It’s no secret that there’s been a lot of attention paid to diversity in sports lately. The Olympics exposed black athletes to the world and allowed many to shatter stereotypical expectations about race, but has sports seen a bit of racism as well? It seems that the popularity of NFL, NBA and other sports that incorporate racial diversity has created a unique set of expectations around the game. And while those same sports have done great in the ratings at the box office, some fans are still struggling to meet the expectations of the “hated” NFL.
Does that make it harder for people of color to root for certain teams? Not necessarily. If you’re a die-hard fan who loves the particular race or national football league you follow, isn’t that more important than how you enjoy the games? After all, some fans root for their particular race, nationality or culture, not because they love the sport as anyone else does. And in the end, it might be a matter of habit or preference: if you enjoy your team so much, why not stick with it?
Take a look at the recent kerfuffle between NASCAR drivers about whether or not their car was painted to represent the Nascar flag or the American flag. What started off as a slight controversy has escalated into a full-blown argument that has spanned the country. It all started when Danica Patrick, an African-American woman, made comments on the auto racing news radio show during the Daytona 500 where she criticized how NASCAR treated drivers of different races. Drivers of both races were upset and took issue with Patrick’s comment.
NASCAR quickly had their own PR person to get the organization on the side of the lady reporter. NASCAR has also hired its own radio show to help explain why they were being accused of being racist. In the end, NASCAR has made more enemies than ever. NASCAR races have been disrupted and caused to be canceled. Even the race in Charlotte, North Carolina, where a major sports event was due to take place, was canceled just days before it was set to begin.
A common theme running through all industries is the idea of status. In the world of sports this often means that successful athletes are perceived as the best, or even the only, that is worth doing a sport interview with. If you go to certain magazines and sports publications, you will see that many sports writers feel that athletes are overrated and that the athletes’ bodies simply look the way they do because of their genetics. This is nonsense and it is hurting the credibility of the entire sports reporting industry.
There is nothing wrong with a reporter talking about genetics or biology or whatever scientific term they happen to use. What is not okay is when an entire industry works to give a negative spin on a sports story. This makes the athletes and sports reporting companies look bad. It also makes people question the objectivity of any sports report. Sports reporting should be about accurate and fair reporting.
Perhaps one reason why there is so much racism in sports is the old boys’ network that just keeps sending black guys to play sports. Of course there are exceptions, but for the most part almost every major sports league and several of the minor leagues have been integrated into the major business networks. This has helped the sports reporting industry, but it has also hurt it badly. Many reporters see the integration as an opportunity to write about black athletes in a sympathetic and positive light. They try to present a viewpoint that puts the athletes in a better light.
Maybe there will be an increase in diversity in sports reporting in the next few years. If so, that will help improve sports reporting and make it more truthful and balanced. Until then we will continue to see the ugliest parts of the human race represented in bad sports. That should not be happening in the most popular form of entertainment.