The NFL and America’s Drinking Problem | NewBlackMan (in Exile)

The NFL and America’s Drinking Problem

by David J. Leonard | NewBlackMan (in Exile)

A month ago Jerry Brown Jr. lost his life. Like all too many people, each and every day, his death was the result of drunk driving. According to police reports, Brown was a passenger in the car of his Dallas Cowboys’ teammate and college roommate, Josh Brent. Traveling at what appeared to be a high speed on an interstate highway, Brent’s car struck the “outside curb, causing the vehicle to flip at least one time before coming to rest in the middle of the service road.” In just an instant one man’s life was lost and his best friend’s life would be forever changed. “Officers at the scene believed alcohol was a contributing factor in the crash,” noted John Argumaniz, an Irving police spokesman. “Based on the results and the officer’s observations and conversations with Price-Brent, he was arrested for driving while intoxicated.” This is tragic on so many levels, but that is not the emergent story.

In wake of this tragic death and Brent’s arrest, a narrative emerged that sought to construct a bridge between football and drunk driving. The Memphis Business Journal parroted widely cited statistics in its piece about the “NFL’s Drinking Problem” to highlight the large problem that had tragic consequences:

In the wake of the alcohol-related death of Dallas Cowboys linebacker Jerry Brown over the weekend, the NFL may have some serious soul-searching to do.

USA TODAY reports 28 percent of the 624 player arrests since 2000 occurred because of a suspicion of driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol. The single-vehicle accident in which Brown was killed marked the third time since 1998 an NFL player killed another person due to suspected intoxicated driving, the paper reported.

Barron H. Lerner, with “Why Can’t the NFL Stop Its Players From Driving Drunk?” offered a similar song, noting statistics about NFL players and arrests (yet of course failing to offer notation that this same study revealed that NFL players were less likely to engaged in this practice than their non-playing peers). He also recycled the longstanding argument that NFL players are more likely to engaged in such behavior because of the lack of moral and legal consequences:

It is reasonable to speculate that these efforts have lowered the rates of drunk driving among NFL players and, for that matter, all professional athletes. But there is still a culture of drinking and driving among NFL players. As Dan Wetzel reported on Yahoo, drunk driving is the league’s biggest legal issue. A study by the San Diego Union-Tribune found that 112 of the 385 NFL player arrests between 2000 and 2008 involved drunk driving. In 2009, Cleveland Browns wide receiver Donté Stallworth, who had been drinking at a hotel bar in Florida, struck and killed a pedestrian. The problem is that there are limits to moral and legal deterrents.

Similarly, Brian Miller called for greater surveillance and punishment to address the NFL’s criminal problem:

From drugs, murder, DUI, assault and battery, the NFL needs to stand up in front and lead. They need to be tougher and frankly, Roger Goodell is a pretty tough commissioner. However, it’s time that he starts landing major punches in his battle to clean up the image of the NFL. In order to do that, he will need more than simple cooperation from the (players’ union). This is not an NFL issue; it’s a players issue.

The narrative that imagines the NFL as a league of irresponsible drunks and criminally-minded threats to public safety dominants the landscape.

Continue reading at The NFL and America’s Drinking Problem | NewBlackMan (in Exile).

On Trayvon Martin: The U.S. School System’s Criminalization of Black Youth | Urban Cusp

On Trayvon Martin: The U.S. School System’s Criminalization of Black Youth

By David J. Leonard

UC Columnist

Eye on Culture

The efforts to defend George Zimmerman by disparaging and demonizing Trayvon Martin have become commonplace. The three-headed monster of the Sanford Police Department, Zimmerman’s attorney (and surrogates) and Fox News continue to push a narrative that seeks to justify Zimmerman’s actions. At the center of their distortions, distractions and lies has been an effort to paint Trayvon Martin as a “criminal,” as a “thug” and as a “menace” – as America’s nightmare: “young, black and don’t give a f*ck.”

Citing manufactured pictures and suspensions, like Geraldo’s reference to hoodies, the “blame the black kid” defense is intent on justifying his murder by substantiating Zimmerman’s fear and suspicion. Michelle Goldberg asked, “Why Conservatives Are Smearing Trayvon Martin’s Reputation,” concluding that “Conservatives are focusing on Trayvon’s tweets, appearance, school suspension over marijuana traces, and the hoodie he was wearing to blame him for his own death – and to show that his killing had nothing to do with racism.” These efforts have led to a shift in the media coverage and hyper emphasis on Martin’s demeanor, background, and behavior. According to Goldberg, “The media was flooded with the news, if one could call it that, that Martin was once suspended from school for possession of a plastic baggie with marijuana residue on it.”

For example, a story in the Orlando Sentinel took the lead in the character assassination, giving voice to defend Zimmerman by assassinating the character of Martin with its emphasis on most-recent school suspension: “[H]e had been suspended from school in Miami after being found with an empty marijuana baggie. Miami schools have a zero-tolerance policy for drug possession.” Likewise, a Miami Herald piece on Trayvon Martin provided a context to understand the shooting:

As thousands of people gathered here to demand an arrest in the Trayvon Martin case, a more complicated portrait began to emerge of a teenager whose problems at school ranged from getting spotted defacing lockers to getting caught with a marijuana baggie and women’s jewelry. The Miami Gardens teen who has become a national symbol of racial injustice was suspended three times, and had a spotty school record that his family’s attorneys say is irrelevant to the facts that led up to his being gunned down on Feb. 26.

The focus on his suspension is particularly revealing not only in Trayvon’s case, but also in the larger fabric of American racism. For the defenders of Zimmerman and much of the media, the reports of multiple suspensions, of a connection to an “empty marijuana bag,” are evidence that at best Trayvon was “complicated” and at worst he was a “thug” who therefore deserved to be killed.

While telling us nothing about Trayvon Martin and his murder, his suspensions do reveal the ways that profiling and his criminalization began long before Zimmerman. While white students are more likely to be in possession of drugs and possess guns while at schools, black and Latino youth are far more likely to face punishment. According to the Department of Education, black students are 3.5 times more likely to face either suspension or expulsion that their white peers. In Chicago, although whites account for 10 percent of students, they are only 3 percent of suspensions. Compare this to African Americans, who represent 42 percent of Chicago students, but 76 percent of suspensions. In Los Angeles, while only 9 percent of students, black students account for over 25% of suspensions.

“Disciplinary policies are racially profiling African American students,” notes Marqueece Harris-Dawson, an activist in Los Angeles. “It is not that African American students are lazy, unmotivated or not smart. These students are being pushed out of schools.” This is the same assumption that led George Zimmerman to follow and ultimately shoot Trayvon Martin; the same ideologies that imagined Martin as threatening, suspicious, and dangerous requiring discipline and punishment contributed to his suspension from school just as it played a role in his untimely death. In other words, his multiple suspensions are proof in that ways that race matters in material ways, which unfortunately became all too clear on February 26.

continue reading at On Trayvon Martin: The U.S. School System’s Criminalization of Black Youth | Urban Cusp.

Andrew Luck and Racial Assumptions: Are Stereotypes a Part of the Game? | Urban Cusp

Andrew Luck and Racial Assumptions:

Are Stereotypes a Part of the Game?

By David J. Leonard

By now you are probably sick of reading and talking about Jeremy Lin. Thankfully, with Linsanity calming down, the conversation has turned back to the court, a shame given his own struggles and those of the Knicks in recent weeks.

Yet, at the same time, I find myself disappointed and frustrated by the missed opportunities within the media avalanche. Amid the endless articles about Lin, many reflected on the ways in which race and stereotypes about Asians limited the ability of scouts to recognize Lin’s talent. Stereotypes not only about the lack of athletic ability of Asians as well as the stereotypes about African American success within basketball impacted the difficult roads traveled by Lin.

“Lin was almost certainly underestimated, or misevaluated, because as an Asian American he does not look the way scouts and general managers expect an NBA player to look,” wrote Touré. “If he’d walked into the gym and wowed everyone right away he would’ve stood out, but when he didn’t, it confirmed the societal script that does not expect Asian Americans to be pro-level basketball players. That’s the prejudice Lin had to fight through.” This sentiment was commonplace throughout the public discussion, revealing a willingness to acknowledge that race does matter, that racism exists as an obstacle, and that stereotypes impact the ways that people interact on a daily basis.

Similar conversations about stereotypes and obstacles faced by athletes because of racial assumptions have followed the NFL Scouting Combine. The likely two-top picks, Andrew Luck (Stanford) and Robert Griffin III (Baylor), have been at the center of these conversations. Luck, a white quarterback, has shocked scouts because of his surprising speed, whereas Griffin has been praised with a level of surprise for his intellect and his field vision (still despite his precision in passing some scouts have lamented his propensity of “mental mistakes”).

With both men, stereotypes have guided the conversation, either through the replication and recycling of longstanding ideas associated with white and black athletes, or with a shock and awe over their not fitting into these boxes. For example, in “Andrew Luck is pretty fast, too,” Michael David Smith highlights how racial stereotypes associated with speed and quickness that leads black quarterbacks to be labeled as scramblers and white quarterback as pocket passers, has led to surprise about Luck, even though his 40 time matched that of Cam Newton:

Luck turned in an excellent 40-yard dash time today of 4.59 seconds at the NFL Scouting Combine, the third-fastest among quarterbacks this year behind only Baylor’s Robert Griffin III and Wisconsin’s Russell Wilson.

No one runs like Griffin, but Luck is faster than the vast majority of NFL quarterbacks. To put Luck’s time in perspective, it’s exactly the same as the time turned in by Cam Newton at last year’s Combine.

In “Do Racial Stereotypes Dictate NFL Success,” kgans laments the ways in which race impacts personnel decisions and the NFL product:

Racial stereotypes in draft evaluations are something you can see all the time, and it’s not only for the quarterback position. All the time you have draft evaluations describing white defensive ends as “high-energy guys, with great motors.” Or a black linebacker described as being “freakishly athletic with sideline-to-sideline speed.” These racial stereotypes are ignorant and they hurt the integrity of the game.

Just recently, Jeremy Lin, an Asian-American point guard has taken the NBA by storm. On, the website described Lin as being “deceptively quick and assertive off the dribble.” Deceptively quick, what does that mean? Is he deceptively quick because you didn’t expect him to be quick since he is Asian?

Kgans makes clear that racial stereotypes are not only restricting the opportunities afforded to athletes but at the same time undermining the quality of the game. Because of racial stereotypes, players are not judged by the content of their crossover, or the precision of their passing, but the color of their skin. “I think racial stereotypes in draft evaluations could have something to do with this. If we could all be more “colorblind” in our talent evaluations we might be able to increase the amount of black quarterbacks in the NFL,” writes Gans. “And believe me, after NFL GM’s have seen what Linsanity has done for the Knicks no one wants to miss out on the NFL’s version of Jeremy Lin. Being more ‘colorblind’ in talent evaluations will help make sure that doesn’t happen.”

via Andrew Luck and Racial Assumptions: Are Stereotypes a Part of the Game? | Urban Cusp.

NY GIANT Victor Cruz: Salsa, Sadness and the American Dream – Entertainment & Culture – EBONY

NY GIANT Victor Cruz: Salsa, Sadness and the American Dream

 The story of the Giants star is too often framed by racial stereotypes

By David Leonard Writer

The tremendous “rookie” season of Victor Cruz will come to an end on Sunday. While in his 2nd official year, the 2011-2012 campaign was ostensibly his first go-round in the NFL, and what a year it has been. While the nation obsessed over a mediocre quarterback at the expense of other players, Cruz had an amazing season. Rivaling the historic rookie season of Cam Newton, Cruz has been spectacular with 82 receptions, 1,536 receiving yards and 9 touchdowns, dominating during the postseason. Yet, that hasn’t been the story of Victor Cruz, nor has the media discourse sought to highlight his Black-Puerto Rican identity, forsaking for a narrative of sports as a great equalizer, of football as the melting pot, and ultimately the NFL story as evidence of the American Dream and American exceptionalism.

The media narrative surrounding Cruz has been simple, if not misleading. He rose from the ashes of poverty, despair and mistakes to NFL stardom. Focusing on disciplinarity and the efforts to pull himself up by his bootstraps, the celebration of Cruz has been much more a celebration of the American Dream and those in his life who made all of it possible. According to Ohm Youngmisuk, Cruz “nearly became another academic cautionary tale of a talented athlete who never made it because he didn’t take school seriously.” Reflecting tough love and an accountability, he was dismissed from University of Massachusetts because of his GPA and other academic failures. After attending Passaic County Community College and County College of Morris, he was able to reenroll back at UMASS. The media has eaten up the narrative, framing this path as unusual and part of his maturation process.

Equally telling, the story emphasizes how those adults outside of his family, helped him, demanding that he change his attitude and approach: “At any point, he could have strayed and never made it back to college — like so many others. But Marsh-Williams’ [the school’s assistant dean/provost of undergraduate advising] message stuck with him like a stingy cornerback,” writes Youngmisuk. And he adds: “Marsh-Williams demanded accountability, had little sympathy for one of UMass’ best athletes….(he)lectured Cruz with more tough love than the no-nonsense Tom Coughlin ever could.”

As part of the celebrated immigrant, bootstraps narrative, several stories chronicle his upbringing as one where he was “raised by a single Puerto Rican mother.” Playing on stereotypes of absentee Black fathers, the narrative erases the complexity and tragedy of Cruz’s life, turning him to a caricature of sorts. While his parents never married, it is clear that his father was part of his life. Mike Walker, a firefighter in Paterson, New Jersey, committed suicide in 2007 following a car-accident and a battle with depression.

The failure to talk about his relationship with his father (or to provide context about mental health, suicide and the African American community), and the efforts to celebrate how coaches, administrators and to a lesser extent his mom provided him with the necessary tough love and disciplinarity, is particularly disconcerting. Cruz is reduced to an advertisement for the American Dream, for the idea that hard work, discipline and proper values will lead to stardom.

Although much has been talked about in relation to his Latino/immigrant background, little has been said about his Black ancestry or even his Nuyorican identity. At one level, the media focus on his Latino background given their scarcity within sports culture. Among a group of 31, including the Patriots’ Aaron Hernandez, Arian Foster, Marc Sanchez, and Tony Romo, Cruz has come to embody a generation of Latino football players. Yet, the narrative surrounding Cruz seems more interested in celebrating his story as an immigrant story, a story of opportunity for Cruz and others to learn “the American way.” “It is a telling example of the natural progression the sport has made in Hispanic communities across the United States,” writes Jorge Castillo. “As the generations following immigrants from Latin American countries assimilate into American culture and, with it, take up America’s sport.”

via NY GIANT Victor Cruz: Salsa, Sadness and the American Dream – Entertainment & Culture – EBONY.

Javon Johnson @NewBlackMan: “Right Thru Me”: Authenticity, Performance, and the Nicki Minaj Hate



“Right Thru Me”: Authenticity, Performance, and the Nicki Minaj Hate

by Javon Johnson | special to NewBlackMan

I began teaching at the University of Southern California in fall 2010 as the Visions and Voices Provost’s Postdoctoral Fellow. Among others, one of my duties as Postdoc is to teach African American Popular Culture. One of the biggest difficulties with teaching a course such as this is the seemingly impossible task of trying to get my students to move beyond simply labeling aspects of Black pop culture as good or bad – that is, getting them to unearth and critically discuss the political, social, economic, and historical stakes in Black film, music, theater, dance, literature and other forms of Black popular culture.

I struggled mightily with getting them to see how a Black artist or sports figure could simultaneously be good and bad and how those labels, even when collapsed, do little to explain how violent rap lyrics are used as justification for unfair policing practices in Black communities, how literature and music is often used as a means for many Black people to enter into a political arena that historically denied us access, or even how Black popular culture illustrates that the U.S., since pre-Civil War chattel slavery, has had, and will continue to have, a perverse preoccupation with Black bodies.

My class is not the only group of people who have trouble moving beyond the ever-limiting dualities of good and bad. Like my students who could not wait to tell me all of the reasons they feel Nicki Minaj is a bad artist, icon, and even person, many Black people that I speak with are quick to throw the Harajuku Barbie under the bus on account that, as one of my students put it, “She makes [Black women] look bad, like all we are good for is ass, hips, and partying.” Fellow rappers such as Lil Mama and Pepa have commented on Nicki’s over-the-top dress up and character voices, with Kid Sister asking, “do people take her seriously?” What is most troubling about comments such as these is how reductive they are, how readily they dismiss Black women’s identity possibilities, in that anyone who dresses and talks like Nicki must be selling out and doing a disservice to real hip-hop, real Black people, and real women.

The politics of selling out aside, I am deeply troubled with how we read Lady Gaga as a brilliant postmodern pop artist and Nicki as little more than a fake who plays dress up for cash. What does that say about our understandings of Black women as related to the politics of respectability? Nicki disserves applause for carving out a space in an overly male dominated rap world, and, as she did in a recent interview, she often uses that space to tell women and girls they “are beautiful…sexy…[and powerful because] they need to be told that.”

Mixing the zaniness of ODB and Busta Rhymes with lyrical prowess of Lil Wayne and the creativity of Lil Kim and Andre 3000, all wrapped in a Strangé Grace Jones bow, the fact that Nicki can tell all the men in rap, or perhaps the world for that matter, “you can be the king or watch the queen conquer,” that is – join me or be destroyed by me, highlights the strength and boldness she possesses.

More than her ability to dominate a male driven hip-hop community or the lines promoting women’s empowerment throughout her work, it is her playfulness, coupled with her perceived sexuality and gender identity that causes the most panic. It is our inability to define and pin down Nicki’s identities that scare us most. Her voices and dress up lead many to question not only if Nicki is “real,” that indefinable quality that permeates every fiber of hip-hop, but also for some to question her sexuality. In a hip-hop world where the most valuable currency is authenticity, the anxiety, or hate for that matter, Nicki causes stem mostly from the fact that she puts front stage all the things most rappers hide behind the curtains. Her entire persona, which relies on a healthy amount of theatricality, exposes how the real is as constructed as the reel, which makes her performance shattering because too many of us invest a lot in the idea that hip-hop is undeniable and unapologetic truth.

In this way, it is my larger contention that we are reading Nicki Minaj all wrong. Rather than figuring her characters, voices, and costumes as faking, I propose that we read it as making, as a performance of multiple reals that exist on the same body. And, it is quite precisely her Barbie like plasticity, her ability to mold herself into the woman she needs to be at any given moment, which is most amazing. Nicki’s malleability, her ability to be such a monster and such a lady in the same verse, complicates our understanding of identity performances to account for the ways in which people can be dynamic, complex, contradictory, and fractured beings all at once.

via NewBlackMan: “Right Thru Me”: Authenticity, Performance, and the Nicki Minaj Hate.

Liz Dwyer: Want to Boost Minority Achievement? End School Bullying – Education – GOOD

Want to Boost Minority Achievement? End School Bullying

Liz Dwyer

Education Editor

It’s no secret that victims of school bullying have a tough time keeping up their grades. After all, thanks to all that taunting and name-calling, almost 160,000 children stay home from school every day because they’re afraid to show up. Now, a study released Tuesday concludes that bullying has an even greater negative impact on the GPAs of black and Latino students than those of their white peers.

Lisa Williams, a doctoral student in sociology at The Ohio State University, and Anthony Peguero, a sociology professor at Virginia Tech, used national bullying data as well as survey results from 9,590 students attending 580 schools nationwide for their study, which they presented at the annual meeting of the American Sociological Association. They found that black high school freshmen earning 3.5 grade point averages saw their grades drop to a 3.2 average by senior year as a result of bullying.

The effect of bullying was even worse for Latino students. Freshman with 3.5 GPAs who were bullied as sophomores ended high school with a 3.0 average. In comparison, high-achieving white freshman who experienced bullying only saw their GPAs decrease from 3.5 to 3.47.

Why does bullying effect high achieving black and Latino students so disproportionately? “Stereotypes about black and Latino youth suggest that they perform poorly in school,” Williams says. When students from those backgrounds “do not conform to these stereotypes,” they end up being “especially vulnerable to the effect bullying has on grades.”

Continue reading @ Want to Boost Minority Achievement? End School Bullying – Education – GOOD.

NewBlackMan: Black Sambo 2.0? New Media Technology and the Persistence of Racist Representations


Black Sambo 2.0?

New Media Technology and the Persistence of Racist Representations

by David J. Leonard | NewBlackMan

New media technology is changing the landscape of television. At one level, the emergence of web-based television, along with platforms like YouTube, provides a space for historically ignored themes and silenced voices within popular culture. I previously wrote about the potential during a discussion of The LeBrons, which “highlights how new media technologies provide modern black athletes (among others) tools to define their own image and message, partially apart from those ‘restrictive script,’ yet bound by the dominant discourse and accepted images.”

Reflecting on this cultural and technological shift, Aymar Christen Jean argues that the golden age of black television has ended. He notes further that the potential afforded by new media technologies are significant in challenging the white hegemony of American television culture: “In this early stage, the writing and production values are uneven. But when you throw in social-networking possibilities online, the emergence of original Web programming can only be good news for black art and expression.” Writing about the brilliant and rightly celebrated The Misadventures of AWKWARD Black Girl, Britni Danielle highlights the transformative potential residing in Web 2.0. “It’s official, the best shows featuring Black people are not on BET, TVOne, NBC, or any other TV channel. The best shows featuring interesting Black characters are on the web,” writes Danielle. “In times like these, when TV shows and films featuring interesting Black characters are missing from most mainstream outlets, it’s nice to see that many (and I do mean many) are taking matters into their own hands and making their own way.”

While clear, from The Misadventures of AWKWARD Black Girl, The New 20s, The LeBrons, Kindred, and Road to the Alter, that the web is emerging as the promise land for the production of black-themed shows and the dissemination of counter-narratives and representations, the frontier of new media technology is also littered with dehumanizing shows as well.

The advance of new media technology, whether on YouTube, I-Tunes, or the totality of the Internet provides a space for the dissemination of racist shows of yesterday, narratives, stereotypes, and episodes that artists fought long and hard to remove from public consumption. William Van De Burg, in New Day in Babylon, documents the ways in which organizations, like the National Black Media Coalition and Black Citizens for Fair Media, fought the continued dissemination of racist imagery. They, along with Asian Americans for Fair Media and others, worked hard to counter those racial images that represented “an explosive psychological force that warps human relationships and wreaks havoc on one’s personal dignity” (Wei, 1993; 51). While movements of the 1960s and 1970s were successful in challenging the presence of dehumanizing representations within network television, the advance of new media has proven to given life to many shows of past generations.

On YouTube, you can find a number of cartoons from the mid-20th century, some of which are explicitly labeled as racist (or banned/censored) cartoons, while others lack specific marking. These cartoons bring into wide circulation the otherwise put into the grave racist televisual moments of yesteryear. For example, on YouTube, “Southern Fried Rabbit” where bugs sings, “I wish I was in Dixie,” also depicts the South as a beautiful oasis in juxtaposition to the barren wasteland of the North. In this episode, Bugs Bunny is presented in blackface, ultimately impersonating a happy slave. At one level, this particular episode is keeping “past” images and narratives alive (the happy slave is clear in circulation as evidence by “pledge”); at another level, it facilitates a space where commentators can rehash and deploy their own racial narratives and ideologies. Claims about permissibility of racist images back then, that it was just entertainment, and simply kid’s stuff are commonplace on YouTube. Likewise, in this episode and in countless others found on YouTube, the history of blackface, of imagining and depicting blackness through dehumanizing imagery is evident.

Continue reading at NewBlackMan: Black Sambo 2.0? New Media Technology and the Persistence of Racist Representations.