Open Mic: Racism In Sports...Simplified?

Pro Football NYCSenior Writer IJune 3, 2008

Let me begin by saying as a graduate of perhaps the most diverse and liberal institution in America (Queens College in New York), and having been in a position of authority at Fortune 500 corporation, I have been weaned not to take into account race, creed, color, sexual preference or gender when conducting business or making assessments.

In addition, my wife is a high school principal in the South Bronx. They used to call that police precinct "Fort Apache" before they knocked it down.

That being said, I enter the fray with a level attitude when writing critical pieces about sports. Sports is a microcosm of America. It is difficult to talk about racism in sports without addressing the overall picture.

I have some quick takes to situations I have seen and experienced. As for the answers to some hard questions, I have only a few. I must warn you, its not going to bepretty.

It's statistically correct, though. Many of these are vignettes, some tie together, some do not. In some cases I arrive at a conclusion, but in others, I do not.

There are several factors at play in our society when it comes to race. The first is that the criminal justice system is an industry.  Instead of society shaping up, they decide to build more prisons.  In order to fill those prisons, you need prisoners.

Young, black males are targeted by police forces that mainly consist of white officers. Those white officers are not familiar with the terrain they are assigned to cover.

They cannot fully fathom that living in such lacking conditions limits the choices of these young men and many times leads them into gangs and criminal activity. That is not specific to black neighborhoods. It happens in all neighborhoods that have low socioeconomic scores. I believe they are called "enterprise zones."

This is nothing new, but what comes next is the worst part. Not only is the system criminalizing our youth, but the entertainment industry, in an effort to assist and help young Americans in reaching their full potential, have glorified the 'gangsta' life. 

Through popular music and music videos, the youth of America is exposed to visions of wealth through lives of crime. This genre also promotes misogyny, violence and general civil disobedience.

Hip Hop alone should not be blamed for the decline of western civilization. Video games, movies, things like Ultimate Fighting and wrestling also inject negative norms into our youths. They take these attitudes out into the world with them.

Only in the real world, when you get punched in the face, it hurts. When you get shot, you can't press "end game" and start over.

Then there are the tattoos.  They were always reserved for tough guys. Now, every dick in America has a tattoo or six.  Once again, law enforcement sees tattoos and immediately thinks 'gang member' and gives the perp very little wiggle room.

The culture is creating criminals.  Law enforcement does not disseminate the wannabes from the hardcores anymore. They lock them all up and let the system do the rest. The scales of justice are unbalanced.

Take everything I just wrote and put yourself in the uniform of a Cincinnati police officer. When in doubt, you will arrest that imposing, tattoo-laden black man dressed in hip hip garb sporting excessive jewelry with a scowl on his face.

Later, when you find out he's a Cincinnati Bengal, you shrug.  You didn't know...he looked like just another bad guy. Is it racial? No, its social.

The media is tainted by what they see, not what they understand.

Black writers get on black players' cases just like white writers do. I don't see where there is double standard. They usually give players the benefit of the doubt in police issues, but most writers are older and don't understand the New American youth who thrives on a menacing appearance.

Teams need to be sure about the integrity and intelligence of players.

In the NFL, teams and scouts use an intelligence test called the Wonderlic test. It's an IQ test, and an easy one, too.  I just took it and got a 50, the highest score you can get. That's me, though.

These young men coming out of college (some with little class time) are partly judged by this test. It is especially used for quarterbacks.

The test is said to be racially biased. I found that to be somewhat incorrect. With the NFL median score around 21, the ranges are as follows:

50= highest possible score, superior intelligence
21= average intelligence
14= equivalent to unskilled worker
Below 14= moron

FYI - Dan Marino scored a 16, Donovan McNabb a 14, and Brett Favre a 22.
Brian Greise scored a 39.

Black players' scores are lower than those of whites. It is illustrated by the statistics given in Paul Zimmerman's 'The New Thinking Man's Guide to Pro Football'.

Here are the average scores by position:

    * Offensive tackle - 26
    * Center - 25
    * Quarterback - 24
    * Guard - 23
    * Tight end - 22
    * Safety - 19
    * Linebacker - 19
    * Cornerback - 18
    * Wide receiver - 17
    * Fullback - 17
    * Halfback - 16

In looking at these numbers, it is clear that the positions where white players usually play are at the top of the list. Is the test biased?  I couldn't tell, but I'm a white guy.

These scores can affect where a player is drafted. They are also made public, leading to predispositions of players by the media and fans.

I will conclude with a final assessment of coaches and managers. In New York, we have had minority coaches in football (Herman Edwards), basketball (Don Chaney, Isiah Thomas, Byron Scott) and baseball (Willie Randolph).

We have African-Americans at high front-office levels as well. Thomas has been GM of the Knicks for several years. Jerry Reese is not only the Giants' GM, he is widely considered one of the best in the league at his job.

These men are not discriminated against. In fact, they are coddled if anything. Thomas should have been fired years ago, especially after the Garden lost an $11 million sexual harassment suit.  Randolph has underachieved with the Mets, and has been given assurances from management that his job is safe.

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