer. Lin spent his college basketball career playing for Harvard and having proved to be an outstanding player, averaging 17 points per game, he still ended up undrafted. Kobe Bryant and NBA commissioner David Stern both expressed that there has to be a reason why teams avoided Lin, Stern saying that it may very well be because of his Asian heritage.
Stereotyping is usually isn’t done with bad intentions, but our society needs to learn that when it comes down to it, stereotyping and generalizing athletes by race is a form of inequality and unfairness. There’s no doubt our country is moving toward a more racially accepting society, but we still have a lot to work on.
Eastman, Susan. Biased Voices of Sports: Racial and Gender Stereotyping in College Basketball Announcing. 4th ed. Vol. 12. N.p.: n.p., n.d. 181-201. Print.
Stone, Jeff. Introduction. White Men Can't Jump. N.p.: n.p., 2010. 291-306. Print.
Lapchick, Richard Edward. Crime and Athletes: The New Racial Stereotypes of the 1990's. Boston, MA: Northeastern University, Center for the Study of Sport in Society, [200. Print.
Costillo, Jorge. "New Jersey." The Star-Ledger. New Jersey, 08 Jan. 2012. Web. 07 Apr. 2013.
Wolfe, Jonathan. "Jeremy Lin: Racial Stereotypes Have Affected My Career Since High School." OpposingViews.com. Opposing Views, 6 Apr. 2013. Web. 07 Apr. 2013.