Monday, August 1, 2011

Answering Questions of Race in Sports [Mondays with Gus]

Often times in America, we wait until there is some kind of racially divisive issue before we discuss issues of race and racism. This doesn't have to be the case. A wise man once said, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of effort.” So, in order to help educate sports fans without making them feel awkward by asking a question that may make them sound like a racist, I've decided to answer a few of those questions for you.

  1. Why are there so many Latinos in Major League Baseball? Latin America has a population of over 500 million (the US has a population a little over 300 million), and that would explain part of the large Latino representation. Furthermore, a significant number of the US population is also Latino. Since baseball is a such an accessible sport, the fact that the United States has a higher standard of living doesn't have much of an impact on the numbers. All you need is a stick and a ball, and those are very easily made as long as there is a tree nearby.
  2. Why are so many NBA players black? The racist answer here is that black people are somehow more athletically gifted than white people by way of genetics. Wrong. If black people are more athletic, there would be a cultural explanation. Anyone that has lived in an urban setting knows that sports become more of a way of life than they do in the suburbs. In the inner city, trouble finds you. So, parents (and the city design, often times) encourage an engagement in extracurricular activities. Since the suburbs contain mostly white folks, and the inner cities contain a higher concentration of black people, your question is answered.
  3. Why aren't there more black coaches in the NFL? The even larger question should be asked about general managers in the NFL. The answer is simple: Racism. Nothing else can explain (legitimately) why close to 2/3 of the NFL players are black and nothing remotely close to that number is true of head coaches and general managers. Without the Rooney Rule, where all NFL head coaching vacancies must interview a minority candidate, was installed not to force teams to hire minorities. It was installed because of the racism of NFL owners. The rule doesn't state who you have to hire, only who you interview. The fact that it does that goes to show that many black coaches couldn't even get an interview without a legal precedent by the NFL, let alone get a job. Since the rule has been put into place, more black coaches have gotten jobs. Funny how once you give them a chance they end up proving their value.

Remember, there are usually cultural answers to questions of race and stereotypes. We often times look for the easy answer because it makes the world less complicated to us. If that's the case with you, don't be afraid to have someone else give you the answer. I can't speak for all minorities, but I don't think you will look like a racist if you're asking the question in a respectable way and truly seeking a legitimate answer. For example “Do black people have more muscles than white people?” is not the same as asking “Why does it seem like black people dominate certain sports?” Open up by admitting that you're noticing a trend, rather than saying “This is how it is. Why is that?” and you'll get good answers. Because realistically, we're not getting any smarter as sports fans if we keep ignoring the questions we really want to ask.

-Gus Rafeedie


  1. Gus, I consider myself a long-time friend, & so must tell you I respectfully disagree with much of this.--Tim "TJ." Church

  2. It would be better if you name a few points I made and say why you disagree with it.