The Unconditional Love and Exploitation of the Black Male Athlete

By Angela J. Hattery and Earl Smith

It seems every few weeks or so we have this conversation about Black male athletes who violently abuse their White wives and girlfriends (from Mitch Lee to Corey Batey to OJ Simpson to Lawrence Phillips to Ruben Patterson to Ezekiel Elliott and others), and the fact that they are almost never held accountable, in any meaningful way, for their violent actions.

These are certainly not the first or only cases, but they shine a light on a perplexing phenomenon we have been observing, researching and writing about: the unconditional love of the Black male body – as long as he can throw, run, catch, dunk and score in an athletic contest, entertaining fans and making hundreds of millions of dollars for White coaches, owners and athletic administrators.There seems no better American football player in red jersey and helmet holding ball against blacktime to have this conversation again than now, on the heels of the recent college football bowl game season and on the eve of the SuperBowl, games that have or may involve athletes who have been accused of acts of violence against women.

During the last days of 2016 and the first days of 2017, several college football teams faced scrutiny for their protection of Black men accused of heinous crimes, including 12 football players at the University of Minnesota who are accused of gang-raping a White woman in October and a player at the University of Oklahoma, Joe Mixon, who is seen on video punching a White woman in the face, leaving her unconscious

During the last few days of January 2017, six federal lawsuits have been filed against Baylor University where, since 2012, 32 football players have been accused of committing 52 rapes (5 were gang rapes involving 10 players raping one woman).  At Baylor, most of the accused players are Black and all of the victims are White. Data from 2014 reveal that of all NFL players arrested, 55% were arrested for intimate partner violence and another 38% were arrested for sexual violence, in other words 4 in 5 NFL players arrested between 2000 and 2014 were arrested for acts of violence against women. Continue reading “The Unconditional Love and Exploitation of the Black Male Athlete”

Is this what African American freedom looks like?

By Dawn Marie Dow

A couple of weeks ago Jesse Williams, an actor most known for his role as Avery Jackson on the hit television show Grey’s Anatomy, delivered an incisive speech at the Black Entertainment Television network awards.  Williams critiqued law enforcement, calling it out as a system that may have changed in form and application but has consistently oppressed black and brown Americans. Though some accused him of attacking white people, his speech was directed at a system, and systems are not the same thing as people! Williams called out a system of beliefs, policies and practices that privilege white bodies over black (and other non-white) bodies in many arenas of life. This system views black bodies, particularly black male bodies, as automatically guilty and worthy of death and thus requiring overwhelming proof of innocence.  In everyday interactions, blacks in America feel they are viewed as guilty and must constantly prove themselves innocent if given an opportunity to do so. As the recent shooting deaths of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile illustrate, such an opportunity is not guaranteed.  While the critique may be systemic, the beliefs, policies and practices that give rise to a systemic state of affairs are enacted by individuals, and are instilled in the minds and hearts of individuals in obvious and subtle ways, and dramatically influence how one acts towards different groups of people.  These beliefs, policies and practices have institutional effects in areas like policing that play out in how police officers criminalize those they should ordinarily protect and serve.

Just days after Williams’ speech, over the course of 48 hours two more African American men were violently gunned down by police officers. Continue reading “Is this what African American freedom looks like?”