NewBlackMan (in Exile): The Savior Syndrome: Patrick Willis and the Mystique of #WhiteLove

Patrick Willis’ Two Dads | Ruth Fremson, NYTimes

The Savior Syndrome: Patrick Willis and the Mystique of #WhiteLove

by David J. Leonard | NewBlackMan

There is an epidemic of white love in America. From The Blind Side and The Help to Kony 2012, George Clooney saving Africa and countless white celebrities liberating black children via adoption, white love has become the antidote to the race problem of the twentieth century. Whereas “the race problem” defined the last years, the next 100 years are purportedly to be one of white love. While racial profiling and the prison industrial complex, persistent discrimination and poverty, education and health disparities continue to plague the nation amid a climate of heightened anti-black racism, immigrant scapegoating, and a rising tide of white nationalists movements, white love offers a ray of sunshine. Better than Barack Obama’s “hope we can believe in,” in the face of so much injustice “white love” is hope (white) society can believe in each and every day.

While watching The Blindside Elon James White highlighted the power of white love within the much celebrated film and society at large:


See–poor Black dude is actually full of talent and wisdom–he just needs a healthy dose of White love to open his eyes. #WHITELOVE

What #TheBlindside teaches us is if White people find poor homeless Black dudes they can create highly sought after football stars.

Awww snap. Kathy Bates and Sandra Bullock are doing a Awesome White Lady TAG TEAM. Hitting him with #WhiteLove left & right…

Dear White People: Please bottle #WhiteLove & sell it. Then we could throw it out of car windows in the ghetto like malatov cocktails…

#WhiteLove is so magical the child of awesomely White Sandra Bullock is smarter & more savy than the poor black dude 10 yrs his senior.

Every White person in this family is AMAZING. The Dad who wasn’t even paying attention to poor black dude is now INSPIRING him.

I don’t want to watch this movie anymore. I HAVE DEADLINES–but #WhiteLove is drawing me in… I WANT SANDRA BULLOCK SAVE ME.

The power of white love isn’t unique to Hollywood fantasy but is commonplace within sport culture. This particular fantasy was on full display during a recently re-aired episode of ESPN’s E:60. Documenting the trials and tribulations of the 49ers Patrick Willis, whose life took him from a Trailer Park in rural Tennessee to the fame and fortune of the NFL; from poverty and abuse to the American Dream.

The “rags-to-riches” and pulling oneself up by shoelaces is nothing new to sports culture given the centrality of the American Dream and sports as economic escalator within sports media. Yet, the presented story of Willis is one less about the Protestant work ethic and more of white love. The story isn’t so much of his talent, hard work, intelligence, but the transformative power of whiteness, whereupon Willis life changed when he became part of a white family.

The story given on ESPN and elsewhere is rather simple: Willis and his siblings grew up poor in Tennessee. As a result of their mother leaving them and their father’s drug and alcohol problems, a difficult childhood became one of great pain and suffering because of physical abuse. Ultimately standing up to his father by first responding to the abuse and then telling school officials, the children faced the prospects of being split apart. This would never come to fruition as Willis’s coach, Mr. Findley, after a request from the school superintendant, agreed to take all 4 children into their home.

No longer subjected to violence and poverty, yet together as a family, Willis began to thrive on and off the field. According to E:60, he no longer needed to focus on “basic needs” because of his father’s addiction or fending him beatings but instead could be a “normal child.” He was now able concentrate on himself on and off the field. Allowing Willis for the first time to experience love and a true childhood, Willis blossomed into an exceptional football player and even better story. The narrative frame that imagines blackness as pollutant and danger, as problem, juxtapose to whiteness as savior, as help, as goodness, and love is wrought with history and meaning. The only better than Hollywood’s vision of white love is the purported real thing.

continue reading @ NewBlackMan (in Exile): The Savior Syndrome: Patrick Willis and the Mystique of #WhiteLove.

The White Coach’s Burden | Racialicious – the intersection of race and pop culture

The White Coach’s Burden

By Guest Contributor Dr. David J. Leonard

During my “glory days” playing high school football–among other positions I played linebacker–there was a game where, after several tackles (pretty amazing tackles if I remember them correctly), I found myself rolling on the ground in pain. Their running back decided to thrust his helmet into my gut leaving me gasping for air. I would later find out that the opposing coach encouraged his players to “take me out”: a helmet to the gut would do that for at least one play.

The fact that a nobody player in a nothing high-school football game between two tiny private schools in Los Angeles was “taken out” illustrates how encouraged violence is part and parcel to football culture, even if there were no “‘knockouts’…worth $1,500 and ‘cart-offs’ $1,000, with payments doubled or tripled for the playoffs,” rewards uncovered as part of the New Orleans Saints’ “bounty program” last week.

Yet, the NFL, much of the media, and others have acted as if the Saints’ actions are an aberration that can be easily corrected. As such, the league’s response was predictably clichéd:

The [anti-] bounty rule promotes two key elements of NFL football: player safety and competitive integrity. It is our responsibility to protect player safety and the integrity of our game, and this type of conduct will not be tolerated. We have made significant progress in changing the culture with respect to player safety and we are not going to relent. We have more work to do and we will do it.

The NFL wasn’t alone with its shock and outrage (and hypocrisy). The Los Angeles Times’ Bill Plaschke referred to the bounty system as “sanctioned evil” that in one game constituted a “blatant mugging by the New Orleans Saints.” Eamon Quinn described bounties as antithetical to the values of sports: “Such malicious intent—regardless of whether the particular hit was legal by the letter of the law—totally undermines the camaraderie and goodwill inherent in participation in sports. It is diametrically opposed to the inherently benevolent nature of sporting competition.” Similarly, ESPN’s Gregg Easterbrook identified the bounty issue as “Sinnersgate” which “is about being paid to cause injury, which takes a beautiful sport and makes it a low, filthy thing.”

Dave Zirin rightfully highlights the hypocrisy in the league’s resisting calls for reform while marketing itself on the “Orwellian staple” of comparing NFL players to warriors:

There is no morality in war — but that doesn’t stop our political and military leaders from insisting otherwise. Invariably, the enemy consists of immoral, medieval cave dwellers who respect neither human life nor the sacred rules of combat. Our side, on the other hand, engages in “surgical strikes” to limit “collateral damage” in a noble effort to liberate the shackled from tyranny. They tell us to ignore the innocent killed in drone attacks, the piling body counts, and just remember that our enemies are savages because they don’t play by civilized rules.

The moral indignity of the media is striking given its own promotion of on-the-field violence. The proliferation of a highlight culture dominated by jarring hits is as much a bounty as any direct or indirect payment system.


An ESPN culture that leads with bone-crushing, de-cleating tackles, turning relatively obscure defensive players into household names, illustrates the role of the media in offering incentive for viciousness on the field. The hypocrisy and faux-outrage from the media as well as fans, given the widespread acceptance of a culture of violence, seems more about disappointment the behavior of any coaches involved; bounty gate isn’t a challenge to perception of football and the NFL, but the league’s patriarchs – the coaches.

Continue reading @ The White Coach’s Burden | Racialicious – the intersection of race and pop culture.