Racism Rears its Ugly Head

By Todd A. Smith

            When LeBron James made his much-anticipated “decision” on ESPN this summer, many critics blasted the move as the narcissistic result of our celebrity obsession in this country.  Cleveland Cavalier fans burned his jerseys to protest the fact that a hometown kid could abandon his Ohio roots for “greener pastures” in Miami.

            Despite having his decision dissected and criticized, no one thought to look at racism in sports as the reason for such backlash.  In an interview with CNN’s Soledad O’Brien, James said he believed racism in sports played a part in all of the negative attention he has received since signing with the Miami Heat as opposed to remaining with the Cavaliers.

            “I think so at times,” James said about racism in sports being significant.  “It’s always, you know, a race factor.”

            James’ recent Q ratings, which measure the popularity of athletes, recently released data showing James’ positive Q ratings among African Americans dropped from 52 percent in January to 39 percent in September.  His negative Q rating amongst the same demographic increased from 14 percent to just 15 percent.

            However, for non-African Americans, James’ positive Q rating went from 18 percent in January to 10 percent in September, while his negative rating jumped from 24 percent to 44 percent amongst non-African Americans.

            While racism in all aspects of society is usually avoided as a topic of discussion, it is extremely naïve to think that racism in sports and all aspects of life does not exist.  Whenever the “race card” is allegedly played, people want to deny that racism can exist in 2010 with an African American family residing at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue in our nation’s capital.

            Even basketball Hall of Famer Charles Barkley criticized James’ claims of racism stating, “The only criticism I’ve heard about LeBron and it was my biggest criticism, that decision thing was just stupid.  It was stupid.

            “The second thing when they all came out there dancing around on stage, that was silly.  That’s the only thing I’ve heard LeBron get criticized about.  That has nothing to do with race.”

            Despite Barkley’s claim, the numbers tell a different story.  A story in which race has everything to do with.

            I have constantly written and argued that we all are prejudice to some extent.  The high negative rating shows a biased amongst non-African Americans and the practically unchanged numbers amongst African American shows bias amongst us.

            Like it or not African Americans tend to support our “fallen heroes” no matter what and many Whites have a problem with young African Americans from the inner cities earning hundreds of millions of dollars.  One only has to read message boards and listen to sports radio to know that racism in sports prevalent.

            I have also written numerous times about the double standard in sports where many White NBA fans were talking of boycotting the NBA because the Charlotte Bobcats was initially owned by an African American man, Bob Johnson.

            Of the 20 most hated athletes in the world, 12 are African American and five are White.  While one could argue there are more high profile African American athletes, I can just as easily argue that racism in sports played a significant role in those ratings.  And since I believe racism is engrained in our subconscious, the racism that athletes face may not be a conscientious “decision,” but a result of learned behavior that is pervasive in every aspect of life.

Smith is publisher of Regal Black Men’s Magazine.

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