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The Problem of White Athletes


You’d think that working closely with people of color for years and years would lead white athletes to at least some understanding and sympathy for the fact they are disgusted by the racist in the Oval Office. But with very rare exceptions such as Chris Long, they just don’t care. You are seeing with this the Boston Red Sox, where their own manager, Alex Cora, is boycotting meeting with Trump because he is Puerto Rican and well…. Are his players supporting him? Most of the black and Latino players are. What about the whites? Of course not. Jemele Hill:

“Unfortunately, we are still struggling, still fighting,” Cora said in a statement. “Some people still lack basic necessities, others remain without electricity and many homes and schools are in pretty bad shape almost a year and a half after Hurricane Maria struck. I’ve used my voice on many occasions so that Puerto Ricans are not forgotten, and my absence is no different. As such, at this moment, I don’t feel comfortable celebrating in the White House.”

The majority of the Latino and African American players on the Red Sox—including the pitcher David Price and the 2018 American League MVP, Mookie Betts—have also declined to attend. Not all have explained their reasons, but the Mexican-born relief pitcher Hector Velázquez has been honest. “I made the choice not to go because, as we know, the president has said a lot of stuff about Mexico,” he told MassLive. “And I have a lot of people in Mexico that are fans of me, that follow me. And I’m from there. So I would rather not offend anyone over there.”

Black and Hispanic players and coaches are expected to justify their reasons for not going to Trump’s White House. But the real question is: Why have so many of the white players on the Red Sox chosen not to support their black and brown teammates?

Hill doesn’t really do much to answer this question. She looks at some of the people who didn’t go to celebrations when Obama was president and makes the distinction that it was because of certain policies of Obama’s, such as being pro-choice, as opposed to disgust with the man himself. I think that’s splitting hairs; for a lot of white athletes, like lots of whites generally, Obama was basically the antichrist. The more interesting question is why all the rhetoric about working together as a team and standing up for each other dies in the face of a president who has condemned people from the nations many of the come from to misery, poverty, and death. And the answer, at least from what I can tell, is that outside of basketball, where whites are a minority, there is simply not the work done in the locker room to educate white players about race. Their bigotry is left unchallenged so long as they don’t act like jerks around their teammates. Richard Sherman’s response to how the 49ers new racist and homophobic defensive lineman Nick Bosa will be received says it all.

“One thing about football is that nobody really cares what you say if you can play,” Sherman told The Sacramento Bee on Monday. “At the end of the day, I think a guy that has played with African Americans his whole life, not saying he can’t be racist, but they know how to maneuver around African Americans.”

In other words, so long as he shuts up about his racism and homophobia and keeps it to backroom conversations with the other white players, no one is going to care. That’s a cultural problem that comes down on high from a league that still idealizes giant tall white men as quarterbacks to dream on while black quarterbacks still have to prove themselves time and time again because do they really have the brains for the position and maybe they should just switch to receiver anyway, amiright?

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