American Culture

NFL’s “most hated players ever”: is “hate” code for racism?

Richard-Sherman-thug-quote

Many of the league’s “most hated players” have committed no crime worse than being black.

I just tripped over a story at 24/7 Sports entitled The NFL’s Most Hated Players Ever, Ranked. I often click in and read articles like this mainly out of curiosity. Most are utter bullshit – unfiltered personal bias masquerading as analysis and pretending to a larger consensus than actually exists. But if you’re a culturalist like me, there’s value in seeing what people think.

So I clicked. It’s a seriously mixed bag. I dislike many of these players myself (and despite my loathing of Brady and Tebow, I hate #1 Michael Vick above all things living or dead, for reasons that are obvious to anyone who knows me). One of the author’s primary criteria seems to be “dirty player,” and indeed a lot of these guys are (or were) filthy bastards. Vontaze Burfict? Check. Ndamukong Suh? Check. And anybody remember Conrad Dobler? I was raised to be a good sportsman first and foremost, so I don’t like dirty. As a result, there is much here that appeals to me.

But. You knew there was a but coming, right?

I’m uneasy – really uneasy – because too many of the guys on this list have committed no crime worse than being uppity negroes.* The best example, of course, is Richard Sherman, who’s one of the league’s smartest and most socially aware figures. He may not always be right – I’m sure there are multiple sides to the conflict that led to his exit in Seattle – but his biggest fault in the eyes of the haters is not keeping his mouth shut about issues of race and social justice.

What about Beast Mode? I recently got into a … friendly exchange … with a couple of acquaintances who hate the hell out of Marshawn Lynch. The stated reason was his refusal to stand for the anthem. But I grew up in the working class South and there was something familiar in their tone, something in the heat of their reaction. The problem was that he was “disrespectful.” I can’t speak to what’s in a person’s heart, but I’ve heard white folks use that word about blacks before and it tends to be about a very specific type of “respect.”

Then there’s a host of black players hated because they’re “divas.” TO, Randy Moss, Me-Shawn, Ochocinco, OBJ, and on the other side of the ball you know Prime Time is on the list. Different cultures bring different attitudes to the game, and I can’t help noticing how most of the divas are black.

I’ll be honest – some of these guys’ antics annoy me (see the sportsmanship note above), but I find myself wondering about Sherman’s observations on the word “thug.” Seems like most thugs are black, he said. What do you make of that?

Is “diva” racist like “thug”?

Colin Kaepernick, the 7th "most hated NFL player ever."

Colin Kaepernick, the 7th “most hated NFL player ever.”

There’s a name I haven’t mentioned yet, isn’t there? You know who I’m talking about. He checks in at #7, and for the life of me I can’t tell you how he’s that low. He’s the all-time case study in pure, unreconstructed racism. One guess who it is.

Meanwhile Ray Rice isn’t on the list, and if it were more recent I bet Kareem Hunt wouldn’t be, either. Nor is Rae Carruth. Or OJ. Or Reuben Foster. Miraculously Greg Hardy is – at #4 – but this is delusional. Maybe the author is trying to make a token statement of righteous indignation or something, but I assure you if you had every fan in the world vote, Hardy wouldn’t make the top 100.

So my reaction is that on this “most hated” list uppity negro is a bigger ding that domestic violence. I don’t think he thinks that way, I just think this is his assessment of the NFL fan base.

And on that point, I couldn’t agree with him more.

_____

* 26 of the 40 players in the list (65%) are black, whereas 70% of the players in the league are black, so there’s no reason to view this article generally as having a racial bias.

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