Color Me Confused: Does Race Play in the Way Sports Media Treats Athletes?

Jason Henry@thenprojectCorrespondent IJuly 24, 2009

HOLLYWOOD - MARCH 02:  NFL player Ben Roethlisberger arrives at the premiere of Warner Bros. 'Watchmen' held at Grauman's Chinese Theatre on March 2, 2009 in Hollywood, California.  (Photo by Jason Merritt/Getty Images)

Before I begin, allow me to state that this article will include words about race. Please enter with an open mind and a willingness to see the other side of the argument. - Management

Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is having the offseason of a lifetime. He led his team to their second Super Bowl since taking over as starter during his rookie campaign.

He has a burger named after him, posted a score in the 80s at Bethpage Black during the week of the U.S. Open, and played pretty well this past week at the Lake Tahoe celebrity golf tournament.

Things were going pretty swimmingly for Ben, at least until a few days ago.

Big Ben has been accused of rape by Andrea McNulty, a casino host at Harrah’s Lake Tahoe and claims that Roethlisberger sexually assaulted her.

Ben has called the allegations “false and vicious” and has promised to fight the pending lawsuit.

Mistakenly, ESPN ran the story on its bottom line stating that Roethlisberger raped the young lady instead of being accused of the deed.

During a press conference held by the quarterback, he had his coach Mike Tomlin, agent Ryan Tollner, and attorney David Cornwell by his side.

This story regarding Ben has traction, but not as much as you think it would. ESPN has it listed on its web site, but it’s not front-page news.

In completely contrasting but similar situations, former Atlanta Falcons quarterback Michael Vick was accused of dog fighting around the same time two years ago.

Vick was immediately demonized by animal activists and dropped from corporate sponsors. While I disagreed with the severity of his punishment, Vick did lie about his involvement with dog fighting.

He also lied to his boss, the commissioner of the NFL Roger Goodell, which in turn caused a very harsh penalization to be handed down.

However, Vick spent two years in prison for dog fighting and is still on indefinite suspension from the NFL. According to NFL sources, Goodell is likely to extend Vick’s suspension four more games into the new season.

So I’m guessing doing two years of hard time isn’t enough to warrant a second chance to play football? What Vick did was wrong and most of all it was stupid. But everyone that lives in this nation is entitled to a second chance at life.

The point of serving time in prison is to pay one’s debt to society, which Vick has done.

NBA baller Kobe Bryant was accused of the same crime as Roethlisberger a few years ago. He lost corporate sponsors, fans, and was an endorsement nightmare for the NBA.

Kobe was eventually acquitted of his supposed crime. Turns out the woman that accused him of rape was telling a lie and actually had consensual sex with the four-time NBA champion.

Bryant was wrong in the fact that he committed adultery by sleeping with the young lady. Kobe was demonized by the media and some of his fans for what he did.

Eventually Bryant bounced back to win another NBA championship and eventually gain corporate sponsorship.

The blaring difference between these three athletes is the obvious, skin color. I’m not crying racism or bigotry in the case of Ben Roethlisberger, but there is a media bias for Ben.

Kobe was front page news for ESPN, CNN, and any other news outlet willing to tell about his story. Same thing for Michael a couple of summers ago when he couldn’t get away from the radicals that call themselves PETA.

Ben on the other hand seems to be flying a little under the radar.

A small article on ESPN, a mention on SportsCenter, and a crawl on CNN is all that Ben’s getting so far. Maybe the media is trying a different approach with Roethlisberger, giving him the benefit of the doubt before he’s judged.

By no means am I stating that Ben is guilty. In fact, from what I’ve read I believe that he’s probably telling the truth. However, if it were Dwight Howard or Ryan Howard the story would probably have more legs.

For some odd reason it seems that black athletes behaving badly receive more attention than a white guy that plays quarterback for the Super Bowl champions.

In light of “Skip” Gates being arrested for breaking into his own home, it seems that African-Americans are still better for bad news than good.



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