Athletic Programs’ Twitter Jitters – The Conversation – The Chronicle of Higher Education

Athletic Programs’ Twitter Jitters

February 25, 2013, 12:43 pm

By David J. Leonard

A few months into his inaugural season at Washington State University last fall, the football coach Mike Leach faced yet another controversy. Plagued by allegations that he had mistreated a player while coaching at Texas Tech and a reputation as a bit of a loose canon, Leach was about to wade into what some people consider another form of abuse—barring players from using Twitter.

Reporters from a student news service had provided Leach with evidence that several players apparently posted messages on a social-media site that included negative terms for women and African-Americans. Leach imposed an immediate ban for the entire Cougar football team. “If after today you see anything on Twitter from our team—and I don’t care if it says ‘I love life’—I would like to see it because I will suspend them,” he announced.

Leach’s decision is nothing new. In 2010, Chris Petersen (Boise State University) decided that intercollegiate athletics and social media were incompatible. The next year, Steve Spurrier (University of South Carolina) and Turner Gill (University of Kansas) followed suit. Then Mississippi State’s basketball coach, Rick Stansbury, took away his team’s tweeting privileges after a player criticized the team on Twitter. “The reason we decided to not allow our players to have a Twitter account is we feel like it will prevent us from being able to prepare our football program to move forward. Simple as that.” Tell that to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, whose road to NCAA punishment started with a tweet from a player about his lavish lifestyle. UNC would ultimately lose 15 football scholarships—that’s less than 10 characters per scholarship.

Outright bans have not been the only approach. Some institutions have suspended players for tweets. A Lehigh University student-athlete was disciplined for retweeting a racial slur; at Western Kentucky University, officials suspended a player who did the unthinkable—criticizing oh-so-important fans in social media. At Boston College, a women’s soccer player was suspended because of several tweets about Jerry Sandusky.

Other colleges are employing commercial monitoring services like Varsity Monitor, Centrix Social (recently acquired by Varsity Monitor), and UDiligence to flag the use of a growing number of taboo words. According to The Chronicle, the University of Louisville nixes references to drugs, sex, and alcohol; the University of Kentucky, agents’ names.

Continue reading at Athletic Programs’ Twitter Jitters – The Conversation – The Chronicle of Higher Education.

Racism Ain’t Natural: Skip Bayless, RG3, And White Fans | Racialicious – the intersection of race and pop culture

Washington quarterback Robert Griffith III. Courtesy: The Grio/ESPN.

Racism Ain’t Natural

By Guest Contributors David J. Leonard and C. Richard King

The Washington R*dskins (given the history and meaning of this term, we have decided to disidentify with its accepted name) sparked a minor controversy with their selection of two quarterbacks in this year’s NFL Draft. The franchise had given multiple draft picks to move up in the first round to select Robert Griffin III and then surprised many fans and pundits by picking Kirk Cousins, suggesting the latter was a developmental project, who would be groomed with an eye toward a future trade.

For a team hurting at almost every position, this move struck many as imprudent at best. Simply, the R*dskins decided to draft Griffin, a.k.a, “RG3,” last year’s Heisman Trophy winner, for being the best college football player in America. Despite their weakness at virtually every position, the selection of Cousins, who was less vaunted and certainly less heralded at Michigan State, raised eyebrows because some saw him as someone with tremendous upside and potential to start one day. This decision undercut Griffin as leader, as franchise player, and as the future from day one.

Enter ESPN pundits Skip Bayless and Stephen A. Smith, who have emerged as the sports version of the old CNN show Crossfire.Without a quarterback controversy to speak of, Bayless has created one. As our combustible elements, and avatars of the sports punditry industry, Bayless and Smith are often a bigger story than the athletes himself.

It is fair to say Smith is known for bringing a type of “blackness” to his commentary while Bayless paints himself as being “traditional” despite his unfair and unbalanced sports commentary. Bayless, long castigated for his unrelenting criticism of LeBron James and Terrell Owens as well as a fascination with media darling Tim Tebow, embodies the reactionary racial politics of today’s mainstream sports media.

Bayless, in signature over-the-top style, pushed the supposed controversy between the franchise quarterback and his probable back-up. Not content to limit his comments to talent, performance, or potential, Bayless reduced the debate to racial identification, transforming the quarterback controversy into a simplistic conversation about race:

Even though we’ve come a long long way, with black quarterbacks, and they have been consistently been taken high in the draft over the last 15 years, I’m not sure we’ve come all that far in protecting said black quarterback, publicly protecting. So now you’ve drafted another rookie who’s not a black quarterback, and it sets up wrong for RGIII on a racial component level. I’m sorry. It just does.

Smith responded by noting the racial demographics of Washington D.C. In his estimation, Griffin has little to worry about because he is playing in “Chocolate City.”

Continue reading @ Racism Ain’t Natural: Skip Bayless, RG3, And White Fans | Racialicious – the intersection of race and pop culture.

An Open Letter To Ruben Navarrette, Jr. from Alexandro Jose Gradilla and David J. Leonard

U.S. Olympic silver medalist Leo Manzano. Courtesy:


Dear Mr. Navarrette,

We are writing to you in regards to your recent piece criticizing American Olympic silver medalist Leo Manzano for waving his native Mexican flag alongside the U.S. flag following his performance in the men’s 1500-meter finals.

Like many people, we were struck by not only its divisiveness–its desire to undermine the life and successes of Manzano to make a political point–but your dismissive tone to anyone who doesn’t agree with you. We were also struck by your efforts to pathologize those who don’t agree with you, to seemingly mock and ridicule those who see the world differently than you (“Most Mexican-Americans I know would need a whole team of therapists to sort out their views on culture, national identity, ethnic pride and their relationship with Mother Mexico”). We were also struck by the simplicity of your discussion of history, immigration, and sports, which you seem to think is outside the realm of politics.

Ruben, you write, “This country took you in during your hour of need. Now in your moment of glory, which country deserves your respect–the one that offered nothing to your parents and forced them to leave or the one that took you all in and gave you the opportunity to live out your dreams?”

Waiter, can we have a side of facts with this hyperbole and cliché?

Yes, Manzano arrived in the United States at the age of 4. In 1987, his father, Jesús, who was working in the United States without authorization, secured permanent residency. Soon thereafter, he would gain his green card, ultimately sending for his family.

Leo was born in central Mexico, a place “where education ceased by fourth grade, running water did not exist and electricity was practically unheard of.” While certainly a life of poverty, to say that his country offered him “nothing” is one of tremendous disrespect. Worse yet, you erase history; you erase the ways that the United States and globalization has impacted Mexico. In recent times the United States through its neo-liberal policies such as the Bracero Program (1942-1964), Border Industrialization Program, a.k.a “maquiladoras” (1964-1996) and finally the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), have slowly destroyed the traditional if not Jeffersonian agrarian society that provided self-sufficiency and subsistence.

continue reading @ An Open Letter To Ruben Navarrette, Jr. | Racialicious – the intersection of race and pop culture.

Beyond Bikinis: Women’s Nine New Rules to Land a Sports Illustrated Cover

Beyond Bikinis: Women’s Nine New Rules to Land a Sports Illustrated Cover

by Charles Modiano

On July 31, 2012
Cross-Post from POPSspot

Before today’s big Olympic victory, the US Women’s Gymnastics Team already won their media gold medal by landing on the cover of Sports Illustrated (SI) [1]. Does this represent a new SI era after a well-celebrated 40th anniversary of Title IX or merely SI’s yearly one-and-done women’s cover quota?

Under Terry McDonell — current Sports Illustrated Group boss — SI’s depiction of women has never been worse. SI is a prime case study in the Title IX paradox: The 1972 legislation has helped bring sports participation of women to historic highs, but related sports media coverage has dropped to all-time lows.

Criticism of SI and women is not new: A 2012 study[2], “Where are The Female Athletes in Sports Illustrated?” updates a 30-year chorus of studies from 1979[3], 1988[4], 1991[5], 1994[6], 1996[7], 1997[8], 2002[9], 2003[10], 2008[11], 2009[12], 2010[13], videos [14], and you get the point.  According to must-see documentary “Not Just A Game”[15] and TV studies[16], ESPN The Mag and Sports Center are not much better[17].

Sports Illustrated’s newest low can be traced directly to McDonell’s 2002 arrival as SI’s Editor in Chief. He arrived with much-needed tech-savvy, but also an editorial history dominated by Men’s magazines. His previous two stops at the tabloid US Weekly and Men’s Journal would noticeably influence SI’s direction.

Last year, The Atlantic’s Eleanor Barkhorn kindly treated readers with the nine ways a woman could land an SI cover. In this year’s remix, her special spirit is applied to McDonnell’s 10-year tenure.  Under the new rules, breaking the cover barrier is less about “what you play” than “who you are”.



The Problem: Skin trumps skill. ”Bikinis or Nothing” isn’t just a swimsuit cover slogan, it’s a cover policy.  With this month’s Olympic Cover, the score is now tied. Since 2002, ten covers have been devoted to swimsuits models, and ten depicted as actual athletes (*excludes shared covers or “commemorative” issues not mailed to subscribers[18]).

Before McDonell: SI was heavily criticized in the 1990’s, but still had more than twice as many (non-swimsuit) covers of women. With just the slightest reinvestment of swimsuit profits back into women’s sports, SI could easily exceed its 1950′s average of five covers per year.

Big Picture: McDonell counts on “naked women” to move copies, and SI’s swimsuit issue– a multi-media cash cow — sold more copies in 2011 than all other issues in the first five months combined [19]. While these profits have always deafened SI to past well-documented criticisms of sexism, the absence of female athlete alternatives only intensifies that impact which is well-summarized at “Beauty Redefined”:

“SI Swimsuit Issue profits from a philosophy of constructing men as active, women as passive; men as subjects, women as objects; men as actors, women as receivers; men as the lookers and women as the looked-at; and I argue, men as consumers and women as the “to-be-consumed”



The Problem: Country even trumps champion. While last year’s “one and done” solo cover went to USA Soccer goalie Hope Solo, The Japanese Women’s World Cup Champions and heroics of Homare Sawa were “Do You Believe in Miracles?” material.

With their supreme underdog status, incredible grace, and context of Japan’s devastating earthquake and tsunami, they also should have been SI’s 2011 easy choice for “Sports Person(s) of the Year”. But they were just sooooooooo – Japanese.

Before McDonell: Roberto Duran (7), Bjorn Borg (5), and Steffi Graf (3) all received  multiple covers for their brilliance.

Big Picture:  Unless wearing an American uniform, SI doesn’t care much for foreigners anymore – women or men. The greatest victim has been Roger Federer whose legendary tennis career produced one solo cover and several Sportsperson of Year snubs. Boxing sensation Manny Pacquiao?: Nothing. Same goes for soccer phenoms Lionel Messi and Marta, and the golfing brilliance of  Annika Sorenstam and Yani Tseng.



The Problem: Hair trumps heart. Long is good, blond is better, flowing is preferred, and bleach is a legal performance enhancer.   Rule #3 can trump rule #2 but not rule #4. At least Maria Sharapova won a Grand Slam title unlike previous Russian cover tennis princess Anna Kournikova whose 2000 cover predated McDonnell.

“But Women Can’t Sell!”: In 2004[20], Sharapova was a top-seller who  even doubled single-copy sales of  Derek Jeter and Kevin Garnett.

…Is it because blondes have more fun?…

Big Picture: Softball great Jennie Finch was covered in a mini-skirt, and skiing sensation Lindsey Vonn’s derriere was bent up high. Unlike the standard tuck position, Vonn is smiling with head cocked sideways, and seems to have forgotten her helmet. Oops.

In “Sex Sells Sex, but Not Women’s Sports”, sports media scholar Mary Jo Kane writes:

“A major consequence of the media’s tendency to sexualize women’s athletic accomplishments is the reinforcement of their status as second-class citizen in one of the most powerful economic, social and political institutions on the planet. In doing so, media images that emphasize femininity/sexuality actually suppress interest in, not to mention respect for, women’s sports.”




The Problem: White trumps right. In a sports era dominated by African-American women, only Serena Williams has been featured by herself[21] – besides Beyonce. SI ignores women of color today as it once did Black men before 1968 [22].

Venus Williams’ seven grand slam titles?:  Not grand enough. Venus and Serena on a cover together, or Laila Ali’s fists?: No storylines there. The hoops dominance of Candace Parker and Brittany Griner in college, or Lisa Leslie and Sheryl Swoopes in the WNBA-Olympics? Not dominant enough. Historic women’s hoops win streaks of UCONN (90-games) or Olympics (35 and counting)? Not long enough.

Before McDonell: In the previous 10 years, SI featured a young Serena, a young Venus, Michelle Kwan, Marion Jones, Jamila Wideman, the Women’s Olympic Basketball team, Gail Devers, Jackie Joyner-Kersee, and Kristi Yamaguchi.

…Is it because black women are too angry?…


     July 12, 2010                   July 19, 2010

Big Picture: All Serena did to receive a 2003 cover was win four consecutive Grand Slams. After 13 Slam wins, another came in 2010 entitled: “Love Her, Hate Her”.  Why would SI “hate her”?: For berating an official? Should John McEnroe burn in hell? Or at least not profit from it? Let’s debate.

Just how big is the gender-race compound bias facing women of color? Just one week later, SI issued an IPad cover entitled “An Appreciation“[23]  for George Steinbrenner – a man who turned boorish behavior into an Olympic sport when not collecting two felonies. Why can’t SI just “love” Serena?

Serena’s first-ever outburst in 2009 received a US Open record fine – more than the combined total of McEnroe’s first 20 tantrums. The Crunk Feminist Collective summarizes the broader issue that stretches from mass media to mass incarceration:

“White anger is entertaining; Black anger must be contained”.




The Problem: America’s best two female athletes the last two years went coverless. Abby Wambach doesn’t quite fit SI’s definition of “feminine enough”, Brittney Griner definitely doesn’t, and both violate previous rules.

Before McDonell: SI’s Sexist-Heterosexist-Eurocentric femininity box is not new, and past rule-breaking sports legends like Martina Navratilova and Jackie-Joyner Kersee did not get the attention they warranted — but they still received three covers each from SI.

Big Picture: Concerned citizen Sarah Thomas wants SI to shatter all “artificial barriers” and “corporate beauty standards” by putting Sarah RoblesHolley Mangold, and the U. S. Women’s Weightlifting Olympic team on SI’s cover. In her petition she writes:

 ”Sports Illustrated would be making a strong statement confirming their commitment to their true mandate; celebrating the achievements of great athletes… And maybe, just maybe, young girls who don’t resemble swimsuit models either can be inspired by these women’s stories to be physically active, have positive self esteem, and even – who knows? – nurture dreams of future Olympic success.”


(especially if you play hoops)


The Problem: Diana Taurasi and Maya Moore each led the UConn Huskies to multiple championships, but can’t land a regular edition cover without male validation. Pat Summitt too! Shared covers would be a great thing if they served as additions and not replacements for solo covers (commemorative issues don’t count[18]).

Under McDonnell, a regular SI issue has never been solely devoted to college, WNBA, or Olympic basketball (also see rule #4). Diana Taurasi stated last week:

“I think it’s funny. We’re a team that’s won four [Olympic] gold medals in a row and yet we’re still fighting for respect in our own country. I think it’s a little sad.” 

“But Women Can’t Sell!”: The 2003 and 2008 shared college basketball previews (CBP) both had great success[24], and the 2003 Taurasi-Okafor cover was clearly the highest seller of nine CBP issues studied.

Big Picture: Griner still can’t crack a 5-part multi-cover college preview, and sports media scholar Michael Messner sheds light in “No Hype for Women’s Hoops”:

“When big games are shown on TV, people tune in: … The 2010 women’s title game between Connecticut and Stanford attracted 3.5 million TV viewers, up 32 percent from the previous year. Despite this increasing fan interest, though, viewers of sports news and highlights shows still experience what novelist Tillie Olsen called “unnatural silences” about women’s basketball.”



The Problem: Danica Patrick is the only woman to land more than one positive SI solo cover under McDonnell, but competing against men is not the easiest path to emulate.

“But Women Can’t Sell!”: Patrick’s 2005 cover outsold the previous seven issues including Tiger Woods, Steve Nash, Randy Moss, Shaq, the NFL Draft, and every single baseball and basketball issue that year (non-previews).

Big Picture: If Tim Tebow can receive six college covers without having to compete against the very best men in his sport (i.e. NFL), women should not have to either.




The Problem: With this month’s Olympic cover preview, Rule #8 has just been cautiously reinstated. In 2008, SI completely ignored women for the first Olympic year in SI’s history[25] despite dominance by US Olympic hoop team, gymnast Shawn Johnson, and swimmer Natalie Coughlin.  SI is not alone.

“But Women Can’t Sell!”: Sales of the 2004 Women’s Olympic team not only edged out Michael Phelps from previous week, but also outpaced 2004 covers by men named Brady, Vick, Clemens, Griffey, Kobe, Armstrong, and Mickelson.

Big Picture: In 2008, those four separate Olympic covers went to Michael Phelps, Michael Phelps, Michael Phelps, and Michael Phelps. The Women’s Foundation helps explain why:

Researchshows that the primary factor in determining what sports getcovered in newspapers is the sports interests of the sports editor. Many sports editors grew up in a time and culture in which theabilities of women to play sports were devalued.



Jennie Finch - Sports Illustrated Swimsuit 2005Danica Patrick - Sports Illustrated Swimsuit 2009Lindsey Vonn - Sports Illustrated Swimsuit 2010

The Problem: The significant majority of woman athletes with solo covers have also posed for swimsuit pictures within its pages[26]. While each athlete certainly has that right, a disturbing pattern has emerged: Williams, Finch, Patrick, and Vonn were all rewarded covers within a few months after posing for the swimsuit issue.

Vonn reflected on her 6-month old swimsuit photo shoot: “Back then I had no idea I was going to be on the cover of the regular SI”. By now, all SI cover aspiring women get the unspoken deal: “If you really want the cover – it really helps to get uncovered.”

Before McDonell: In different decades, Marion Jones, Michelle Kwan, Florence Griffith Joyner, Chris Evert, and Peggy Fleming all made covers without posing in bikinis for SI.

Big Picture:  In”Does Sexy Mean Selling Out“, Laura Pappano clarifies:

“Much of the [right to be sexy] debate is a distraction to the fundamental challenge of getting to a more fair place… Seeking real equity for female athletes means learning to appreciate female athletes’ performances on their own.”

This debate has also distracted from SI’s reality that one’s “right” has morphed closer to “requirement”, and individual choice into institutional force. The full scope of Sports Illustrated’s sexism and McDonnell’s mantra becomes clear:

Objectification of women isn’t a swimsuit thing — it’s the only thing.

Terry McDonell President of Sports Illustrated Group Mark Ford and Editor of Sports Illustrated Group Terry McDonnell attend the SI Swimsuit Launch Party hosted By Pranna at Pranna Restaurant on February 15, 2011 in New York City.

Mark Ford (SI Group President) and Terry McDonell (Editor of SI Sports Group)
At 2011 Sports Illustrated Launch Party


Black Girls Run! Friendship, Community, and Sisterhood


On the website “Stuff White People Like,” marathons are listed as #27.  It describes running a marathon in the following way:

To a white person, the absolute pinnacle of fitness is to run a marathon.  Not to win, just to run. White people will train for months, telling everyone who will listen about how they get up early in the morning, they run when it rains, how it makes them feels so great and gives them energy. When they finish the marathon, they will generally take a photo themselves in a pair of New Balance sneakers, running shorts, and their marathon number with both hands over their head in triumph (seriously, look it up, this is universal). They will then set goals like running in the Boston Marathon or the New York Marathon. If you find yourself in a situation where a white person is talking about a marathon, you must be impressed or you will lose favor with them immediately.  Running for a certain length of time on a specific day is a very important thing to a white person and should not be demeaned.

Playing upon widespread stereotypes about whiteness and African runners, Daniel Tosh celebrated the existence of marathons in racial terms: “The only reason marathons are still around is so 20,000 white people can chase three black guys through the streets of Boston like the good old days.”

This is the world I imagined when I first started running a few years back.  As a white male, nobody ever questioned my “fitness” to run marathons, assuming, despite never being a runner, that it was a natural outgrowth of my past athletic endeavors.  Since then I have done several races, increasingly witnessing the level of racial, class, and age diversity evident within the running world.  Whereas both the Seattle Marathon (Rock n Roll) and San Francisco Marathon were overwhelmingly white, my recent race in Los Angeles challenged the widespread association between running and middle-class white identities.  My experience highlighted the diversity of runners (and Los Angeles).  I was surrounded by black and Latino youth, many who were running as part of the Students Run Los Angeles program. This challenging fact disrupts the celebrated whiteness associated with marathons.  Running is not limited to 5K or 10ks, half or full marathons, but is a daily practice that brings people together in myriad contexts.

The existence of Black Girls Run! (BGR) is yet another challenge to a narrative that sees running as a white activity and its erasure of people of color, offering a symbolic intervention all while creating a community of betterment with its investment in running, walking, and collective exercise.  Founded in 2009, BGR works “to encourage African-American women to make fitness and healthy living a priority,” yet in talking to its participants, it does so much more.


Throughout the media coverage of BGR it is celebrated as a movement that works to address black obesity and cultural shortcomings that purportedly discourages exercise and encourages poor eating habits.  Erasing the power of the organization, the media focus on pathologies obscures the power and focus of a group committed to supporting black women runners.  Contrary to this popular assumption, most of the respondents I spoke with noted a history of running and exercise, citing BGR as a nurturing community of support, and not one that taught or brought them into running.  While pop cultural representations and various surveys (Running USA Survey found that only 1.6. percent of runners identified as African American) of African American people  paint the running world as white territory, African Americans have always engaged in recreational running.  Adrienne White told Runner’s World how BGR challenged dominant media representations: “You flip through the magazine, and you just don’t see yourself.”  Similarly, Brenda Stallings lamented the erasure of black women from the public running imagination. “If we don’t see us, we don’t think that’s really for us. I read the magazine because it’s insightful, but I’m not going to look down there and see me.”  BGR thus represents a symbolic and material challenge to the white imagination as it relates to running.  It is the announcement of “we are black and we are runners” to a world and culture that so often sees runners as akin to whiteness.  This representational distortion not only erases the experiences of black women runners, but also contributes to a larger discourse that often paints health disparities as the result of individual failures–as opposed to structural inequalities and persistent racism.  Reflecting on the persistence of segregation where spaces of running lack diversity, and the elevation of white runners within media culture, BGR offers a powerful intervention.


Continue reading part 1 at Feminist Wire



Part 2


Whereas gyms often feel like places of tremendous judgment, with its pictures of hard, slender bodies on their walls, mirrors strategically located throughout, and an overall culture that privileges the “beautiful,” BGR works to create a space free of criticism.  While enhancing the exercise experience, the efforts to resist the socially constructed markers of beauty and athleticism, fitness and desirability, represents an important intervention individually and culturally.  “BGR provides a safe, no-judgment zone for beginners and those getting back into a consistent routine of walking/running,” notes Tiffany Cullens of Columbus, Ohio.

Describing the organization as a “nation,” “family,” a “movement,” and sisterhood by its members, BGR offers a community that transcends age, class, geography, and most importantly level of expertise.  It offers not only a supportive space but also one that values all its members.  Whereas exercise is so often framed around achieving a Hollywood body in an effort to fulfill dominant standards of femininity and masculinity, BGR values exercise and the power of a community with a shared goal of running or walking.  “I’m always amazed by all the different body types that come out every weekend. Big hips, big thighs, round bellies, as well as slim, lean, what you imagine is the “typical” runner’s body,” notes Leigh Raiford, a Bay Area BGR member.  “There are women who perhaps you’d never think could run more than a mile, have done half-marathons or even full marathons. For me this has translated from a desire for a more perfect body to pleasure in feeling strong and healthy. I may not have a bikini ready figure but I’m taking care of myself in ways that truly matter.”  Raiford brilliantly compared BGR to both the black church and hair salons given the shared emphasis on community, betterment, and sisterhood: “For someone like me who doesn’t go to church, who has a short fro and doesn’t go to the hairdresser, and who is a transplant to the Bay Area, I don’t have a lot of opportunities to hang out just with black women. So BGR has provided community for me in ways beyond running.”  Similarly, Darlene Baltimore emphasizes the safety and support offered by BGR:

I think why so many women are drawn to BGR! is because we are so much more than a running group. We are a sisterhood, support group, and safe haven for all women who want to get fit and live a healthier lifestyle. BGR! welcomes all levels of fitness from walkers to marathoners. We don’t compete against each other, but inspire and motivate each other to reach our individual goals—whether it’s walking a mile or running a marathon. The name itself is appealing because immediately a black woman can identify.

Yolanda Jones, the Ambassador for the Colorado BGR group, concurs, “I believe it gives the ladies a sense of belonging. I have now found a group of other black women who like myself like to run, jog or even walk. It gives them a community to go to something that now says ‘I am now connected to others who look like me and have common goals.’” To say that this is a community of runners, a community that supports and nurtures a love of running, would be understatement.  Operating at both a local and national level, the BGR community is one of support in the face of public erasure of black women and the ubiquitous demonization of black women’s women bodies, whether Serena Williams or Michelle Obama.  Beyond challenging these stereotypes and larger forces of systemic racism/sexism, BGR provides its members with an environment apart from the daily rhetorical (and real) violence experienced by African American women.

While often dismissed as a running group, BGR is much more.  Regina James, who highlighted the interventions and resistance offered from her participation in the organization, focused on the power of the group given the realities of racism and sexism in America:

I feel it’s important for us to train together. Most of us live and work in environments where we are ALWAYS the minority. It’s nice to have a place where we are a majority. We can just be ‘us’ (whatever that is) and be totally accepted. That is powerful.

We challenge the narrative just by being ‘there’. Most white runners I’ve talked to mention that there aren’t many Black runners at races (except Africans, who win the majority of distance races). Thanks to BGR and the NABM (National Association of Black Marathoners) I know I never have to be the only Black face in a sea of 30,000 people lining up to run a race. If I post online that I’m doing a race or visiting a city, I can find others who will run with me.


While the dominant media narrative of black women’s health often focuses on pathology, dysfunction, and personal shortcomings, the stories told by the women involved with BGR challenges a culture of disparagement and demonization.  Yet challenging the accepted stereotypes isn’t of concern for the women of BGR whose focus remains on the next mile and nurturing a community of support during those long runs and after.  With each step, with each high five, and with each statement of support, the members of BGR demonstrate the power of community and the power to move forward even when others stand in the way.

Continue reading part 2 at Feminist Wire

White Riot: Kentucky Fans, Trayvon Protesters, and The White Privilege Conference

White Riot: Kentucky Fans, Trayvon Protesters, and

The White Privilege Conference

by Charles Modiano On April 4, 2012(cross posted from POPSspot)
What if Travon Martin Protesters Did This?

Oh, here we go again. This week brought us another sports fueled violent white riot after Kentucky won the NCAA Basketball Championship. The riot, which many had predicted would happen, came just 60 fires and two days after the first one where Kentucky fans burned cars to celebrate its win over Louisville.

The Final Four riots came just months after Penn State fans took to the streets,  crashed down lamposts and flipped over trucks after football coach Joe Paterno was fired for not using his power to prevent the rape of young children.

The Penn State Riots came a year after the Vancouver Canuck Riots which came a year after San Francisco Giants fans cheered their World Series win by looting, setting fires, and attacking cars — or as The San Francisco Chronicle put it — “joyful mayhem“.

And when the games are over, and real life problems come up such as the shooting of Trayvon Martin, the larger criminal justice system that his death symbolizes, and the rallies across the country demanding reform. Led by, but not limited to a divisive conservative media, many have wondered: “Is The Media Inciting Violence?” and “Is Spike Lee’s Tweet the Same kind of Violence That Killed Emmit Till? while “Sanford Frets About Prospects of Riots Over Trayvon Martin Killing“.

Ironically, while thousands of mostly white Kentucky fans were tearing up the Kentucky campus this weekend, more than 1400 mostly white people were gathered in Albuquerque, New Mexico for The 13th Annual White Privilege Conference. At WPC13, participants attended four days of workshops and supportive caucuses to better understand what white privilege iswhat it is not, what’s inside the “invisible knapsack” of privileges, and using this knowledge to facilitate positive social change.

Saturday’s keynote address on “Intersectionality in the Age of Post-Racialism” was given  by law professor Dr. Kimberle Crenshaw. Besides being a pioneering scholar, Dr. Crenshaw  also happens to be a big sports fan rooted in childhood heroes named Jim Brown and Muhammad Ali. I had the privilege of sitting down with Dr. Crenshaw to get her thoughts on today’s sports landscape. In part of the interview which took place just a couple of hours before the first Kentucky riot, she had this to say in response to The Penn State Scandal and protest of Joe Paterno’s firing:

“Fundamentally, we see the difference between how outrage, hurt, and pain is framed sympathetically when it’s about white pain, white institutions, white patriarchs, white heroes, and how just the fear of that kind of acting out [by African-Americans] will create such reactions.

So nothing bad has happened around all of the protests around Trayvon Martin, but everybody is saying: ‘just so it’s non-violent’… ‘just so it doesn’t get out of control’… and ‘let’s not desecrate his memory’.

Well, nothing has happened.

So that very disparity represents precisely the disciplinary fear of Black people that led to Trayvon’s death in the first place.”

By calling into question the inner fears that produce greater concern for imagined Black violence over real actual white violence, Dr. Crenshaw questions the sort of mindset or “gutset” that continually produces so many variations of Trayvon Martin (see Ramarley Graham, Oscar GrantKenneth Chamberlain, Howard Morgan, etc.).

Her comments were in line with the goals of The White Privilege Conference which served as an introspective and productive ”gut-check” for white people (and others) to help eradicate harmful biases by first recognizing their existence .

Says WPC Founder and Program Director, Dr. Eddie Moore, Jr.:

“The White Privilege Conference is designed to critically examine, critically push, and critically challenge participants amidst a loving, family-oriented, and community environment.

In that context, it is important to look at white privilege in comprehensive ways so when you look at Trayvon, you don’t say “I AM TRAYVON MARTIN”, but instead you explore the various ways in which you could identify and say:


Dr. Moore’s statement signifies an honest recognition of everyday skin privilege, even if it means getting away with less than murder. This declaration also means identifying with George’s stereotyping of Trayvon, even if his gunshots are replaced with disapproving stares.  While identifying with Zimmerman may not be quite as comforting for white participants (including this author) as throwing on a hoodie in symbolic support of Trayvon, it’s definitely necessary if we are going to get real about about racism.

In this broader context, recognizing white privilege includes questioning ”the white right to riot” while the larger white community never has to pay a racial price. Those guys who set all those fires in Kentucky? “It wasn’t me — not my problem.” Being white means the privilege of never having to suffer from “group punishment“.

In her analysis of the OJ Simpson Trial,  Dr. Crenshaw explains that African-Americans received “group punishment” by whites in the aftermath of the case. Despite legitimate reasons for doubt (and , African-Americans were viewed, discussed, and punished as a group — both socially and politically — for the celebratory response to ”The Verdict”.

Conversely, the immediate response to Joe Paterno’s firing drew no group punishment or even group analysis of “white culture” or a “culture of white male privilege”, but instead focused on every  conceiveable “sub-culture” besides race. Even after months of reflection, a recent poll found that Pennsylvania voters favor changing the current stadium name to Joe Paterno Stadium. The poll wasn’t just college fratboys — but registered voters.  And while none of those “yes votes” were likely cast by the then-child victims of rape that Paterno had the power to protect, the life-long trauma of those victims might be worth a national discussion.

But honest national conversations by white people about white people as a group just don’t happen.

At least not in too many circles outside of The White Privilege Conference where I learned at least three things:

1) I have largely taken my hoodie-wearing for granted like I’m Bill Belichick.

2) ”Errupt Big Blue” means the right to riot twice in 48 hours without racial repercussion, and


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SLAM ONLINE | » Ballers, Political Shot Callers and the ‘Show Your Papers’ Movement

Ballers, Political Shot Callers and the ‘Show Your Papers’ Movement

An outbreak of racist taunts continues to be a problem at NCAA basketball games.

by C. Richard King and David J. Leonard

The past month has witnessed a series of racist cheers at sporting events. Fans at a University of Minnesota at Duluth mocked the visiting University of North Dakota hockey team, jeering “Small Pox Blankets”—a chant that belittles the school and Native Americans through a reference to its mascot, which converts the reality of genocide into a sporting smack down. In Pittsburgh, during a recent basketball game, fans (as well as players) from Brentwood High hurled racial epithets at Monessen High players. Three fans dressed banana costumes surrounding the primarily black Monessen team, as the left for the locker at halftime, yelling epithets while making monkey noises. Some parents reported that members of the Brentwood squad joined in, calling its opponent, “monkeys and cotton pickers.”

More recently, students at the predominantly white Alamo Heights High School celebrated the defeat of the largely Latino Edison High School with a chant of “USA, USA!” So, it was little surprise in the round of 64, members of the pep band from the University of Southern Mississippi (USM) yelled, “Where’s your green card?” at Kansas State University freshman Angel Rodriguez (who was born in Puerto Rico) as he took foul shoots.

Administrators were quick to apologize following each transgression, offering some variant on the standard refrain: we regret any offense…this is not us…we are not racist…we will take appropriate action. And to be fair, these chants are brief, spontaneous, and passing utterances. They lack sanction and surely do not represent the image that these schools hope to project. Their apologies to the contrary, in an historic moment marked by the rhetoric of color blindness, but not the alleviation of structural racism, the eruption of overt bias, particularly in the guise of clichéd hate speech and “jokes,” far from being abnormal actually reveals the norm, offering keen insights into historically white institutions and the persistence of white supremacy.

While taunting a fellow American citizen by inquiring about his green card exposes great ignorance (Puerto Ricans are US citizens and have been since 1917) and reflects deep antipathy toward Latinos, it is actually in keeping with the history of the University of Southern Mississippi (and countless other colleges and other universities). In fact, USM epitomizes the arc of white supremacy in college sport. Founded in 1910 as an institution devoted to training teachers, USM was like most peers in the South segregated. And like many other public spaces in the USA, students at USM were enamored with Indianness, despite (or perhaps because of) the historic removal of embodied Indians to make way for settler society in southern Mississippi. They choose Neka Camon, “a Native American term meaning ‘The New Spirit’,” as the title for the school’s yearbook. Later, the student body opted to formalize the moniker of the sport teams, selecting the Confederates in 1940. A year later, a slight modification, the Southerners, was substituted. Although in light of the better known history of Ole Miss, this is not surprising, the mascot chosen for athletics a decade later is: USM did not name an anonymous rebel or plantation owner; no, it enshrined Natan Bedford Forest, the infamous leader of the Ku Klux Klan, as its mascot. Desegregated in 1965, USM changed its moniker and mascot to the Golden Eagles in 1972. USM is a quintessential institution of higher learning: historically white, segregated, playing Indian, and celebrating the Confederacy in defiance of the civil rights movement.

The jeer from members of the pep squad (or band) also suggests that USM remains typical, and, despite protestations from administrators, that what is chanted at a basketball game says much about the social landscape of Mississippi today and much about all of us today.

The students chanting, “where’s your green card” were not alone this day, with the state’s politicians legislatively demanding the same of Latinos throughout the state of Mississippi. The state’s House of Representatives passed the “Support Our Law Enforcement and Safe Neighborhood Act,” a copycat bill to Arizona’s anti-immigrant legislation. Among other things, the bill mandates the police verify immigration status for any person arrested

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