As you’re probably well aware, Los Angeles Clippers' owner Donald Sterling has been in the news for his
second NAACP Lifetime Achievement Award alleged racist comments. In a secret recording, Sterling can be heard chastising his girlfriend V. Stiviano for bringing black people to Clippers’ games and for posing in pictures with blacks (specifically Matt Kemp and Magic Johnson) and posting them to her Instagram account.
I don’t even know where to being with this. There are so many things that don’t make sense, even if you set aside the racism itself. The guy doesn't want his girlfriend bringing black guys to an NBA game? That’s like not wanting Canadians at a hockey game. Not to mention the fact that his girlfriend is half black! Clearly Sterling doesn’t come across as a good person. But to be fair, he doesn't even come across as a very good racist.
At any rate, racial scandals in sports are nothing new, so in honor of Sterling's stupidity, here's a look back at seven memorable episodes we'd probably rather forget.
Richie Incognito-Jonathan Martin
Let’s start with a story that stretches all the way back to 2013. That was a simpler time. Well, not really.
In November of last year, Miami Dolphins' guard Richie Incognito was accused of bullying fellow teammate Jonathan Martin. How a grown man who plays in the NFL allows himself to be bullied is the topic of another article. But what’s clear is Incognito engaged in a pattern of abusive behavior that included the use of racial slurs. What’s not clear is why.
To hear Martin tell it, things got to the point where he feared for the safety of himself and his family. But Incognito claims he was ordered to toughen up his teammate by the Miami Dolphins coaching staff, and that most if not all of his incendiary comments were made in jest. He also claims that Martin himself knew the comments were not serious, and that he thought the two men were on friendly terms. Incognito's claim was bolstered by the release of text messages between the two men, and by support for Incognito from his fellow teammates, many of whom are black. But regardless of intent, in the end, Martin wasn’t laughing, and the scandal that ensued cost Incognito his job.
During the Detroit Lions' winless season in 2008, Lions’ defensive coordinator Joe Barry also happened to the son-in-law of head coach Rod Marinelli. At a press conference toward the end of the season, a journalist named Rob Parker asked Marinelli if he wished his daughter had "married a better defensive coordinator." The smart-ass question cost Parker his job, but it was still pretty awesome. Sadly, Parker should have stopped there.
In 2012, Parker referred to Washington Redskins’ quarterback Robert Griffin III as a “Cornball brother,” going on to say:
He's not real. OK, he's black, he kind of does the thing, but he's not really down with the cause. He's not one of us. He's kind of black but he's not really, like, the guy you want to hang out with because he's off to something else.
Why does Parker feel this way? Did RG III give a bunch of money to the Klan, or something? No. He simply stated that he wanted to be judged by more than the color of his skin:
For me, you don't ever want to be defined by the color of your skin. You want to be defined by your work ethic, the person that you are, your character, your personality. That's what I've tried to go out and do. I am an African-American in America. That will never change. But I don't have to be defined by that.
According to Parker, a black guy who wants to be defined by his character and work ethic is cornball, and this type of person isn’t “down with the cause.” Well, whatever cause Parker is talking about sounds pretty shitty.
This makes me even more racist toward Canadians.
People dislike Floyd Mayweather for lots of different reasons, including the fact that his public persona is that of an arrogant asshole. If arrogance isn’t reason enough to dislike the guy, let’s add racism to the equation. Check out these comments Mayweather made about Manny Pacquiao.
As soon as we come off vacation, we’re going to cook that little yellow chump … Once I kick the midget ass, I don’t want you all to jump on my d---. So you all better get on the bandwagon now ... Once I stomp the midget, I’ll make that mother f----- make me a sushi roll and cook me some rice … we’re going to cook him with some cats and dogs.
Granted, no one knows what’s really going through Mayweather’s head, so maybe these comments, as loathsome as they are, were simply an attempt to rattle a prospective opponent. That said, if Mayweather chooses to get under Pacquiao’s skin by making fun of its color, then he shouldn’t be surprised when people call him out for it.
A class act.
What list of racist scandals in sports would be complete without a visit from John Rocker? The former Atlanta Braves' relief pitcher was one of many inspirations for Eastbound and Down’s Kenny Powers, and it’s easy to see why. They both have a good-old boy, redneck swagger, but whereas Powers’ antics are meant to be a humorous satire, Rocker’s antics are the target of said satire.
This quote from a 1999 Sports Illustrated interview in which Rocker was asked about the prospect of living in New York should tell you all you need to know.
I'd retire first. It's the most hectic, nerve-racking city. Imagine having to take the 7 Train to the ballpark looking like you're riding through Beirut next to some kid with purple hair, next to some queer with AIDS, right next to some dude who just got out of jail for the fourth time, right next to some 20-year-old mom with four kids. It's depressing... The biggest thing I don't like about New York are the foreigners. You can walk an entire block in Times Square and not hear anybody speaking English. Asians and Koreans and Vietnamese and Indians and Russians and Spanish people and everything up there. How the hell did they get in this country?
I've given Country Music fans a black eye.
When I first heard that a Riley Cooper had yelled a racial slur at a bouncer while attending a Kenny Chesney concert, I just couldn’t believe it. After all, it’s hard to believe that a country music fan would harbor racist feelings. But the tape don’t lie.
Granted, Cooper was wasted and upset at the time, and people often say things they don’t mean when they’re wasted and upset. But on the flip side, “In vino veritas.” And lots of people get wasted everyday without dropping N-Bombs on strangers who are just doing their job.
I own a baseball team. Let's talk about Hitler.
As the former owner of the Cincinnati Reds, Marge Schott is the closest match to Donald Sterling on this list. Like Sterling, Schott was accused of making racially insensitive comments. Aside from using slurs to refer to her star players, she publicly praised Adolf Hitler, stating "Everybody knows [Hitler] was good at the beginning, but he just went too far.” Oh, I see. Thanks for clearing that up, Marge.
Eventually, her ignorant comments got the better of her, and Major League Baseball forced Schott to sell her stake in the Reds, which just goes to show that randomly praising Hitler is always a bad idea, especially for those in the public eye.
Jimmy (The Greek) Snyder
Jimmy the Greek was a well-known gambler who, in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s, made predictions on CBS’s NFL pregame show. To get around the fact that gambling was illegal, Snyder would never actually mention the spreads of the games in question, but would rather give what he thought the final score would be, leaving it to gambler to do the math.
All was well until in 1988, Snyder made the comments in the video above. Along with the remarks about coaching, Snyder went on to say that blacks were naturally better athletes because they were bred to be stronger during slavery. However, it’s important to point out that Jimmy the Greek did not have a degree in genetics or biology, so take those comments with a grain of salt.