Tuesday, November 12, 2013

It's Time to Stop Judging Black Athletes

Many people would agree that Jonathan Martin is a victim of racism.  It has been reported that the text messages and voicemails were threatening with racial overtones.

But, if there hadn't been any racial aspects to the messages and voicemails, would the threats and violent attitudes towards Martin still be considered to be coming from a racial bias?  In other words, could Martin have been bullied without having been discriminated against for his race?

These are hard questions to answer definitively.  There is only room to speculate.  In fact, just about the whole Richie Incognito, Jonathan Martin, Miami Dolphin debacle involves speculation because getting into the minds of others is impossible.

The situation is a subtle one to analyze.  I believe one of the main points missed has to do with how black athletes are perceived.

Up until a few years ago, many black athletes were being turned away from the quarterback position. Why was this?  Because the status quo scouts and organizational football elite thought that blacks were not smart enough and were better built for the skilled positions of running backs and wide receivers.

There are plenty of other examples of black athletes being stereotyped, probably too many to count.  A couple that come to my mind are that blacks can't play winter-type of sports or blacks can't swim.  In fact, a black athlete recently won gold in the Olympics for swimming and there have been many blacks to have played in the NHL.

I think that Jonathan Martin got a different dose of judgement, not involving physical skills.

They picked on him because he was different as a person and he wasn't the type of athlete they were used to.  They imposed threats and negative attitudes onto him to change his way of thinking as an athlete.

But, Richie Incognito and others were never going to be able to change the core of Jonathan Martin. He's his own person with his own thoughts and ideas.  He is to be respected, just like any other teammate.

Either he measures up skills-wise and plays well or he doesn't make the cut.  In sports, it's always about performance.

Black athletes are a diverse group.  Black people, multi-racial people are diverse ethnic groups of people.  They can't all be pigeon-holed and thought about as if they all act alike.  That's absurd.

It's true many professional black athletes have come from the inner-city over the last few decades.  It is also true that blacks over the last few decades have collectively gained a bigger place in the middle classes of American culture (probably sports has had some contribution to this).

The harassment of Jonathan Martin was partly due to the players around him not identifying enough with him and trying to change him with coercion tactics.  Some of it had to do with race and judging black athletes.

The other big part of this picture has to do with the culture of football, how the game must be played and how the sport moves forward in a progressive, politically correct, social climate.  This topic, though, will have to wait for another time and place as it deserves its own proper due with a full article.

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