Minority Representation in the Sports Media
- Length: 1508 words (4.3 double-spaced pages)
- Rating: Excellent
I chose Jon Entine’s Taboo: Why Black Athletes Dominate Sports And Why We’re Afraid to Talk About It for my book on minority representation in media. This book embarks on a subject that very few have been willing to discuss openly in the past fifty years. Why is the typical black athlete superior to the white athlete? And why do many feel it is wrong to analyze, discuss, or even wonder about something that seems so evident? This book offers the history behind African American athletes in sports and examines the genetic revolution that follows it. Taboo also addresses the circumstances that have made human biodiversity so difficult to approach.
One theory on why blacks have become more athletic than whites is through evolution and selective breeding. Slave owners wanted the biggest and strongest slaves to work on plantations; therefore a strong black man was mated with a strong black woman. Africans were originally brought to America as a physical specimen. They were expected to work the fields day in and day out. In January of 1988 Jimmy "the Greek" Snyder, a commentator on CBS’s NFL show made a remark about black athletes that cost him his job. Snyder stated, "Think of what the African slaves were forced to endure in this country merely to survive. Black athletes are their descendants"(Entine 72). The comment quickly surfaced through the media and many people were outraged. Snyder was eventually fired from CBS. Although, according to some, his remarks weren’t far off what from what could be the truth. So why were people so furious by these remarks? Saying that blacks and whites are simply different seem to ignite thoughts of racism. People are terrified to comment on this topic because of the repercussions that may occur. But without research and scientific studies there seems to be no way to reach a conclusion to a very controversial, but evident topic, that blacks are better than whites at sports. Entine makes a very strong argument by stating "No other group of Americans in such large numbers has had to pass such rigorous tests of survival as has the Negro"(73). The history of African slaves and the physicality that was required of them only seems relevant to the evolution of the modern black athlete.
Comments about black athletes made by people affiliated with the media are still stirring controversy to this day.
This isn’t something that was just happening in the 60’s and 70’s. There seems to be an ongoing theme of racist remarks being made by the mainly white dominant media about black athletes. There also seems to be a very fine line between racism and sports when it pertains to the media. This line has only gotten thinner over the years.
The most recent occurrence of this was by The Golf Channel’s color commentator Kelly Tilghman. Kelly said -- on the air -- that today's young players should "lynch Tiger Woods in a back alley." It was quite unclear what Tilghman actually meant by this remark. Possibly, that the only way for the younger players to overtake Woods’ stronghold on the field of golf was by hurting him. A very poor choice of words, considering what the history of lynching pertains to and that she was saying this about a black athlete.
Another interesting aspect of this story was Tiger Woods’ reaction to the comments. Tiger told the media in an interview that he had known Kelly for 10 years and that she meant no harm with the comment. He felt it was done and over with. However, members of the black community were upset with Woods’ reaction. Many believed that as a black athlete he had an obligation to be more upset and pursue harsher consequences for Tilghman. It is astonishing that these remarks were made not even a year after the firing of Don Imus for racial slurs. Obviously, the sensitivity of this matter is as high as it has ever been. Any remarks made in, or around the media regarding race is most certainly sure to be put under a microscope.
The central theme of Taboo is about black athletic ability and achievement. Entine gives plenty of evidence that suggests that a black athlete’s career will be longer and more prosperous than a white athlete’s. One interesting statistic that was presented was "Blacks have a 1 in 4,000 chance of playing in the NBA. While whites have a 1 in 90,000 chance"(Entine 19). He also provides astonishing evidence of the domination of African-native track-and-field athletes. There is almost a complete absence of white sprinters in the top 100 times in the 100, 200, and 400m races. This cannot be coincidence that different races excel at different sporting events. Entine goes on to state "All of the 32 finalists in the last four Olympic men's 100-meter races are of West African descent. The likelihood of that happening based on population numbers alone-blacks from that region, now living around the globe, represent approximately 8 percent of the world's population-is 0.0000000000000000000000000000000001 percent"(34). This is quite an astounding statistic!
Taboo: Why Black Athletes Dominate Sports And Why We’re Afraid To Talk About It teaches us that minority representation in sports media and television is becoming more and more diverse. However, the more diverse it is becoming the more prominent misrepresentation and racial slurring has become in the media. After thinking about the title of this paper, it seems somewhat ironic that with the emergence of so many Black and International athletes throughout sports in the United States, Caucasians have become the minority. One of the key points that Entine makes in Taboo is that we as society have an obligation to talk about the lines and colors that separate human races. We shouldn’t be afraid to tackle these issues, no matter how inappropriate the subject may seem. The more, we as humans, are able to discuss and understand racial differences and behavior, the more we are able to learn and benefit from it.
Taboo climbs into evolution itself, and explains how individual differences are not only possible, but expected, from the history of human evolution in different climates and habitats. Different racial groups evolved, and that helped them to survive in their respective environments. It only seems natural that not only intelligence, but physical characteristics as well, would not be equally distributed under considerably varying environments.
After reading Jon Entine’s Taboo: Why Black Athletes Dominate Sports And Why We’re Afraid to Talk About It, I feel it was a very well written and researched book. Taboo went after and challenged a subject that is not easy to openly discuss in this country and it did it without racial stereotypes or slurs. Although, he uses an overpowering amount of statistics and data, that somewhat seems overwhelming to the eye. Some of his data and analysis was quite frankly, over my head. Nonetheless, it was a very interesting and factual book that made you feel OK about talking about minorities in the world of sports and media.
Taboo had 46 total customer reviews on Amazon.com ranging from 1 star (poorest) to 5 stars (highest). As you can see from the chart below, a majority of the online reviews on Amazon were of the highest ratings. Eighteen out of forty-six reviewers gave 5 Stars.
I do not find this surprising considering the amount of research that had to have went into the publication of this book.
La'Tonya Rease Miles (Department of English, University of California, Los Angeles) has a quite negative review of author Jon Entine. She states, “Although Taboo consists of a whopping 340 plus pages (not including end notes), its thesis is simple and altogether unoriginal”(http://www.h-net.msu.edu/reviews). She goes on to further say “Describing himself as curious, but not racist, Entine would like for the reader to believe that because he is interested in science, his argument has no political or ideological motivation”(http://www.h-net.msu.edu/reviews).
In a review on AmericanScientist.org by Paul Achter and Celeste M. Condit (Speech Communication, University of Georgia), the two seem quick to dismiss what I believe is very rational data and analysis. The article states, “If taken seriously, Entine's claims could only support the silliest of propositions. Entine maintains that the "disparity between blacks and whites in sports is at least as pronounced" as the disparity between women and men”(http://www.americanscientist.org/template/BookReviewTypeDetail/assetid/25969).
After reading several reviews online, I can only come to the conclusion that audiences nationwide are simply not ready to debate this topic with an open mind. The reviews seemed bias to what I can only ultimately assume, is a matter of race.
Entine, Jon. Taboo: Why Black Athletes Dominate Sports and Why We’re Afraid To Talk About It. New York, NY: PublicAffairs, 2000.
H-Net Online. June 2001. Humanities and Social Sciences. 18 February 2008. < http://www.h-net.msu.edu/reviews/showrev.cgi?path=139591055982388>
American Scientist Online. May 2000. The Scientific Research Society. 18 February 2008.