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Lapchick%2C+R.+_2000_.+Crime+and+Athletes_+New+Racial+Stereotypes

Lapchick%2C+R.+_2000_.+Crime+and+Athletes_+New+Racial+Stereotypes

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Unformatted text preview: LUU J m. I Velaflbtbrfi} One fraternity actually stuck colored dots on women’s hands as they came to a party, color—coded to indicate how “easy”, each woman was. it’s that kind of hidden code that has more and more colleges warning young women to stay away altogether from the fraternity and house parties where athletes and their buddies gather—«just as one must avoid dark-alleys at night. Dr. Gondoif explains: “Athletes are so tangled up in their glory and their privilege, and they get such big benefits for it. We need women to prompt them to check up on one another.” But that is only half the answer. In the case of gang rape, almost all college women are so devastated they drop- out of school. “These are overwhelming rapes, and the trauma is profound,” explains Abarbanel. “A lot of these women are freshmen who are just beginning to test their; independence. They have hopes and dreams about college and achievement, meet—- ing new people, a career, a future. After gang rape, everything that college means 'i lost to them. They’re afraid to be alone, afraid of a recurrence. And since these are often men they know, the sense of betrayal is very profound.” In some cases, says Dr, Sanday, a woman may have subconsciously been court ing danger. She knows she should avoid certain parties, be careful about her drink— ing, come and leave with friends. But she’s looking for power, on male territory. "We all, at certain tirnes in our life, test ourselves. It’s like going into the inner city one date. These women are using the men that way. They want to court and conquer danger. And legally and morally, they have a right to go and have sex with vvhorneve'r they want, without being gangwtaped.” One of the most important ways to prevent rape may be to understand what the word means. Many men and women don't know that the law requires that a woman give consent to sexual intercourse. lfshe’s so inebriated that she can't say yes,; or so frightened that she won’t say no, the act is rape. But just knowing that distinction is not quite enough; the seeds of team gang rape are buried deep, even subconsciously, in the athletic culture. Dr. O’Sullivan tel of an incident outside the courtroom of the Kentucky State footballdteam trial. Ac cording to her, “We were all standing by the candy machine, and some guy men tioned that it was broken. And Big Will, a huge man who had charmed everybo‘d and who was testifying on behalf of his dormmate, said, ‘l’ll make it work. Every body always does what I want.’ And everybody laughed. i couldn’t believe it. This is exactly the kind of attitude that can lead to the tape.” The perception that force is, “okay,” that it is masculine and admirable, is really where gang rape begins—an where the fight against it will have to start. Crime and Athletes New Racial Stereotypes Richard E. Lapchick it is ironic that as we begin a new millennium, hopeful that change will end the ills inch as racism that have plagued our society throughout past centuries, more subtle ‘brrns of racism in sport may be infecting American culture. . Polite white society can no longer safely express the stereorypes that so many believe about African Americans. Nonetheless, surveys show that the majority of whites still believe that most African Americans are less intelligent, are more likeiy to rise drugs and be violent, and are more inclined to be violent against women. . However, sport as it is currently being interpreted, now provides whites With the chance to talk about athletes in a way that reinforces. those stereotypes about African Americans. With African Americans dominating the sports we watch most toiten {77 percent of the players in the National Basketball Association, 65 percent in the National Football League, 35 percent in Major League BaseballwanotheeZS percent are Latino). African Americans comprise 57 percent of the students playing ‘Kiational Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division I basketball and 47 per; cent of those playing NCAA Division 1A football. Whites tend. to “think black - its-hen they think about the major sports. ‘ ‘ _ Many athletes and community ieaders believe that the public has been unfairly stereotyping athletes all across America. The latest, and perhaps most dangerous, stereotype, is that playing sport makes athletes more prone to being Vioient and, especially, gender violent. NOTE *Name has been changed. Source: Richard E. isapchiclr, “Crime and Athletes: New Racial Stereotypes,” Society 37' (March/April 2000), pp. 14—20. 187 .tou rtwrtwu 11,. mpentcir Rosalyn Dunlap, an eight—time All—American sprinter who now worics on so— cial issues involving athletes, including gender violence prevention, said, “perpetra— tors are not limited to any category or occupation. The difference is that athletes who rape or batter will end up on TV or in the newspapers. Such images of athletes in trouble create a false and dangerous mindset with heavy racial overtones. Most other perpetrators will be known only to the victims, their families, the police and the courts.” On our predominantly white college campuses, student athletes are being char acterized by overwhelmingly white student. bodies and faculties while they are being written about by a mostly white male media for a preponderance of white fans. At an elite academic institution, I asked members of the audience to write _ down five words they would use to describe American athletes. in addition to listing ' positive adjectives, not one missed including one of the following words: dumb, violent, rapist, or drug user! in the past two years, i have met with NBA and NFL players as well as college student athletes on more than a dozen campuses. There are a lot of angry athletes ' who are convinced the public is characterizing them because of the criminal acts of a few. Tom “Satch” Sanders helped the Bosron Celtics win eight world champion— ships. Sanders noted, “If they aren’t angry about their broad brush depiction, they should be. The spotlight is extremely bright on athletes; their skills have made them both famous and vulnerable. Their prominence means they will take much more heat from the media and the public for similar situations that befall other people with normal lives." He is now vice president for player programs for the NBA. That office helps guide players oil the court to finish their education, prepares them for careers after basketball, and helps those that may have problems adjusting to all the attention that goes to NBA stars. Many American men have grown to dislike athletes. Given the choice, a typi« cal man might want the money and the fame but lmows it is unattainable for him. After reading all the negative stories about athletes, he doesn’t want to read about Mike Tyson complaining about being treated unfairly when Tyson has made a re— ported $100 million in his post—release rehabilitation program; or about the large number of professional athletes signing contracts worth more than $10 million a year. The anger of some white men extends to people who look or act differently than themselves. They are a mini~th0ught away from melting egregious stereotypes about the “other groups” they perceive as stealing their part of the American pie. Big—time athletes fit the “other groups.” Whether it is an African American athlete or coach, or a white coach of African American athletes, when something goes wrong with a player, the national consequences are likely to be immediate. . Sanders expanded on this. “Everyone feels that athletes have to take the good with the bad, the glory with the negative publicity. However, no one appreciates the broad brush application that is applied in so many instances. Of the few thousand Crime and Athletes: New Racial Stereotypes 189 that play sport on the highest level, if four or five individuals in each sportmparticm jlarly if they are black—have problems with the law, people won’t have long to wait f before some media people are talking about all those athletes.” Here is the equation we are dealing with as stereotypes of our athletes are built. Fans, who are mostly white, observe sport through a media filter which is overwhelm— " ' ingly made up of white men. There are 1,600 daily newspapers in America. There are '_ only four African American sports editors in a city where there are professional fran— chises and 19 African American columnists. Both numbers, as reported at the recent " conference of the National Association of Black Journalists, have almost doubled Since 1998 and represent a positive sign. Nonetheless, there are no African American Hijsports writers on 90 percent of the 1,600 papersl i do not, nor would i ever, suggest that most or even many of the white writers are racist. However, they were raised in a culture in which many white people have strong beliefs about what it means to be African American. _ The obvious result is the reinfircemcnrof white stereotypes of athletes, who are ' mostly African American in our major sports. According to the National Opinion Research Center Survey, sponsored by the II National Science Foundation for the University of Chicago, whites share the follow« - ing attitudes: ° 56 percent of whites think African Americans are more violent; ' 62 percent think African Americans are not as hard working as whites; ' 77 percent of whites think most African Americans live off welfare; ' 53 percent think African Americans are less intelligent. It can be expected that some White writers learned these stereotypes in their .own upbringing. When they read about an individual or several athletes who have a ' problem, it becomes easy to leap to the conclusion that fits the stereotype. Sanders .. said, “Blacks in general have been stereotyped for having drugs in the community as ' .' Well as for being more prone to violence. However, now more than ever before, young ' black athletes are more individualistic and they resist the ‘broad brush.’ They insist - on being iudged as individuals for everything.” But even that resistance can be this interpreted by the public and writers as merely being oftf‘the—court trashmtalking. . SPORTS’ SPECIFIC PROBLEMS I There are, of course, problems in college and professional sports. For the purposes of this chapter, 1 will only deal with those that involve problems and perceptions of athletes. . Our athletes are coming from a generation of despairing youth cut adrift from the American dream. When the Center for the Study of Sport in Society started in 3984, one of its primary missions was helping youth balance academics and athlet- ics. Now, the issue for youth is balancing life and death. a... t. .muutywl w u. wyuivvuw We are recruiting athletes: ‘ who have increasingly witnessed violent death. If one American child under the age of 16 is killed every two hours with a handgun, then there is a good chance that our athletes will have a fallen family member or friend. More American children have died from handguns in the last ten years than all the American soldiers who died in Vietnam. Tragedies in places like l’aducah, Kentucky, and Littleton, Colorado, have shown us that violent deaths are not limited to our cities. ' who are mothers and fathers when they get to our schools. There are boys who helped 900,000 teenage girls get pregnant each year so we are increas— - ingly getting studentdarhletes who will leave our colleges after four years With one or more children who are 4—5 years old. ' who have seen friends or family members devastated by drugs. ' who have seen battering in their home. ' who were victims of racism in school. Three—quarters (75 percent) of all students surveyed by Lou Harris reported seeing or hearing about racially or religiously morivated confrontations widi overtones of violence very or somewhat often. ' who come home alone: 57 percent of all American families, black and white alike, are headed by either a single parent or two working parents. We desperately need professionals on our campuses who can deal with these nightmarish factors. The reality is that few campuses or athletic departments have the right people to help guide these young men and women into the 2 lst century. 30 what are our problems? ACADEMIC ISSUES IN COLLEGE SPORT Academically, we get athletes who have literacy problems. The press discusses that student—athletes have literacy problems extensively throughout the year as if it were a problem unique to athletes. However, it is rarely reported—and never in the sports pages—that 30 percent of all entering flerhmm must take remedial En— glish or math. Academically, we get athletes who will not graduate. It ism—and always should be—an issue for college athletics to increase the percentages of those who graduate from our colleges. However, the demographics of college have now changed to the point where only 14 percent of entering freshmen graduate in four years. If an athlete does not graduate in four years, some call him dumb; others say the school failed him. Few note that he may be typical of college students. Don McPherson nearly led Syracuse to a national championship when he was their quarterback in the 1980s. After seven years in the NFL and CFL, McPherson worked until recently directing the Mentors in Violence Prevention (MVP) Prop Crime and Athletes: New Racial Stereotypes 1.91 gram. MVP is the nation’s biggest program using athletes as leaders to address the : issue of men’s violence against women. McPherson reflected on the image of intelligence and athletes. “When whites sineet an uneducated black athlete who blew opportunities in college or high school, . they think he is dumb. They don’t question what kind of school he may have had to attend if he was poor, or how time pressures from sport may have affected him. if 3 they don’t make it as a professional athlete, they’re through without a miracle. “I met lots of ‘Trust Fund Babies’ at Syracuse. They blew opportunities. No i-one called them dumb, just rich. We knew they would not need a miracle to' get a second chance. “I played at Syracuse at a time when being a black quarterback had become more acceptable. But the stereotypes still remained. As a player, people still rememw I bet me as a great runner and scrambler. i had nor dented their image of the physical 'I vs. intelligent black athlete.” This was in spite of the fact that McPherson led the nation in passing effi— : ciency over Troy Aikman and won the Maxwell Award. He won many awards but ' Don McPherson was most proud of being the nation’s passing efficiency leader. “i should have shattered the image of the athletic and mobile black quarterback and replaced it with the intelligent black quarterback. Unfortunately. stereotypes of foot- ball players, mostly black, still prevail. They make me as angry as all the stereotypes of black people in general when I was growing up.” McPherson wore a suit to class and carried the New York limes under his arm. . He was trying to break other images of African American men and athletes. But McPherson said that those whites who recognized his style were both “surprised and said I was ‘a good black man’ as if I was different from other black men. Mosr stu— dents assumed I was poor and that football was going to make me rich. Like many other blacks on campus, I was middle class. My father was a detective and my mother was a nurse.” There is a common belief that student—athletes, especrally those in the revenue sports, have lower graduation rates than Students who are not athletes. The facts do not bear this out. Yet it is difficult to get accurate reporting. ' Irrespective of color or gender, student~athletes graduate at higher rate than non—student—athletes. . ' White rnale Division I studentwathietes graduate at a rate of 58 percent vs. 57 percent for white male nonathletes. African American male Division 1 student—athletes graduate at a rate of 42 percent vs. 34 percent for African American male nonathletes. ‘ White female Division 1 student-athletes graduate at a rate of 70 percent while 63 percent of white female nonathletes graduate. African American female Division I student—athletes graduate at a rate of 58 versus only 43 percent of the African American female nonathletes. 192 Richard E. Lapchicit The disparities, however, remain when we compare white to African American- student athletes: 0 White male Division I basketball student—athletes graduate at a rate of 5 ‘ percent versus a 38 percent graduation rate for African American male. Division l basketball studentwathletes, still higher than the 34 percent grad rate for African American male nonathletes. ' White female Division I basketball student athletes graduate at a rate of 71 ' percent while only 57 pErcent oFAfi'ican American female Division l basket~ ball studennathletes graduate. College sport does not own these problems. They belong to higher education in general and its inheritance of the near bankruptcy of secondary education in some communities. The publication of graduation rates, long feared by athletic adminis; trators, at once revealed those scandalous rates, but also showed what poor graduam. tion rates there were for all students of color. It turned out that our predominantly white campuses were unwelcoming environments for all people of color. African American student—athletes arrive on most campuses and see that only: seven percent of the student body, three percent of the faculty, and less than five percent of top athletics administrators and coaches look like them. Unless there is a Martin Luther King Center or Boulevard, all of the buildings and streets are named after white people. in many ways, the publication of graduation rates for student-athletes helped 'to push the issue of diversity to the forefront of campus-wide discussions of issues of race, ethnicity, and gender. Educators finally recognized what a poor job they were doing at graduating all students of color. DRUGS AND ALCOHGL IN SPORT We will get athletes who use drugs. CNN Headline News will understandably run footage of every name athlete who is arrested with drugs. It has become a common belief that athletes have a particular problem with drug and alcohol abuse. Reoccur— ring problems of athletes like Darryl Strawberry reinforce this image but facts do not bear this out. According to an extensive L05 Angeles Times survey of athletes and crime corn— rnitted in £995, a total of22 athletes and three coaches were accused of a drug—related crime in 1995. That means that, on average, we read about a new sports figure with a drug problem every two weeksi Anecdotally, those numbers have seemed to continue in succeeding years. Each new story reinforces the image from the last one. Their stories are and surely should be disturbing. But those stories are rarely, if ever, put in the context of the 1.9 million Americans who use Cocaine each month or the 2.1 million who use heroin throughout their lives. A total of 13 million people (or a staggering 6 percent of the American population) use some illicit drug each Crime and Athletes: New Racial. Stereotypes 1% month. When you look at the 18—25 male age group in general, the percentage leaps to 17 percent. Twenty~two athletes represent a small fraction of a single percent of ihe more than 400,000 who play college and professional sports in America. The NBNS drug polity with the potential of a lifetime ban is generally recog— nized as a model for sports. The policy may have stepped a substance abuse problem ' that existed before its inception. -- Now players recognize that using so»called “recreational” drugs can seriously hurt their professional abilities in one of America‘s most cornpeuuye professmns. Don McPherson emphasized the point that “our personal and professmnal lives have to be clean and sharp. We cannot afford to lose the competitiveedge or our careers will be cut short. There are too many talented young men waiting to step [11 our Qshoes.” The NBA’s Sa...
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