By Will Stevenson
It’s your first night out with the guys in forever. However, you seemingly forgot to mention this to your girlfriend who had plans of her own on that same night, but you went anyway. You got a text from your buddy to meet them at the bar after work, and since the bar is right there, you went. So you go, you’re having a blast catching up with the boys. You’re taking shots, standing on tables, even silently flirting with some of the girls, and then something strange happens.
The girl at the bar is best friends with your girlfriend and she notices you. *Uh-oh*. So she walks over to you and says, “Hey, what are you doing here?” So with hesitation, you take a second to think, and instead of telling the truth, you do not man up and reply, “My friends’ dad passed away so we’re just letting off some steam before the funeral tomorrow. We’re just doing some catching up that’s all. I was gonna invite Brandy, but you know it’s just us guys and I didn’t want her to feel out-of-place.”
You see that right there. That’s how most black athletes feel when you ask them about racism in America. Not only do they get politically correct, they throw away their bravado, their pride, and they sink back into that schoolboy that just got caught doing something even though that something isn’t wrong. They want to tell the truth. They want to be who they are, they want to be relaxed and say what’s on their mind, but they usually don’t. They usually give you some PC answer that will protect them because that’s what they have been trained and programmed to do, “Protect your assets”.
Reasons why we may think the way we do in public:
1. It’s public, you don’t need to know how I really feel
2. If I speak on it, then what?
3. Will you actually care?
4. Maybe I don’t want the racist to have credence over who I am as a human being.
5. I can’t lose these endorsements
6. I only talk about this kind of stuff with people I really know.
7. Maybe I don’t feel the same way other blacks do about the issue (ex: OJ Simpson)
8. I just want to play ball, provide for my family, and win.
Now yes, that was a pretty elaborate story about a guy lying about his reason for being in a bar, but I just wanted to illustrate what it’s like for athletes when the race comes up in the conversation. You can read it or hear the body language. When they are talking about their family or favorite cars they are loose, free, ready to tell you everything and maybe even brag about it. When it comes to race and other social issues, the apprehensive level is beyond troubling. See when you speak on race as a whole, you take on the responsibility of answering for everyone, which really isn’t that fair, but your skin is a representation of others like you, whether you want it to be or not, and many athletes fail in this spotlight. We all have something different to say, and we all have different upbringings and experiences that shape our perspective that will be different that others, but the one thing we have not done is studied the past, the facts and the truth. Athletes get so wrapped up in saying the right thing that they don’t realize when they say these filtered stock quotes, they sound like droned robots. But why? Why not give us a cliché or a statement that gives positivity? I’ll tell you why.
Where do you work? What do you do for a living? What do you believe? I only ask these questions because we seem to hold athletes on this pedestal because they have the money and platform to change the opinions of sports fans on how they view certain situations. On one hand that is a reach, and on the other it is not. We’ve all been around sports fans our entire lives, and some want to talk the social issues and some could care less about it. We fit into these groups as fans. There are some of us who love speaking on social issues and athletes. We love to dive deeper into the mindset and what they think about it all. And there are others who do not care for those topics. They don’t care what Martellus Bennett thinks or what Ben Watson thinks about Planned Parenthood. I asked those questions earlier because most of us are in a work/job setting. We see what’s going on in the workplace. We hear the racist jokes, the misogynist theories, the stereotyping; we hear it all. The question is; What do we do? I ask what we do because we cannot hold our black athletes to a standard in which we do not hold ourselves. Now that is two-fold. There have been many times we hold our tongue or give some cliché answer to a social topic because there are time and place in the workplace. Sometimes we do want to fight a battle in which we know minds will not be changed. sometimes people just want to know what you’re thinking to use it against, rather than them wanting to gain some type of understanding. So we as non-athletes know what it’s like to be ourselves and then all of a sudden tighten up because we know if we speak that truth, if we give those facts, it could all come tumbling down on top of our heads. We have families, we have kids, mortgages, bills, and debt. We can’t risk that for our opinion on is their racism in America or, “What did you think about that joke Bob told earlier? Does that bother you at all?”
1. Yes it bothers me
2. Hit me up on the sneak if you really care to know how it affects me
3. Yes racism is real
4. It’s hard to get someone to actually realize they have racist tendencies or a racist outlook on life itself
When Cam Newton gave his response on if people’s dislike for him was mixed with racism, he sort of kind of dismissed it all together. Do I think people dislike Cam just for being who he is? Yes. Do people dislike Cam from being at Florida, “the whole computer thing” and then going to Auburn and winning? Yes. Do people dislike Cam because of his celebratory actions? Yes. Do people dislike Cam because he is a better athlete than they are? Yes. Do people dislike Cam because they themselves do not like black people? Yes.
With all those things being said, you can’t just say it’s racism because there are other factors involved. Although it may be true, if he was to just single out racism as the only factor, then ‘Holy Bleep’ we would have reigned down terror on him. That would have been a life-altering interview for Cam.
Now when he said, “we are above that as a nation” I would tend to disagree. When we ask athletes these questions, we ask too broad. And on the flip side, we only want broad answers from them. Cam literally looked at all the other factors and chose not to bring down a firestorm with his answers. Do I think people are above using race as a factor in their dislike for Cam? No. But I do know it is a factor. Do I think Cam is blind to the fact that people are racist and they don’t like him strictly because of it? No. I do not think he is that naive nor do I think he is so superior in his confidence to dismiss that notion. I truly believe he doesn’t want that to be the reason. He acknowledges his blackness or African-Americaness (that’s a different blog on a different site) and is not ashamed to speak on it. He just speaks on it and around it. That’s fine with me, truthfully. That should be fine with you, but it’s not. It’s not fine because people will hold that part of the quote up and say, “See, I’m not racist, I just have my reasons for not liking him or any other black athlete” and that’s where the issue is. People who don’t get what it means to always have to be on guard have no idea how it feels or what it means when athletes and black folks, in general, give these quotes. We are literally just trying to make it through the day and we know that most of you aren’t here to hear, you’re just here to mock, question, belittle and argue. We don’t have time to go all the way back to slavery, pre-slavery, the psychology of it all. We don’t have the time, and neither do you. So we bail. We weigh our options and our answers and we decide to just give you something that will pass the time. You don’t understand that that’s what it is, you just take it for truth.
We look at our black athletes as representatives of their particular ethnic group. Remember how we treated Ozzie Guillen, thinking all Hispanic managers were exactly like him. Remember how we treated Mike Vick before and after, we continually compared him to Donovan McNabb and Randall Cunningham and Warren Moon. We think all black athletes live the same, have the same experiences growing up and all like the same things. We ran into a brick wall when we heard Michael Bennett and Richard Sherman speak on the Black Matter Lives movement last season. There are differing opinions everywhere from each individual athlete; some agree, and some don’t.
Could Cam have broken it down in a deep matter? Yes. Could his answer have been more specific on the reason folks don’t like him? Could the reason he whiffed on the question was that he didn’t want to give any credence to racist? Maybe so. Did he want to appear to be non-effective by racist haters? I think so. No, he didn’t say what I wanted him to say, but I do know what it’s like to pass on a question in which I know what to say and how to say it, but I also know what comes with my answer. From previous experiences, fans don’t have time for nuance, objectivity, and explanations from our sports athletes. Don’t know if we’ve noticed, but people have been trying to convince others that racism exists in America. Well, how’s that going?
We just want to talk about the rings.