12.16.2009

No Second Chances? Tiger Woods, Serena Williams and Michael Vick on the latest cover of The Final Call newspaper

Stereotypes, the media and Black athletes who get into trouble

By James G. Muhammad -FCN Contributing Editor

(FinalCall.com) - Quick, name a professional athlete who received extensive national media coverage because of a sex scandal. Name two. OK, name a baseball player involved in a steroid use scandal.

Did the names Kobe Bryant and Tiger Woods go through your mind? How about Barry Bonds?

More than likely the images and names conjured up when speaking of athletes in trouble are of Blacks and other athletes of color, not the Tom Bradys, Ben Rothlisbergers or Mark McGuires of the athletic world who work alongside the Black standouts.

Golfer Woods, who has avoided race though subjected to insults at times, is the latest Black athlete to endure public pillaring. His extramarital affairs have garnered wall to wall news coverage and major sponsors dropping him was a huge Dec. 14 news story. Instead of a portrayal of a thug, the golf and endorsement giant has been painted as morally unfit and irresponsible.

But why are the faces we see in the media in continuous and seemingly unrelenting attacks mostly of Black athletes? Are they more susceptible to moral failures, criminal activity or going afoul of the laws and rules of the leagues?

“It's not that there's a higher percentage of African American athletes who are crossing the lines than White players,” said Dr. Richard Lapchick, director of the Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sports at the University of Central Florida. “But the media have created two perceptions—that athletes in general are more inclined to be violent against women and use drugs, and that Black athletes are more inclined to do both. And neither is true.”

Both media double standards show up whenever Dr. Lapchick is interviewed. Whether it's because of the hunger for gossip and sensational news about celebrities, athletes appear to be prominent as abusers of drugs and women, but the reality is more than four million American women are battered or sexually abused every year, he said. Over the last 14 years, about 100 athletes have been accused of such crimes, he said.

Read the full report and comment at: http://www.finalcall.com/artman/publish/National_News_2/article_6656.shtml


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