By now, many people both in and out of the sports world are familiar with the controversy surrounding broadcaster Robert Lee. In short, the recent rallies in Charlottesville, VA have caused ESPN to pull Lee from working Virginia’s game against William and Mary due to his name being the same as the most famous general of the Confederacy. As surprising as this move may be to some, it is simply another example of the rampant political correctness that accompanies both ESPN and most of the sports media. So let’s take a stroll through some (though certainly not all) recent events highlighting just how deep the plague of PC has infected the sports culture in America.
(2006) Don Haskins was not a Social Justice Warrior.
In the movie Glory Road (produced by Disney, parent company of ESPN), the day before Texas Western’s National Championship game against Kentucky, there is a scene where coach Haskins gathers his players on the bleachers for a pre-game talk. In that talk, Haskins vows to “put a stop” to the race based criticism of his team. He states that he will accomplish this by only playing the black players who were on his team in the championship game. Five would start and two would be subbed in off of the bench. The non-black players wouldn’t play in the game at all.
This speech that Haskins gave his team never actually happened in real life. Texas Western had been starting an all-black five for the entire season. So the starters for the championship game weren’t chosen on the basis of an attempt to triumph over bigotry or affect social tolerance. Haskins, like every other coach of any other team, was just trying to win games. When asked about the race of his starters, Haskins downplayed the social significance of what he had done by saying “I really didn’t think about starting five black guys. I just wanted to put my five best guys on the court.” It just so happened that all five of his best guys were black. In the true story, the players who were able to start for the 1966 championship team were able to achieve that status purely on their own merits. But in the movie, that accomplishment is tainted by the desire of a coach trying to advance a social agenda. By creating a motivation to conquer racism as the primary goal for the team’s coach, the film undercuts the talent necessary to become a starter and makes it more about factors outside the court than on it.
(2008) Does talking about Mexicans picking up dry-cleaning actually offend anyone?
On ESPN’s Monday Night Football, broadcaster Tony Kornheiser remarked after playing a touchdown call from a Spanish Affiliate station “I took high school Spanish and that either means ‘nobody is going to touch him’ or ‘could you pick up my dry cleaning in the morning.” Kornheiser wasn’t fired for saying this. But he did end up apologizing for it. But was what he said even offensive? Was he perpetuating the well-known stereotype that Mexicans like to pick up dry-cleaning? No doubt this was just damage control for a politically correct organization trying to cover all of their bases.
(2009) No, not all the world’s black people are African Americans.
During a college basketball matchup between Tennessee and Vanderbilt which was played around the time of Barrack Obama’s Presidential Inauguration, a conversation with Vanderbilt center Festus Ezeli was a topic that sideline reporter Jeannine Edwards brought up. According to Edwards, Ezeli’s thoughts on the inauguration were as follows:
“I talked to Vanderbilt center Festus Ezeli – who is from Nigeria – before the game about Obama’s inauguration. He told me that it isn’t as big of a deal to him as it is to most people, because all they have in Nigeria are African-American presidents.”
Now of course, the individuals who are elected to higher office in Nigeria are not African American (they’re African). It seems rather unlikely that Ezeli would have used the term “African American” to describe his own countrymen. He most likely used the word “black.” But that’s not quite good enough for ESPN. Even when stating someone is an African American is factually incorrect, it’s better than being politically incorrect.
(2016) The Espy Awards embrace gun control.
At the annual ESPN awards show (called the ESPY’s), the 2016 show involved a segment on an innocent teenager who had been shot and killed. The segment began with two time NBA MVP Steph Curry talking about all of the times guns take lives in America. Of course he didn’t mention the large percentage of these times which are suicides or the times where a shooting saves a life from a would-be attacker. The slain boy’s mother was even brought on stage to make the case for more gun control before the segment ended. No mention of the war on drugs or any societal problems that may have caused this teen’s death. Only guns are allowed to be blamed for violence on an ESPN award show.
Well, there it is. Just a taste of how blatantly adherent to political correctness ESPN (and likely others in the sports media) have become. It often takes an incident as absurd as banning a man from a broadcasting job due to his name to shine light on how bad things have gotten. But let’s also take notice of other examples that show the sports media for what it is. Holding them accountable for these types of incidents might cause them to take a long look at their current state.