Broke Ballers: The Financial Crises of Allen Iverson and Terell Owens – Entertainment & Culture – EBONY

Broke Ballers:

The Financial Crises of Allen Iverson and Terell Owens

Two gifted and formerly-paid ball players face devastating money woes

By David Leonard and James Braxton Peterson

Allen Iverson and Terrell Owens are not the kind of athletes that necessarily invite compassion and/or understanding, either from the media or from the sports fan community. Each of them have at various points in their all-too-brief careers, enjoyed the scorn of both fans and sports media alike, and usually simultaneously. It’s no small coincidence that each of them enjoyed their most successful stints in the Philadelphia, where T.O.’s histrionics and A.I.’s nihilism found brilliant exposure in a city that claims “brotherly love” and thrives on working class values with the not-so-subtle suggestion that said values are inherently White. Yet, the media coverage of their current financial woes, seems to take too much of the “I told you so” tones of a media waiting for these kinds of disappointing outcomes to occur – especially to those ungrateful athletes who deserve what ever bad fortune they get.

Bomani Jones recently wrestled with the news that A.I.’s current financial challenges are punctuated by some extraordinarily absurd amount of money owed on jewelry (i.e. bling in snarky parlance totaling some 375K or 860K with court costs attached) – bling that of course, he should never have purchased in the first place. Jones’ take on A.I.’s current challenges is fair and insightful. He notes his own sadness and the complexities that athletes face post-career.

A.I.’s overall financial status is unknown, but one thing we can be certain of is that he has been frozen out of the NBA and basketball more generally. Considering that he has anything left in the tank, and that there are any number of teams that might be able to play him off the bench – it is of course, a point-guard’s game at the moment – we can only conclude that public perceptions dictate his fate. His attitude, his willingness to be a coachable player, and the negative reporting that dogged his career, all work in concert to prevent him from what must be his last few years of professional sports play. But sadly these misperceptions about A.I. will likewise prevent him from entering the coaching/scouting ranks or from even having a crack at the sports commentating game. These possibilities are truly troublesome for a player who by some reports was “pound-for-pound” one of the greatest players ever to pick up a basketball.

Like it or not, attitude matters, and sadly, perceptions of one’s attitude matters even more. Unfortunately we can’t know whether or not A.I. was actually a “team” player. All we are supposed to understand is that A.I.’s current financial challenges suggest that he has cavalierly squandered the American Dream. In retrospect, too much of the coverage on his career centered on his hair, his tattoos, his rap lyrics, his entourage, his . . . almost anything but the fact that he was one the best damn players to ever dribble a basketball.

In a recent GQ profile, Nancy Hass highlights the trials and tribulations of Terrell Owens, offering readers a stereotyped and troubling story of the “fall” of an NFL star. “As you’re planning your Super Bowl party this year, give a thought to future Hall of Famer Terrell Owens. He’s out of work, out of money, and currently in court with all four of his baby mamas.” These, the first lines of the story, punctuate its peddling of widely circulated stereotypes of Black athletes, recycling the tacitly accepted trope of the once famous and wealthy Black athlete who threw it all a way. Focusing on his loss of 80 million dollars, his personal demons, and his pain, Hass turns Owens into a spectacle for readers to condemn, gawk at, and otherwise ridicule in an effort to hate the player not the game.

Despite the caricatures, stereotypes and the troubling narrative, the GQ article actually provides some insight into Owens’ financial situation. Partially challenging the dominant narrative that he simply wasted the money by highlighting failed investments and depreciating home values (he bought one home for 3.9 million but was forced to sell it for 1.7 in 2010), Hass’s work approaches complexity in its coverage. Yet, the media, which simply took the GQ story to create their own, erases any of the complexity and tragedy, instead using the moment to further demonize Owens and place the blame on his shoulders. For example, Deron Synder who claims that TO “appears to have serious money problems, due largely to the four paternity suits.” The cases are not questioning the paterning of these children, but the amount of child support Owens should pay given the end of his career.

Continue reading at Broke Ballers: The Financial Crises of Allen Iverson and Terell Owens – Entertainment & Culture – EBONY.

CODE BLAH: Racism in Republican Politics | Racialicious – the intersection of race and pop culture

CODE BLAH: Racism in Republican Politics

By Guest Contributors

James Braxton Peterson and David J. Leonard

Some days it seems as if the GOP candidates are competing to be the governor of Alabama, circa 1960, rather than running to be President of the United States in 2013. Since the republican process to elect a nominee commenced, we have been treated to an endless string of racially awkward moments. Whether instances of ignorance or ignorant instances of institutionally racist ideology, too many of the republican Presidential candidates have re-revealed for us the colorblind fact that we are NOT post-race. In fact, judging from some of the candidate’s miscues and the underhanded pandering directly to the racial Right, we might actually be Pre-Race.

During a campaign stop in Sioux City, Iowa, Rick Santorum, responded to a familiar question about government spending with a longwinded diatribe that ultimately led him back to the GOP’s sweet spot: demonizing (and tacitly racializing) the social safety net. Focusing on the size of government and spending, Santorum stated:

It just keeps expanding—I was in Indianola a few months ago and I was talking to someone who works in the department of public welfare here, and she told me that the state of Iowa is going to get fined if they don’t sign up more people under the Medicaid program. They’re just pushing harder and harder to get more and more of you dependent upon them so they can get your vote. That’s what the bottom line is.

But this was not the “bottom line.” Santorum went on to ‘clarify’ the links between government spending and race, rehashing the accepted argument of the right that the federal government, especially under President Obama, is dedicated to taking money from hardworking white Americans and giving it to lazy and nonworking African Americans. He argued, “I don’t want to make black people’s lives better by giving them somebody else’s money; I want to give them the opportunity to go out and earn the money. And provide for themselves and their families. The best way to do that is to get the manufacturing sector of the economy rolling again.”

Santorum’s seamless transition from government spending to blacks on welfare is a non sequitur; it is indicative of the power of a white racial framework that consistently imagines African Americans as welfare queens and unproductive parasites on/in society. These stereotypes of African Americans stand in juxtaposition to the vision of middle and working class white folk as the racial model of hard work, virtue and dedication. While only 9% of African Americans in Iowa are on food stamps (nationally, 39% of welfare recipients are white, whereas 37% and 17% are black and Latino), Santorum’s comments resonate with the GOP’s vision of race and policy. His comments complemented Newt Gingrich’s recent lamentation of the deficient work ethic of black youth, his recycling of the culture of poverty/Moynihan Report, and his constant references to President Obama as a “food stamp president.”

Not surprisingly, Santorum and his fellow candidates have denied the racial implications here. Arguing that he did not actually say “black,” that some of “his best friends are black,” and that he was merely giving voice to the issues raised in Waiting for Superman, Santorum his been dealing the race-denial card from the top, bottom, and middle of the deck.

Despite the denials, the comments fit a larger worldview seemingly shared by Santorum and the entire field. Earlier in his campaign, Santorum argued that President Obama, as a black man, should understand the dangers of the government deciding who is and isn’t a person. “The question is — and this is what Barack Obama didn’t want to answer — is that human life a person under the Constitution? And Barack Obama says ‘no,’” Santorum argued during a television interview. “Well if that person — human life is not a person — then I find it almost remarkable for a black man to say, ‘we’re going to decide who are people and who are not people.’” This effort to invoke race and to analogically integrate his pro-life agenda with anti-black racism isn’t just a campaign strategy.

Continue reading @ CODE BLAH: Racism in Republican Politics | Racialicious – the intersection of race and pop culture.

NewBlackMan: Black Athletes and the Racial Politics of Sickle Cell

Black Athletes and the Racial Politics of Sickle Cell

by David J. Leonard | NewBlackMan

With the Raiders losing on Sunday, the Denver Broncos backpedaled their way into the 2012 NFL playoffs. Although guaranteeing one more week of conversations about Tim Tebow, a fact that no one should wish for, their playoff birth is dramatically impacting the Pittsburgh Steelers and more specifically their safety Ryan Clark. On Monday, Tomlin announced that Clark would be unable to play with the team because he has a sickle-cell trait, which can cause problems in high altitude situations. During a 2007 game in Denver, Clark became terribly ill. Doctors had to remove his spleen and gallbladder; as a result of his organs being deprived of oxygen, Clark lost an astounding 30 pounds.

While the threat to his life is significant, and the decision to skip the game would seem to be a no-brainer, Clark had planned to play. “I mean, everybody knows I want to play and I would have played,” Clark told ESPN. “I talked to my doctors and we actually had a plan in place for me to play. All things pointed to me going until (Tomlin) told me I can’t. He said he wouldn’t have let his son play and so I’m not playing either.” It would be easy to dismiss Clark’s comments, assuming that his plans to play were never realistic or possible. Yet, it is not hard to imagine an NFL player risking life and limb to play “on any given Sunday.”

In an Associated Press story on San Diego Charges offensive Lineman, Kris Dielman, acknowledged a willingness to risk his health in his pursuit to win a Super Bowl title. Dielman, who missed 10 games as a result of a concussion, had a seizure during a post-game team flight, resulting in him being rushed to the hospital. “This was definitely a scare. Waking up in the hospital with my wife standing over me, that was pretty scary. I don’t scare easy, but that was something different.” Neither this scare nor his 2 kids at home changed his approach to the game. He is not alone. Two weeks ago, the Associated Press reported that half of the players (23/44) of the players they interviewed admitted that, “they would try to conceal a possible concussion rather than pull themselves out of a game.” So it should surprise no one that Clark wants to play.

In a sport and a culture that defines masculinity through toughness, invincibility, and competitive fire. In a world of sports that values “winning at all costs” and “a never quit attitude,” Clark’s response reflects the masculinist orientation of sports culture. This is why Coach Mike Tomlin’s decision to hold Clark out of the game, and his unwillingness to ask his players to do anything he wouldn’t feel comfortable asking his children to do, is one worth celebrating. It challenges the culture of masculinity and the ways in which a football culture puts victories and a particular vision of masculinity ahead of everything else.

What has also been striking in the media coverage of Clark’s situation is the absence of any discussion of sickle cell/sickle cell trait in relationship to African Americans. There is a missed opportunity here to differentiate between the trait and disease; Clark has the trait and not the disease. While some articles discussed the medical science related to sickle-cell and how it put him at risk in high altitude settings, with most treating his inability to play as another sports-related “injury story,” there is bigger story here as it relates to sickle cell and African Americans.

This erasure fits with a larger history whereupon the health issues faced by people of color are rendered invisible. Writing about the Black Panther Party and its efforts “to raise public consciousness about sickle cell anemia,” Alondra Nelson states in Body and Soul: The Black Panther Party and the Fight against Medical Discrimination. “The condition became a rallying cry for other representatives of the black community.” The media missed an opportunity to highlight how this disease disproportionately impacts African Americans. In the United States, 1 in 12 African Americans carries the sickle cell trait (1 in 500 have the disease).

The missed opportunity reflects an overall failure to acknowledge the ways in which sickle cell disproportionately impacts African Americans. As Imani Perry told me, “Being at higher risk, because one belongs to a particular ethnic group, has to be distinguished from the idea that the disease is actually a consequence of race, which is a social construct” notes the Professor of African American Studies at Princeton University, “Some diseases are more likely to be found in particular ethnic or racial groups, but that may be a product of environmental conditions or history rather than some genetics that correlate to what we call race.”

While race is a social construction, with zero biological imperative, this disease effects African Americans in devastating ways. In “Dying in the City of the Blues: Sickle Cell Anemia and the Politics of Race and Health,” Keith Wailoo argues that “history of sickle cell anemia in the United States,” is a story of “transformation from an ‘invisible’ malady to a powerful, yet contested, cultural symbol of African American pain and suffering.”

Continue reading @ NewBlackMan: Black Athletes and the Racial Politics of Sickle Cell.

Attacking the Black Woman | Loop21

Attacking the Black Woman

By David J. Leonard and James Braxton Peterson


With FLOTUS and Rhianna targeted, 2011 ends with more racist and sexist language

Within the span of about 10 days, a little-known congressional representative and an even lesser known magazine emerged into the public by deliberately disrespecting two of the most popular black women in the world: the first lady of the United States Michelle Obama, and mega-pop-star Rihanna. Each of these instances are distinctly despicable in that they attempt to degrade women’s bodies generally by reaffirming a societal gaze that assigns value to a woman’s humanity based almost exclusively on the size and shape of her body. What may be more sinister here though is the deployment of this tragically common assault at two exceptionally popular and powerful black women with one unfortunate outcome being the fact that the ‘representative’ and the ‘magazine’ enhanced their ‘brands’ via an assortment of name checks in the media-sphere. Sadly we will have to (yet again) mention those (brand) names here.

During a recent Christmas bazaar at St. Aidan’s Episcopal Church in Hartford, Wisconsin, Rep Jim Sensenbrenner (R – WI) criticized Michelle Obama’s campaign against obesity given the size of her lower posterior.. Daniel Bice, in “Sensenbrenner apologizes to first lady over ‘big butt’ remark,” described the incident in the following way:

Perhaps Sensenbrenner – who was accompanied by an aide – assumed it was safe to crack wise about the first lady’s posterior in such a heavily Republican area. But, as the old saying goes, this is what happens when you assume.

Ann Marsh-Meigs, a church member who heard Sensenbrenner’s remarks, said he took several swipes at the first lady on Dec. 10. . . .“He then talked about how different first ladies have had different projects – Laura Bush and literacy – and he named two or three others,” Marsh-Meigs said in an interview last week. “And then he said, ‘And Michelle Obama, her project is obesity. And look at her big butt.’”

“That’s basically what he said,” she continued. “It was a combination of her work on obesity and her shape.”

When confronted by a woman in attendance, who sought to highlight Mrs. Obama’s wonderful qualities, Rep Sensenbrenner responded by noting that “Michelle should practice what she preaches – ‘she lectures us on eating right while she has a large posterior herself.’”

History reveals that the unmasking and over-sexualization of black bodies is a longstanding practice central to American popular culture. As Bobo (1995) states: “Representations of black women in mainstream media constitute a venerable tradition of distorted and limited imagery” (p. 33). Rather than constituting black women as “specific victims of the lust of [white] brutes,” dominant representations have posited black women as sexually deviant, aggressive, domineering or wretched victims – as mammies or jezebels (Hansberry, 1960).

Black women’s bodies have historically garnered negative attention in the public sphere; the black female form has posed as both a threat and a cheap, yet addictive, commodity within American culture. Within the realm of popular culture Janet Jackson’s breasts, like Jennifer López’s and Beyonce’s behinds, have elicited incredibly prurient commentary highlighting both the exotic determination and demonization of female bodies of color. This history endures through these comments that rely on the fragmentation of Michelle Obama’s body.

Continue reading @ Attacking the Black Woman | Loop21.

The Tim Tebow Affect or Celebrating Whiteness? | Loop21

The Tim Tebow Effect or Celebrating Whiteness?

By David J. Leonard and James Braxton Peterson

Tim Tebow is ubiquitous. Everywhere we look, Tim Tebow is there. Whether celebrating his “accomplishments,” attributing the Broncos season to his comeback heroics, reflecting on his now famous on-field genuflections, or debating his treatment by media and fans alike, Tim Tebow has captured the national imagination.

In many ways, the national fascination with Tebow reflects the power of whiteness. Historically the quarterback has been a positioned reserved for white men. Seen as a position that requires intelligence, leadership qualities, and proper mechanics, the NFL has historically engaged in, position segregation, and more than a little bit of Jim Crow on the field. That said, Tebow doesn’t follow in this tradition; he plays the position in a gritty running style that has long been associated with blackness.

In Am I Black Enough for You, Todd Boyd identifies a dialectical relationship between racialization and styles of play where whiteness represents a “textbook or formal” style, which operates in opposition to “street or vernacular” styles that are connected to blackness within the collective consciousness. As such, he describes a hegemonic narrative where “white” players adhere to “ . . . a specific set of rules [that] determines one’s ability to play successfully and ‘correctly’” (1997, p. 115). In both styles of play, notions of intelligence, mental toughness, and mental agility are all at work.

Tebow embodies a vernacular or extemporaneous style that has (historically) been associated with blackness and as a result of this association that same style has been devalued. Yet, for Tebow it has been embraced, celebrated as both innovative and as an example of athletic heroism. The celebration of Tebow, like the praise for some receivers, or safeties, comes from the shock and awe of white success in areas that are generally (assumed to be) dominated by black bodies.

Writing about Jordy Nelson, a white receiver with the Green Bay Packers, Ron Demovsky attributes his success to racial stereotypes: “There’s a joke in the receivers meeting room that Nelson benefits by being the only white receiver on the team because perhaps opposing defensive backs don’t take him seriously.” So while Tebow may only complete a few passes per game, the power in his athletic narrative rests with his ability to play quarterback in a style not associated with whiteness; the beauty for many commentators is in the spectacle and in his ability to convert this style of play into victories.

Continue reading @ The Tim Tebow Affect or Celebrating Whiteness? | Loop21.

NewBlackMan: Politics as Usual: Decoding the Attacks on a Liberal Education

Politics as Usual: Decoding the Attacks on a Liberal Education

by David J. Leonard, Mark Anthony Neal and James Braxton Peterson | NewBlackMan

Few university courses generate much attention from mainstream media, but Georgetown Professor Michael Eric Dyson’s course “The Sociology of Hip-Hop: Urban Theodicy of Jay-Z” has drawn national attention from NBC’s Today Show, The Washington Post, The Associated Press, USA Today, and among many others. To be sure such attention is not unusual for Dyson, who is one of the most visible academics in the United States and has offered courses dealing with hip-hop culture, sociology, and Black religious and vernacular expression for more than twenty-years. Yet, such attention seems odd; hundreds of university courses containing a significant amount of content related to Hip-hop culture and Black youth are taught every year—and have been so, for more than a decade. In addition, there are dozens of scholarly studies of Hip-hop published each year—Julius Bailey’s edited volume Jay-Z: Essays of Hip-Hop’s Philosopher King, among those published just this year—and two Ivy League universities, Harvard and Cornell, boast scholarly archives devoted to the subject of Hip-Hop.

Any course focused on a figure like Jay-Z (Shawn Corey Carter), given his contemporary Horatio Alger narrative, and his reputation as an urban tastemaker, was bound to generate considerable attention, but the nature of the attention that Dyson’s class has received and some of the attendant criticism, suggest that much more is at play.

In early November, The Washington Post offered some of the first national coverage of the class, largely to coincide with the arrival of Jay-Z and Kanye West’s Watch the Throne tour to Washington DC’s Verizon Center. Jay-Z dutifully complied with the attention by giving Professor Dyson a shout-out from the stage. The largely favorable article about the class, did make note, as have many subsequent stories, about the cost of tuition at Georgetown; as if somehow the cost of that tuition is devalued by kids taking classes about hip-hop culture.

Other profiles of the course and Dyson have gone out of their way to make the point that the course had mid-term and final exams, as if that wouldn’t be standard procedure for any nationally recognized senior scholar at a top-tier research university in this country. Such narrative slippages speak volumes about the widespread belief that courses that focus on some racial and cultural groups, are created in slipshod fashion and lack rigor; it is a critique that is well worn, and that various academic disciplines, such as Women’s Studies, Ethnic Studies and even Sociology have long had to confront.

via NewBlackMan: Politics as Usual: Decoding the Attacks on a Liberal Education.