Written by: Thomas Scott
May 3rd, 2017
News of Baltimore Orioles Centerfielder Adam Jones “incident” at Fenway Park dominated sports headlines all week. For those who don’t know, Adam Jones was called racial slurs and even had a bag of peanuts thrown at him during a recent game versus the Boston Red Sox. Eventually, 30 people were kicked out of the game. The situation has prompted Major League baseball to mull stadium policy changes.
Media response to the “incident” has been woefully predictable. Some media outlets were in utter disbelief that such a shocking display could take place in 2017. They immediately seized this opportunity to pubically condemn the racist Red Sox fanbase. Other media outlets were highly skeptical. They instantly questioned the validity of Jones claims. Instead of acknowledging the larger issue at hand, they used their platforms to discredit and defend any pereived discriminatory practices.
One day after the horrific incident, Boston fans were applauded for giving Adam Jones a standing ovation during his next at bat. Fan reaction can be seen below:
Not surpisingly, Red Sox fans were prematurely praised for their STAND against racism. Their cheers were touted as victory over intolerance. The problem with this praise is that it allows the masses to hide behind the illusion of living in a “post racial” society. Insiuating that we actually came together to confront racism head on. We didn’t.
This is bigger than Boston. Bigger than Major League Baseball. Bigger than Adam Jones. ESPN anchor Michael Smith said it best.
“The n-word and the throwing of peanuts is an extreme. It is a symptom of a disease. It is the tip of the iceberg.”
Smith later asked, “Why does it take such an OBVIOUS example of racism and bigotry to get people sickened and disgusted? His answer was simple, yet profound.
“The nuanced and subtle racism we experience everyday is argued and shot down.” Michael Smith
His full thoughts on the Adam Jones incident can be seen below:It is no secret black athletes regularly experience nuanced and subtle racism. Athletically, there is no greater example of this than the NCAA. The very existence of this subtle racism sparks endless PWI vs HBCU debates on social media.
Much like the Adam Jones standing ovation, PWI’s are prematurely praised for their diversity an inclusion. Rewind 60 years and many of these same institutions barred black people from attending yet alone competing in athletics. Fast forward to today and most PWI’s make millions off of free labor from black student athletes.
Billy Hawkins, author of The New Plantation: Black Athletes, College Sports, and Predominantly White NCAA Institutions explains,
“Although intercollegiate athletics faintly registers on the radar of social concerns, it warrants inquiry because the power relations and inequalities endemic in the larger society are reflected and reinforced in this contested terrain”
Simply put, the problems black athletes face mirror the bigger racial problems black people face in society. This problem is not exclusive to Adam Jones and the Boston Red Sox.
Recent NCAA scandals include two University of Wisconsin fans dressing Obama in a noose at a football game or a fraternity being kicked off University of Oklahoma campus after video surfaced of their racist chant.
Last week Kenny Brown (@KennyBrownHigherEd) went viral on twitter asking what if just one class of the ESPN top 100 athletes chose HBCUs over PWI’s. Something just feels exploitative about producing millions in revenue for institutions that do nothing to help the black community or deter institutional racism. We are not living in a post racial society. Instead patting each other on the back for standing ovations against racism, let’s continue the conversation on how we can use athletics to unify and build our communities. We have more power than we think.