Black athletes unfairly criticized by media

Sports Editor | Mass Communication junior

Race should not play a factor in society’s perceptions of athletes—a guideline media outlets should follow and respect in sports coverage today.

There has been a love-hate relationship when it comes to black athletes and how the media and society at large perceive them. The misconceptions surrounding black athletes are often unfair and unjustified. It is laughable when predominately white media outlets try to explain the culture and background of black athletes. It is especially irritating when white newscasters pass judgment on athletes for being aggressive or playing a sport with intensity.

Black athletes are brash and in-your-face. They exude confidence like no other, and when they beat an opposing team, they are not afraid to let them know. That confidence is part of the culture they are raised in—a culture that teaches young athletes to be the best at all costs because success on the field might be the only way to a brighter future.

Such athletes may come off as arrogant, but it is not because they want to let others know they are better than them. They are the way they are because they are proud of their accomplishments, and no one can take that away from them.

People see an athlete’s interviews, commercials, clothing and image in the media and never ask themselves what that person has been through. People assume when they hear two-minute sound bites of athletes bragging about being the best that they must be thugs or uneducated.

The hypocrisy present in discourse about black athletes is unbelievable. For example, Seattle Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman made waves in a recent interview after a game against the San Francisco 49ers. He proclaimed himself the best and made it clear he was tired of people talking bad about him. I respect that. Sherman was showing emotion after making arguably the NFL’s play of the year. After that interview, many people seemed to have an opinion about him, and personally, I believe most of the criticism he received was unwarranted.

Last time I checked, showing emotion is as much a part of sports as athleticism. Yes, Sherman did it louder than most, but he still had every right to show his emotions. Expressing his feelings, as arrogant as he might sound to some, does not make him a thug or uneducated. Sherman graduated from Stanford with a 3.9 GPA and is currently working on his master’s degree—facts naysayers should remember before casting the
first stone.

White athletes are overwhelmingly absolved from these types of criticisms. Tom Brady, New England Patriots quarterback, was caught on camera in a shouting match with his coach not too long ago. The way I was taught, what the coach says goes, so Brady should not have been allowed to yell at his coach and get away with it.

Sherman was practically crucified for yelling into a camera and was accused of insulting his opponents, yet Brady did not receive nearly as much criticism after disrespecting his coach—that doesn’t make a lot of sense.

There is a definite double standard when it comes to judging black athletes versus their white counterparts. Golfer Tiger Woods had affairs with numerous women and was on the cover of multiple tabloid magazines for doing so. On the other hand, Ben Roethlisberger, white quarterback for the Pittsburgh Steelers, was accused of rape, found not guilty and did not receive half the media attention Woods did.

It seems to me when black athletes do something wrong, it is seen by the media as part of their character and a result of how they grew up. When a white athlete commits the same crime, however, it is seen as an uncharacteristic mistake.

Things need to change. Whether that change is increasing media diversity or simply a more critical viewership, something has to give.