African-American Discrimination in Sports: 1970-Present
I am excited to say that my next blog post will be operated a bit differently than in the past. This one will really dive into specific spectacles of racism within the past 40 years and truly shed light on how views really haven’t changed.
Baseball 1987 On the 40th anniversary of Jackie Robinson’s arrival into professional baseball, former Los Angeles Dodger Vice President Al Companis was invited to appear on ABC’s Nightline. During the interview, Companis was asked, “why he thought so few blacks were in management positions in baseball.” (ScienceSmith) Companis responded that he believed blacks do not have the necessities to be a general manager or field manager. He also went on to say that blacks were not as prominent in swimming due to a lack of buoyancy. Within 48 hours of his comments, Companis was fired. This action was critical since it revealed that it was highly embarrassing and unacceptable to reveal such views publicly. Because of the interview, reporters began to question around the league if others agreed with his comments. Shockingly, it turned out to be widely believed throughout baseball that blacks were not intellectually sufficient enough to hold such positions.
Video of the comments -> http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O4XUbENGaiY
Football 1988 A year after the comments from Al Companis, another man was caught spewing controversial views on national television. Jimmy “The Greek” Snyder, a well known football commentator for CBS, took part in an interview on January 16th where he got on to the topic of black athletes: “The black is a better athlete to begin with because he’s been bred to be that way, because of his high thighs and big thighs that goes up into his back, and they can jump higher and run faster because of their bigger thighs and he’s bred to be the better athlete because this goes back all the way to the Civil War when during the slave trade … the slave owner would breed his big black to his big woman so that he could have a big black kid …” CBS immediately asked for Snyder to resign from the company, even though he had a year left on his contract. Snyder refused, forcing CBS Sports President Neal Philson fire him by phone all the way from Hawaii. Just like Companis’, Synder’s comments were highly controversial and offended the entire the black community. He would later apologize for what he described to be “foolish words”, but the damage had already been done.
Video of the comments -> http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xKtIqXMpHcY
Golf 1997 Not only racist remarks come from people who just observed sports. At the Master’s Tournament, Tiger Woods, a young African-American golfing star, had just sealed his first of many victories there at Augusta. During Woods’ award ceremony, fellow competitor and former winner Fuzzy Zoeller was asked for comments about him by the press. They started off very complimentary. However, he went on to advise the press to tell Woods “not to serve fried chicken next year” (Yahoo) at the annual Champions Dinner. This was taken offensively since fried chicken was a stereotypical food associated with African-Americans. The media did not attack his comments for about a week until the hype over Woods settled down. He was dubbed a racist and his national image would be fully healed.
Hockey 2010 My final example of racial discrimination comes from the fans perspective and occurred not too long ago. During the 2010 NHL playoffs, the Washington Capitals and Boston Bruins were locked into a first round battle. Game 7 turned into an overtime slugfest. The two teams went back and forth until African-American hockey player Joel Ward fired home the game winner, sending the Bruins home early. Boston fans did not take to this lightly. Hockey was already regarded as predominately white sport and seeing an African-American score set these fans off. Thousands of Boston fans took to Twitter to unleash their frustration on Ward. Statements like “I can’t believe the n—– scored…” were a common theme of the racial backlash. Ward did not care for the attention he was receiving. After all, he was the one that got to move on to the next round. But, it was an ugly sight to see from Boston fans.
Whether its from executives, commentators, competitors, or fans, racial discrimination is still quite present in the sports world. African-American athletes have come a long way and through these past few decades. For the most part, they have earned the treatment they sought after for many years. The national image of racism is now seen as unacceptable and not tolerated, but it is apparent that the very nature of it still seeded inside a lot of us. Americans are still striving even further to correct this issue. This can be illustrated by my closing story…
Football 2003 Prior to the 2003 season, only 6 minority coaches had been hired in the NFL. Dan Rooney, the owner of the Pittsburgh Steelers and chairman of the league’s diversity committee, thought this was an issue and pushed for the NFL to take action. He was successful. Starting in 2003, all NFL teams would now be required to interview atleast one minority candidate for vacant head coaching and executive positions. Since then, several teams have ended up hiring these minority candidates including the Pittsburgh Steelers, who hired Mike Tomlin in 2007. “At the start of the 2006 season, the overall percentage of African American coaches had jumped to 22%, up from 6% prior to the Rooney Rule.” (Wiki) The rule is now referred to as the “Rooney Rule” due to the long history of the Steelers giving African Americans opportunities to serve leadership roles. Today, it is apparent the rule is not perfect since teams do not have to hire these minority coaches; but, just ensuring the opportunity is seen as a major victory for African-Americans trying to take a shot at a major position.