Wednesday, September 28, 2011

7 comments Jemele Hill Writes a Column Saying a QB's Race Is Still a Factor, Thereby Helping To Make Race for a QB Still a Factor

JemeHill, as we all know, enjoys talking about race factors in her columns. Sometimes she is pretty good in what she writes, other times she is less than good with what she writes. Today I think she is less than good. She talks about a quarterback's race is still a factor in the NFL. Of course by writing this, she helps to make sure race is still an issue for a quarterback. I don't think all discussions of race should be swept under the rug because they are still relevant, but too many of the discussions are intellectually lazy. JemeHill's discussion on Cam Newton and Mike Vick is an example of one of these intellectually lazy discussions.

I feel like there are times JemeHill wants there to be a double standard for black quarterbacks so she will have something to write about. In the article I am about to cover she is complaining that Mike Vick, a quarterback who has gotten two $100 million dollar contracts in his career is treated differently because of the color of his skin. Maybe that’s true in some parts of the United States, but he is also treated differently in the NFL because of his immense skill set.

The reason Touré's ESPN The Magazine piece entitled "What if Michael Vick were white?" is stirring such an emotional debate

Is because it is race-baiting at its absolute worst?

Is because it takes a complicated issue and intentionally introduces controversy in the debate simply to sell magazines?

Is because it is a lazy way to discuss a complicated issue?

Is because most sports journalists would be ashamed to put their name to a column that so obviously tries to be controversial by initiating an irrelevant and ridiculous discussion that is based purely on speculation?

is that a lot of African-Americans just innately believe that white people's actions -- whether they are failures or successes -- are perceived differently by the mainstream.

Ben Roethlisberger will be called a rapist by opposing fans for a good portion of his NFL career and he has never been convicted of rape. He definitely isn’t beloved by NFL fans for a crime he wasn’t convicted of, yet this stigma continues to follow him. So Vick isn’t the only quarterback who got in trouble with the NFL and isn’t beloved by fans. The difference is that Vick actually got convicted for his crime and Roethlisberger did not, but both got convicted in the court of public opinion. I understand African Americans can believe Vick gets treated differently, but the fact he was convicted for a crime he admitted to doing and wasn’t immediately forgiven doesn’t mean the mainstream is racist. Besides, if you are indicating mainstream opinion is an intelligent and well-thought out position then you haven’t looked at the Top 40 music chart in the United States from to week-to-week.

When Tim Tebow bowls over a couple of defensive players for a touchdown in a meaningless preseason game, it's considered a display of his toughness and leadership. But when Vick launches himself at Troy Polamalu after throwing a costly interception, it's considered risky and stupid.

This is why I call JemeHill’s point of view to be intellectually lazy. She takes two hypothetical incidents like this and creates racial undertones where they may not be any present. She reaches a conclusion without looking at the entire incident.

The first biggest difference in these two incidences is that Tebow is a much bigger guy than Vick, so running over a defensive player is something his body could better handle.

The second biggest difference in these two incidences is that Tebow is on offense trying to score, so using his big body to score is using his skill as a quarterback on offense for his team’s benefit. Mike Vick launching himself at Troy Polamalu after throwing an interception is Vick playing defense (essentially) and he is launching himself in the air at a defender who is bigger or of equal size to him.

The third biggest difference isn’t even a difference because it is an incident that JemeHill conveniently ignores for the sake of making her point. In the Panthers third preseason game, Cam Newton, who from all appearances is not a white quarterback ran over two Bengal defenders on the way to scoring a touchdown. This was a highlight plastered all across ESPN and Newton was lauded for his ability to score like this.

This is exactly why JemeHill is being absurdly lazy in an effort to try and prove a point that doesn’t exist. Take “Tim Tebow” out of the sentence above and put “Cam Newton” into the sentence and that is exactly what happened in real life. Exactly the same. It was a meaningless preseason game. He launched himself at defenders to score a touchdown and was lauded for toughness and leadership. Newton isn’t white and JemeHill ignores this in an effort to have reality achieve what she wants people reading her column to believe.

The same goes for appearance. The Denver Nuggets' Chris "Birdman" Anderson, who is white, has so many tattoos that you can barely see his actual skin. And despite a troubled past that includes serious drug abuse, he's a fan favorite who is characterized as a free spirit.

But that wasn't the way a lot of people felt about Allen Iverson, whose tattoos and diamond necklace were airbrushed out when he appeared in the NBA's publication, HOOP magazine, in 2000.

So we are going 11 years back to find a time when a magazine airbrushed out Allen Iverson’s tattoos and diamond necklace in order to prove a point? Yet again, these aren’t necessarily similar situations. JemeHill tells there is a double standard because Chris Anderson is treated well by fans, while Allen Iverson one time had his body and jewelry airbrushed by a magazine.

Much like the Vick/Tebow example above, JemeHill is using two different sets of criteria to attempt and point out a double standard. She compares Chris Anderson's treatment by the fans to Allen Iverson's treatment by a magazine. HOOP magazine doesn't speak for NBA fans as a whole, especially since Iverson long had one of the best-selling jerseys among NBA players and was loved, even more so than Chris Anderson, by fans.

We try to pretend these double standards don't exist, hurling the phrase "race card" at one another that cheapens any kind of contextual racial discussion.

Hurling the “race card” seems to be what the first couple paragraphs of this column were all about. I come to this conclusion based on the fact JemeHill tried to prove a double standard by using two situations between white and black players that weren’t analogous to each other. Her first example was disproven to be true just a week or so ago and her second example basically consisted of saying, “Fans like a white player with tattoos, but one time a black player with tattoos was treated badly,” while ignoring the black player with tattoos is probably more beloved than the white player with tattoos.

There was an understandable outcry after Richardson proclaimed on "The Charlie Rose Show" that before he made Cam Newton his franchise quarterback-in-waiting and the NFL's No. 1 overall pick this year, he asked Newton if he has any tattoos or piercings.

Oh yes, the story that people knew back in April but the media just picked up a few weeks ago. As a Panthers fan I don’t care if Cam Newton has tattoos and understanding the business side of the NFL I can see why Jerry Richardson proclaimed his dislike of tattoos to (the possible) face of his franchise. The idea an employer can tell his employees what to look like, what to wear and how to behave isn’t foreign to most of the citizens in the United States. To JemeHill and anyone else who needs fodder for a column this is a huge story that needs to be addressed right now.

Clearly, Jerry Richardson as the owner is close-minded for not wanting Cam Newton to get tattoos or piercings. Quite possibly Richardson is close-minded, but when the Panthers signed Jeremy Shockey he expressed his displeasure at Shockey’s tattoos. One of Richardson’s favorite Panthers of all-time from a personal perspective is Steve Smith, who also has tattoos. I think Richardson in his “old man who was born before World War II” way was trying to say he doesn’t like tattoos to a player who currently did not have any, not make a statement on race relations in the NFL.

Depending on what you've read, Richardson is either just a concerned capitalist or an outright racist.

There is absolutely no in-between. Jerry Richardson is either an outright capitalist or huge racist. Way to draw a line in the sand when it isn't required.

In his column addressing the flap, my good friend Dave Zirin wrote, "No word if he then checked Newton's gums" -- a pointed reference to how blacks were physically appraised by prospective owners at slave auctions.

By saying that, Dave Zirin has managed to perform a journalistic feat that is the envy of JemeHill. Zirin managed to make a classless comment which reflected as poorly on him as it did the subject he was talking about in a pathetic attempt to increase his pageviews by further sensationalizing a story. That's what frustrating is there can't even be an honest discussion about a column that says shit like this. He's taken a situation where the owner of a football team said he would rather his quarterback not have tattoos or piercings and turned it into an example of a slave auction. All for publicity of course, which is funny because I had not read this comment until now, but apparently it worked because JemeHill linked her good friend's column on

But Richardson wasn't being a racist. He was doing Newton, who will start the Panthers' final preseason game Thursday, a favor.

Here comes the part where JemeHill creates a fake argument and then disproves it.

"Everyone thinks Andrew Luck won't be a quality NFL quarterback without Jim Harbaugh as his coach but here is why he will be."

If you've been listening to any of the discussion generated by Touré's piece on Vick, it's obvious that some people will never forgive Vick for operating and financing a dogfighting operation despite the two years he served in federal prison for the crimes.

THAT is the takeaway for JemeHill on the "what if Mike Vick were white" discussion? Some people will never forgive Vick for operating and financing a dogfighting ring? She read the article, which had a ridiculous premise in the first place, and thought, "Boy, people certainly won't forgive Mike Vick for financing a dogfighting operation." Perhaps I give her too much credit.

There are white players the public will never forgive for their crimes as well. Ben Roethlisberger is a great example. He's not beloved by many fans, outside of Steelers fans.

I love that very nearly the same day JemeHill posted this article, Vick got a $100 million dollar extension. It's hard to argue he gets a bad rap or is held to a different standard when he gets handed an 8 figures contract...for the second time in his career. Regardless, it doesn't matter because JemeHill isn't interested in an honest discussion about black quarterbacks and how they are perceived. She is interested in pushing through her point of view, no matter what other realities may say.

Now, the primary reason Vick has reclaimed fans and generated another $100 million contract is that he's one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL.

I am pretty sure this part of the article was edited in after it was announced Vick got the $100 million contract so JemeHill could stammer around and explain how a quarterback who is receiving his second $100 million contract is held to a different standard.

So Vick is held to a different standard than white quarterbacks, but not really because his performance level on the field is so high? So is there a double standard or not? If JemeHill is arguing there is a double standard for black quarterbacks based on their level of performance, this goes for every quarterback in the NFL. If Matt Schaub gets arrested next week for hitting a woman in the face, he will be much more beloved in one year if his performance stays at a high level. That's just sports.

But let's credit Vick's image overhaul for assisting in his career resurgence, too. Perhaps he's been coached by a public relations professional; but in his interviews now, Vick appears much more polished than he was in his Atlanta Falcons days. He is saying the right things and seems more thoughtful.

So again, is there a double standard for Vick? Because that was the argument JemeHill is attempting to further, but now she is stammering around saying, "Well yeah, but he's a great player and he's changed the public's opinion of him...he's more polished now."

Don't say there is a double standard and use Vick as an example of this double standard and then back your way off using him as an example. So we are to believe a black quarterback who has a great public image and performs at a high level won't be treated differently than a white quarterback? That goes as well when comparing a white quarterback to a white quarterback. Just think about the perception of Matt Ryan compared to that of Jay Cutler. Cutler doesn't give a shit what people think, while Ryan doesn't have the chip on his shoulder that Cutler does. So Ryan gets more of the benefit of the doubt from fans and the press.

Whether his willingness to be a spokesperson for PETA is genuine or a well-crafted ruse, it likely factored into Nike's decision to reinvest in an endorsement contract with Vick.

I think JemeHill destroying her own argument right now.

Not that Newton has done anything as heinous as Vick -- it'll garner a big shoulder shrug from me even if it is one day revealed that he took money while a player at Auburn -- but Newton nonetheless should be taking notes on Vick's transformation and heeding Richardson's words.

Why would Newton take notes on Vick's transformation? They are completely different players and Newton hasn't been arrested (lately) for a crime nor has he been to jail. I'm confused.

It isn't clear if the Panthers owner ever asked Jimmy Clausen, the team's incumbent starter, or any other white quarterback, about having tattoos or piercings.

That's because Richardson doesn't have to.

Oh I get it! There isn't really a double standard, but in the absence of proof let's just assume there is one. Let's also ignore that Clausen has outperformed Newton in the preseason and Newton has been handed the starting job. JemeHill doesn't want that to be relevant.

Does it count if Richardson had called Clausen "doughboy" in reference to his weight? Well, he did. I wonder if Dave Zirin and JemeHill chalk this up to Richardson's slave auction tendencies?

Clausen could get "thug life" tatted on his stomach like Tupac and it would either go largely unnoticed or just be fodder for a "Saturday Night Live" skit.

Again, JemeHill didn't do all of her research to know Richardson is very outspoken at times about his players. He called Clausen "doughboy" for his physical appearance. So we just ignore that when discussing comments Richardson made on Newton's physical appearance?

But if a prominent black athlete -- especially a high-profile quarterback, the No. 1 overall pick and the de facto leader of the team -- has tattoos or piercings, it takes on an entirely different connotation.

Maybe it does for some people, but Richardson's comments to Jeremy Shockey about his tattoos and his comments about Clausen's physical appearance show to Jerry Richardson it doesn't matter what color a player is or what position he plays, he pays attention to a player's physical appearance.

Newton's first goal is to help the Panthers win games, of course. But his next one should be to take advantage of all the opportunities that come with being the franchise guy.

In asking Newton about his tattoos and piercings, Richardson wasn't subjugating him. He certainly was looking out for the best interests of his franchise, but he also was approaching Newton businessman-to-businessman.

Wait, wait, wait. So there is a double standard for black quarterbacks in the NFL, as seen how Jerry Richardson treated Cam Newton and how Mike Vick is treated fans, except there isn't really a double standard?

There's a reason the majority of franchise quarterbacks in the NFL carry themselves a certain way,

This is what I don't enjoy about reading JemeHill's columns. So is there a double standard or not? It seems like JemeHill is saying there isn't a double standard and Richardson treated Newton the same way he would treat another franchise quarterback in regard to his image.

Richardson supposedly told the heavily tatted Jeremy Shockey he could "do without the tattoos," but last I checked, teams weren't hinging their franchises on tight ends.

So knowing this, perhaps it is overreacting a bit when a comparing Richardson to a slave owner at an auction? Of course, I am sure Dave Zirin didn't care to do any research and wrote a column he thought would cause the most controversy and could get his name in the mouths of the public.

More is expected of a quarterback. And more is given to a quarterback, too.

So basically JemeHill has talked her way around this issue so much we have no clue what she actually believes. One minute she is talking about a double standard for black quarterbacks, the next minute she is saying there isn't a double standard, then she doesn't seem to disagree with an article comparing Richardson to a slave owner, and finally she is saying a lot is expected of a franchise quarterback so it comes with the territory.

Richardson already is a successful businessman. He understands that how you present yourself is as important as what you know and how you perform.

Especially if you're black.

What? I'm not saying there hasn't been some sort of double standard in the past, nor may there be one in the future, for black quarterbacks. Nearly everything JemeHill wrote towards the end of this column when discussing Cam Newton discusses how franchise quarterbacks are held to a different standard than other NFL players, so Newton is also held to that standard. Then in the last sentence, she makes a statement that Newton will be held to a higher standard without really describing to us how this is true.

A franchise quarterback is supposed to hold himself publicly to a certain standard, so if there is any double standard JemeHill has shown, it is for quarterbacks, not just black quarterbacks. I think JemeHill has failed to really provide any evidence in this column that Vick and Newton are being held to a different standard from white quarterbacks. She may be on the right track, but she has possibly chosen the wrong way quarterbacks to prove her theory.


Arjun Chandrasekhar said...

i really have no idea what jemele hill is talking about and does an incredibly poor job developing a coherent argument. i have no idea if the believes there is a double standard or why/what evidence this is based on but whatev. my only comment: she brings up tim tebow as an example of a white quarterback who gets praised for trying to bowl over a defender...ummmm, what world is she living in? there's been at least a million columns written and opinions spoken about how tebow will never make it BECAUSE of his running style. to say that tebow never receives criticism for this is absurd and is a terrible way to make an argument.

rich said...

There was an understandable outcry

Understandable outcry? Over tattoos? I mean I have several tattoos, but holy shit, if your boss is going to give you half a gazillion dollars, asking him to not get any tattoos isn't really asking that much. As a TA, I cover mine up and if someone came in and said "We'll give you a 10 million to work for us the next 5 years, but you have to get your tattoos removed." Guess where I am the next day?

The funny thing about this: what does that request have anything to do with race? Has Hill watched an NFL football game? There are a ton of white players who have tattoos as well.

Oh no a white billionaire asked his black millionaire to not get any tattoos! Racist!

There are white players the public will never forgive for their crimes as well. Ben Roethlisberger is a great example. He's not beloved by many fans, outside of Steelers fans.

Here's another example: Ryan Leaf. Dude was a terrible NFL QB and was a general all around asshole and people still hate him.

But if a prominent black athlete -- especially a high-profile quarterback, the No. 1 overall pick and the de facto leader of the team -- has tattoos or piercings, it takes on an entirely different connotation.

AHAHAHAHAHA. Really? Quick, someone go find out if Andre Johnson has a tattoo. If he does, I'm trading his ass off my fantasy team.

I love how Hill can't get her argument straight. She tries to tell all of us how awful it is that Newton is being asked to not have any tattoos or piercings and that it's because of his race...

... then talks about how Richardson told Shockey he could do without the tattoos and that the QB position is scrutinized killing her entire argument.

Honestly at this point, I don't know if Hill is stupid enough to actually believe this shit or if she's just milking the cash cow that is ESPN. It's embarrassing either way though.

Murray said...

When that story on Richardson came out I did not not think of racism. I thought of Grandpa Simpson on Johnny Unitas

"Now that's a haircut you could set your watch by"

Anonymous said...

Sadly I have a long association with Jemele Hill as she was a writer on the paper at Michigan State when I was a student there. All I can say is the stuff she writes now is absolutely tame compared to the race baiting horseshit, mostly non sports related, she published in college. She is quite simply a racist of the highest order and it is a sad commentary on our society that she is allowed to publish her views on a major media website simply because she is a color and gender where it's "allowable" to spew such hate filled filth.

Bengoodfella said...

Arjun, there isn't a credible argument in here. Not one. She claims there is a double standard in this situation, then brings up the issue where Richardson looked down on Shockey's tattoos. Then she is like "well quarterbacks are scrutinized anyway." There may be a double standard out there for black quarterbacks but Newton gets as much praise as any other player for bowling over defenders or running with the ball. You are right, Tebow is criticized for the same stuff.

Rich, the fan base probably doesn't care how many tattoos Newton gets either. Richardson just made a comment. What's really interesting is many in the Panthers fan base were aware of these comments a few months ago, but they finally came public recently. No one thought much of it because (a) Newton would probably have a tattoo by now if he was getting one and (b) there are a ton of Panthers players w/ tattoos that are Richardson's favorite players.

What would happen if Newton got a piercing or tattoo? Absolutely nothing.

Murray, exactly. Richardson is pretty closed-minded on this issue and he definitely isn't with the rest of us in 2011, but he wasn't going to get rid of Newton and he didn't say this to Newton because of his race. I read through the article hoping JemeHill would skip the comment to Shockey that Richardson made...but she just faced it head-on which seemed to ruin much of her argument to me.

Anon, that is interesting you got to read her stuff at MSU. There are times I feel like she is being somewhat tame, but now that you have told me she is for sure I would love to read some of her less-tame writing.

What's irritating for me is she takes a real societal issue, racism, and frames many arguments in its context. This covers up any real issues that she could discuss or discussions she could further because she is seen as making everything about race. I think the link between race and tattoos/perception for Newton and Vick is a bit tenuous here.

Pat said...

My two cents, although I think you did a great job of this yourself. Pointing to one purely idiotic decision by Chad Millman and ESPN the magazine to run that absurd "What if Mike Vick were White?" speaks more to ESPNs continued inability to comprehend public perception and tastes; the Jemele Hill article is proof of this. Race may still be a divisive issue in this country but I do think that we are constantly moving towards a point where it is a non-factor in all discussions. I don't think ESPN, however, recognizes this and believes that their importance is so great that they have to be the leader driving the discussion. ESPN believes sports fans only derive their knowledge, perceptions and opinions about sports from them therefore they are crafting a self-fulfilling prophecy by making race an issue so that they can admonish the straw-man of public ignorance.
It is not fair to insult the vast majority of the public by making theoretical public perceptions about athletes race rather than their actions. Mike Vick will be despised by a section of the public mostly because he committed atrocities against dogs. It is not because everyone hate Mike Vick because he is black. Like you pointed out, people will hat Ben Roethlisburger because of the rape in Milledgeville that may or may not have occurred, will hate Bernie Madoff because he stole from others and have been turned away from the Catholic Church because of the abuse scandals. We are gradually reaching a point in our world, at least in the United States, where we can properly assess people character on the basis of their actions and not on an arbitrary factor like ethnicity, and in my example, religion. Bigotry is offensive. ESPN projecting bigotry on its readership is offensive and, most importantly, drawing athletes such as Cam Newton and Tim Tebow into questions of race in sports when neither has asked for it and when has done anything to be included is offensive. It is poor, hackneyed writing that is increasingly becoming a hallmark of the world wide leader.

Bengoodfella said...

Pat, I think some people would disagree with you it is a non-factor in discussions because they believe it to be very present. What irritates me though is the discussion of race to sell magazines and get pageviews.

"What if Mike Vick was white?" is a blatant attempt to sell magazines and has zero journalistic value. That's what irritates me the most a/b ESPN, they don't care about much else outside of making money. Everyone has jumped all over Jeff Pearlman b/c of the Payton bio excerpt, but would it have been any better if ESPN had a writer do a book whitewashing his life and then cross-promoting it on ABC? Shouldn't we be more angry over a blatant attempt to race-bait then an in-depth bio about an athlete?

I do hope and believe we can get to the point where we are separating the person from the action and judge that person based on the action and not any feature of his (like race). For me, JemeHill was making a double standard exist that wasn't there. She was essentially making shit up. She wants to give the perception Tebow gets complimented for his running ability, when in fact that is something that turns him off to some teams. She wants the tattoos to be a race issue rather than an issue of a crusty owner who expressed an opinion to an athlete and has expressed a similar opinion to a white athlete.

ESPN, and JemeHill in this case, want to be able to frame the public's reaction to a player in a way that gives her a column to write. What the hell is she going to write about if there isn't a race issue? A story about an owner who hates tattoos is boring, but if you combine this opinion with a league-wide double standard then that is journalistic gold. Her column will get read.

I think race is a factor in society, but I also think to bring up race in situations like this one does a disservice to the entire issue. If we can't get past the crap, we can't get to the heart of the issue.