08.19.09

How Would The Press Treat A White Michael VIck?

Posted in Blogged Down, Sports Journalism at 5:00 pm by

Though the above question isn’t exactly the one posed by Sports On My Mind’s DK Wilson, dwil is quick to remind us that in the cases of Ben Roethlisberger, Rick Ankiel and Josh Hamilton, “each of these White men have been the subject holistic treatments by a group of people who look like, or identify with them.”

You don’t hear or read about people calling Ben Roethlisberger a liar, do you? Though he said he still would ride his motorcycle without a helmet, he swore he would be more careful and more aware of his surroundings. Would you call the sexual assault charges against him the result of Roethilsberger being more careful?

You don’t hear Rick Ankiel’s name being brought up when there is talk of PEDs in baseball, do you? As soon as it was known that Ankiel was on the HGH train, apologists for the Cardinals’ outfielder rushed to the fore and told the public that Ankiel was the feel good story of the summer and placed his HGH use in the context of his want to make an almost impossible transition from pitcher to everyday player.

If Josh Hamilton was a black football player, Roger Goodell would have suspended him for at least four games, and probably more for staining the shield and everyone under the shield. But Hamilton was instead shielded by sports columnists who made certain we knew Hamilton actually acted responsibly by immediately informing the MLB league office, his wife, his team and anyone else after his falling off the wagon; they also constantly reminded us that the incident occurred in January, not during the season, so Hamilton’s act harmed no one outside of himself and his immediate family.

And in each case, even now with Roethlisberger, we barely equate the athletes with their transgressions (with Roethlisberger, we are told repeatedly that the charges against him only serve to create a tighter Pittsburgh Steelers locker room and that if anyone can put aside the charges and continue to perform at a high level, it is the Super Bowl Champion quarterback).

11 Responses to “How Would The Press Treat A White Michael VIck?”

  1. cp says:

    I had a similar thought about Big Ben this afternoon when both of the, er, crown jewels in ESPN’s daytime lineup (Around the Horn and Pardon the Interruption) had his appearance on Shaq’s new show as a talking point. If I remember correctly, a month or so after Kobe was accused of sexual assault he could only be mentioned on similar shows as the object of moral censure and ridicule. I know there are black athletes who are adored by the media, but when it comes to an allegation of this magnitude, I really can’t imagine a single one of them (even Jordan or Shaq) who would be given a pass on an allegation of sexual assault. I may be overlooking a glaring example, but I can’t think of a time when I’ve ever heard a consensus of “Oh well, let the legal system handle it, man has a right to a trial before we judge him” when a black athlete is involved.

  2. Calvin says:

    Big Ben is innocent. Now let’s get back to talking about Brett Favre.

  3. WeWanttheFunk says:

    WRT Ben, there are no criminal charges in contrast to Bryant. Now, THAT could easily be racially motivated, but it’s a big enough difference to matter in this instance.

    I’m happy to be corrected on this, but I don’t think that Goodell and the NFL has a mandate to suspend a player – black white or otherwise – based on something as personal as a relapse on a legal substance. Wilson is coloring this, not the reporters.

  4. Jason W says:

    If any of the 3 players you listed did what Michael Vick did, i would expect the same treatment.

    Josh Hamilton isnt a football player, so who cares what Roger Goodell would or wouldnt do. We dont speculate what Bud Selig would have done about a Michael Vick situation.

    Big Ben doesnt have a criminal case against him. Allegations come out a year later. Kobe was arrested a few days after the incident, and it was a criminal case. Major differences between the 2 situations.

    Rick Ankiel isnt a major star. Nobody cares about him, so nobody cares if he cheated.

    Lets stop making everything about race. Vick is a scumbag through and through. He deserved what he got. He deserves to be treated like a p.o.s. for the rest of his life. Stop trying to make it out that we have a problem with him because of his race. If David Wright had dogs fighting and he was involved with the killing of animals, I would react the same way.

  5. GC says:

    “Big Ben doesnt have a criminal case against him”

    True. But he does have a) ESPN bending over backwards to avoid reporting a sexual assault allegation and b) a Nike commercial in heavy rotation, despite, y’know, being all over the news (save for ESPN) with a sexual assault suit.

    Rick Ankiel might not be a star in your estimation, but his Audie Murphy-like heroics were covered with near awe by much of the sports media. His PED use is apparently, less sinister than that of certain black or latino ballplayers.

    I see no purpose in turning a blind eye to Vick’s crimes, but Wilson’s not totally out to lunch when he suggests there are different standards in the way the media treats black and white athletes.

  6. WeWanttheFunk says:

    GC,
    The ESPN blackout is unprecedented. There’s no way to know whether or not, faced with a similar civil allegation, a black athlete of similar commercial appeal – Tiger Woods, let’s say – would be subject to the same treatment by the WWL. How about Ladanian Tomlinson or Troy Polamalu? It would be an interesting can of worms if there were comparable instances, but there aren’t.

    I feel like there is a story brewing in this vein, but this one’s built on sand.

  7. David Roth says:

    I agree with WWtF on this one, actually, at least in the sense that — and stop me if you’ve heard this one — this particular story is really about its subject’s class (as in how famous and important) as much as it is about his race. ESPN’s new ombudsman made much of ESPN’s other good investigative work in his marathon column on this whole affair, but what those prior examples make clear is that as good as ESPN’s work has been (and it isn’t hard to find good examples of fine reporting in the mag and online), they’re seldom turning the high-beams on anything resembling a member of their star system. Which makes a cynical sort of sense, since big-name brands — TO, Favre, LeBron, etc. — are what power their TV news cycle.

    The Roethlisberger thing (and Kobe’s case, I guess) is the closest they’ve come to having to report on someone in that lofty circle, and they obviously boofed it (Ohlmeyer admits as much). So taking hard looks at goofs like Pacman Jones or Len Dykstra or Donald Sterling or whatever soft target doesn’t really count. Yeah, they did a decent job in their special issue on concussions a year or so back, but when it comes to stepping on star-caliber toes — white or black or whatever — ESPN backs waaaay off. That, as much as any real or imagined institutional bias — and it doesn’t seem to me like dwil, whom I usually like, totally closes the deal here — seems like the real credibility-killer to me.

  8. MODI says:

    Thanks for highlighting the issue GC
    ————

    If you think the Rothleisberger treatment is unprecedented then you just have not been paying attention to ESPN, or searching for pleasing alternatives. ESPN’s ongoing “white pass” is built on concrete. Like Dwil, I have studied ESPN’s behavior for years, and their racial double standards can be quantified with fact after fact.

    As far as civil complaints go of this nature, Laker Shannon Brown was covered just two months ago. Robbie alomar? Same thing. These are benchwarmers and retired players. Roth plays sports most glamorous position.

    When the associated press ran the story of Brian Giles domestic violence lawsuit, ESPN didn’t cover it. Only a week later with the title being a strong denial. What about the VIDEOTAPE of alleged violence? ESPN didn’t cover it.

    This much is true. There are some high profile protected black athletes, but that handful must attain a list of prerequisites not asked for from the white athlete.

    ESPN posted close to 300 web articles on Pacman Jones last year — a man with 4 career interceptions. At some point we have to ask why this man is even relevant — no matter how much he loves trouble. (part of the answer is that he makes it rain in ESPN’s comment section). Ask why ESPN spent its resources on a four-month investigation on him.

    Please also do some homework on who ESPN decides to INVESTIGATE and who it won’t. (5 months on OJ mayo) Learn about the patterns. Take the time to count the number of articles when a black athlete and white athlete of similar competency mess up. Then analyze the content and tone. Look at the link placement on its home page, which names stay glued and which names dissappear. Do it regularly. And then you will find that “the black villain” and the “white pass” are not isolated instances — but an actual BUSINESS MODEL. But most people have done none of those things, which is perfectly fine if it wasn’t accompanied with dismissiveness.

    Bottom line is that at some point we need to cut the crap with this “anything-but-race” syndrome that seeks any far-reaching alternative except the straight line. This syndrome does not say: “wait, this looks fishy, let me look further into it”. Nope the ABR mindset dismisses statistical facts as paranoia simply because you don’t have the inclination or desire to study the subject.

  9. WeWanttheFunk says:

    MODI,

    As I mentioned, I don’t deny that you’re on to something here. Black Villains are tasty reading, and the White Nights make a great contrast. This is entertainment, and it frequently comes off as racism.

    HOWEVER – there’s a far better case for athletes being treated differently by the “journalists” at ESPN based on their commercial appeal than because of institutionalized racism. You’re alleging otherwise.

    Please also do some homework on who ESPN decides to INVESTIGATE and who it won’t. (5 months on OJ mayo) Learn about the patterns. Take the time to count the number of articles when a black athlete and white athlete of similar competency mess up. Then analyze the content and tone. Look at the link placement on its home page, which names stay glued and which names dissappear. Do it regularly.

    The burden of proof is on the protagonist. If I say that the moon is made of green cheese, it’s up to me to get a sample and have it analyzed – not up to my detractors to prove me wrong.

    Your comment alludes to what would be some interesting supportive data if it were available, but you can’t justifiably use it in this context without doing the legwork and tracking it down.

    This is, ironically, the type of conjecture that I’d expect out of the likes of Cowherd and Rome.

  10. MODI says:

    WWtF,

    “As I mentioned, I don’t deny that you’re on to something here. Black Villains are tasty reading, and the White Nights make a great contrast. This is entertainment, and it frequently comes off as racism.”

    It is actually both. We can go in circles debating the motivation, but the practice is what it is.

    “HOWEVER – there’s a far better case for athletes being treated differently by the “journalists” at ESPN based on their commercial appeal than because of institutionalized racism. You’re alleging otherwise.”

    Yes, you are absolutely right. “Commercial appeal” is most definitely a factor, But that factor is also inextricably tied to race. My argument is not that a select few black or Latino greats can’t get a pass, even if those individuals must do 10 time more than their white counterparts. My main argument is that great white athletes can rarely if ever become a media villain. The white media villain has far less “commercial appeal” because of what? Well because of racial bias by ESPN’s overwhelmingly white readership. It is a form of economic racism. HOWEVER, there are plenty of times where ESPN could have gotten many more web clicks with misbehaving white athletes where they opted to omit or hide the story and receive fewer clicks, and fewer advertising dollars. Big Ben is just the most recent glaring example.

    “The burden of proof is on the protagonist.”

    Unless you are in a court of law ready to send a man to prison, or trying to overturn long established scientific theory, there should be no “burden of PROOF”. There should only be more evidence to support one claim than another. If we needed PROOF to hold any OPINION, then we would all believe in nothing at all. OPINIONS act like a civil trial where a “preponderance of evidence” is needed. The problem with discussing racial bias, is the ridiculous legal “beyond a reasonable doubt” standard that is applied unlike virtually every other subject under the sun. And the cost of this approach lets the likes of ESPN continue its ways without accountablility. We never tackle the disease because we have made it virtually impossible to ever make the diagnosis.

    Having stated that, I both hate and understand this incredibly unfair stacked deck, and begrudgingly operate on this unlevel playing field anyway. So as far as “research” goes, I will leave you with a couple of articles that I delved into precisely for those that need 452 exhibits.

    While I’ve probably have written 50 articles on ESPN’s bias (and DWil probably 100) here are a couple that might interest you. I will start with one of the more analytical offerings that is anything but “conjecture”. The second is an overview of how GOOD deeds by black athletes routinely go unreported. And the third gets into the time when ESPN — ala Big ben — ignored the negative Brett Favre story, but more interesting some of the behind the scenes inner-workings of the white pass.

    – White Pass: ESPN, Brad Miller, and Marijuana,
    http://sportsonmymind.com/2009/02/19/white-pass-project-espn-brad-miller-and-marijuana/

    – ESPN’s Rap Sheet; Pacman as Black Man
    http://www.cosellout.com/?p=56

    – Brett Favre and The Anatomy of the White Pass
    http://sportsonmymind.com/2008/10/21/espn-ignores-brett-favre-story-white-pass/

    If you need more articles about star black athletes who didn’t get “star” treatment, or a few more pieces of “legwork”, ask and thou shall receive.

  11. WeWanttheFunk says:

    In general, especially with something this touchy, the burden of proof is most certainly on the protagonist. This is to keep assertions from being treated as fact. It’s not like a court of law where it has to be beyond a reasonable doubt, but it is up to you to convince me and everyone else that your opinion is valid – not up to us to prove that it’s invalid.

    If we’re in agreement about this being based on commercial appeal, then this isn’t really ESPN’s problem anymore, is it? Once we’ve (correctly) removed the pretense of journalism, ESPN’s only objective is to give the people what they want and leave them wanting more. I think it’s safe to assume that the WWL has any number of metrics to determine what types of stories get the most eyeballs. Perhaps it’s the viewing public that are the racists. Like you said: Pacman makes it rain in the comments section.

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