April 13, 2011

Discussions of Race and Sports Often Out of Bounds in the Media

Television and the media are the mediums through which we, as a society, “talk around” issues of race rather than addressing them directly, according to Andrew Billings, a communication professor at Clemson University. “We are unlikely to hear overtly racist comments in the media. People, for the most part, understand what is out of bounds for discussion, but the result of talking around race rather than addressing racial issues directly is that we are missing the rich and robust discussions that could take place in sports media,” he said.

Some of the ways Billings says we talk around race include:

The Wonderlic test: NFL draft prospects are required to complete this 12-minute exam, which has many implications, Billings said. For example, the average score on the Wonderlic is 20. Vince Young, an African-American quarterback scored a 6 on the test, and it was leaked to the press. Ryan Fitzpatrick, a white quarterback, scored a 48. This may not seem overtly racist, said Billings, but the leaking of Young’s score feeds the racist narrative that black athletes are not as intelligent as white athletes. In fact, there is no correlation between the Wonderlic exam and performance in the NFL, he added. Either all Wonderlic scores should be released or none.

The “one and done” concept: The “one and done” concept refers to student-athletes who attend college for one year and then turn pro. This concept suggests that a student-athlete either is the “college type” or “not the college type.” Student-athletes who stay for four or five years are perceived as “meant for college” those who don’t are not. Billings referred to Kobe Bryant, who skipped college. “Kobe is trilingual and scored well on SATs, yet because he skipped college to go professional, it was assumed he was ‘not the college type,’ when in fact, Kobe simply had several choices and took another path."

The “out of place” player: Narratives around this concept related to athletes who are considered “in place” or “out of place” related to positions they play. Billings used the black quarterback as an example. “Since 1970, black quarterbacks have winning percentages in the NFL that are 31% higher than white quarterbacks. Using the statistics, it would seem there would be more professional black quarterbacks on the field.” -- Kimberly McGrath

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.