This month is supposed to be a month in which racial equality should be championed, where the lessons of Martin Luther King are celebrated and learned on MLK Day in the United States, but instead we have been treated to events in the month of January in which we have been recently reminded of our sad double standards towards black athletes in the media from fellow professionals.
It started last week when San Francisco quarterback Colin Kaepernick was criticized for wearing his hat backwards during a post game interview, pundits were quick to jump to the forefront and rip Kaepernick’s lack of “professionalism” due to wearing his team coloured hat in a certain way. Ignoring the fact that many white quarterbacks in the NFL have taken to the media rounds postgame in cutoff shirts (Brett Favre) or backwards caps themselves (Aaron Rodgers.Tom Brady). It was painfully clear that Kaepernick, who led the Niners to back to back road wins as the NFC Wild Card before falling short in a near upset of the Seahawks, was once again being treated to the generic “Hot Take” used by old, almost always white pundits have used for years. The classic case of the “Non White” athlete having less “class” than their fellow competitiors.
It continued the following week, this time north of the border as PK Subban came under fire for celebrating a game winning goal in overtime over a divisional rival against the Ottawa Senators. Subban, who is arguably already one of the best black hockey players of all time, showed emotion and love for the team that drafted him by grabbing the crest of his Montreal Canadiens jersey and pulling it forward for all to see before finding his teammates to celebrate. Ottawa’s beat writers, who are the last people in the world you want to call classy after their “First Blood” headline on the cover of the Ottawa Sun following Eric Gryba’s gruesome hit on Lars Eller in last year’s playoffs, took to blasting
Subban for his lack of “class.” As did Don Cherry, who had no problem with Toronto’s James Van Riemsdyk doing the same during Saturday’s game between the Leafs-Habs after blasting Subban on Coaches Corner.
In the case of Subban, the colour of his skin has also hurt his prospects on the Team Canada Olympic team. A Norris Trophy winner and a world class defenseman by all accounts, Subban has never been fully embraced in Montreal and is constantly being blasted for his lack of defensive ability despite already being recognized as the best defensive player in the NHL. There is no way to say that if PK Subban was white he would be perceived differently, but we can all admit that if Subban was “Billy Smith” who played in the Greater Toronto Hockey League before tearing up the OHL that he would likely be Don Cherry’s favourite hockey player right now.
Richard Sherman was also a victim of this on Sunday as the cornerback’s now infamous postgame interview with Erin Andrews has divided the sports world as the Stanford grad from one of the most notoriously rough neighbourhoods in America in Compton was called out for his lack of class in calling out receiver Michael Crabtree after the game. While Sherman may have crossed the line, the media chose to ignore the onsluaght of racist tweets sent his way, the calling of the “N” word and other threats all on the night of the biggest game of his career. Instead the media decided to focus on Sherman’s lack of class once again, because according to to some it is more important to focus on the class of someone who has achieved something you wish you could than focus on blatant racism in our modern world.
These garbage opinions are not just reserved for these three athletes, and they happen every news cycle in our 24/7 sports media world. Calling a black athlete out for his “lack of class” or labelling him as a “thug” or criticizing the way he walks, talks or dresses is continuing the same racist crap that we have allowed mainstream media members get away with for far too long. It is time we move past that and treat all athletes equally, and call out those who allow their racial biases to come out in their opinions of athletes far too often. In 2014 we are better than this, it is time to end the double standard that is given to black athletes. Their successes should be celebrated, not nullified because of deep lying prejudices from certain media members. There needs to be an end to the way we treat the Richard Shermans and the PK Subbans so they can be treated like the equals we believe them to be.