In many ways, pro sports has become the average fanâ€™s gateway to the world. With leagues looking to further globalize and having access to an ever-increasing portion of the worldâ€™s population, we see more and more players in our favourite leagues representing various nationalities, colours and creeds.
Itâ€™s also undeniable that those same leagues are also still dominated by predominantly white men in the upper levels of the power structure. This creates a culture where there are certain holdouts who just canâ€™t seem to get their proverbial heads out of their asses in regards to race.
Now, before you go and cry about me being some liberal social justice cupcake, understand this: â€œweâ€™ve always done it this wayâ€? isnâ€™t a legitimate justification for doing anything. The reality is, at some point in time, all of the organizations and people Iâ€™m about to highlight were doing something that was totally normal and accepted (although youâ€™d have to travel much further back in time in some cases). This isnâ€™t about revisionist history or applying current standards to the past actions of venerable establishments to imply that theyâ€™re in some way sinister at the core. This is to point out that there certain behaviours and brands in sports that are objectively unacceptable in 2018. At some point, itâ€™d be nice if we got over ourselves, or at least deride all the entities on this list until their various leagues do what needs to be doneâ€” fire them into the sun for eternity.
With all the usual preamble out of the way, letâ€™s get to the fun(?). Here are your first (and likely only) Donald Sterling Memorial Racism in Sports Power Rankings (or the far more catchy DSMRSPRs).
Honorable Mentions: Riley Cooper, William & Mary, and San Diego State University.
Cooper hasnâ€™t been even halfway relevant since, like, 2013, but lest we forget the man who had the idea to drop n-bombs in public, while an active player in a sport that has about 70% black athletes. Those must have been some icy cold lockers rooms until he mercifully retired inâ€¦damn, 2016?! Did he lastÂ for that long? Yikes.
Meanwhile, The College of William & Mary falls outside the top-10 because, like Cooper, they arenâ€™t terribly relevant in either of the two major college sports. However, they still deserve highlighting here for their asinine branding as theÂ Tribe.Â Donâ€™t forget that they are a member institution of the NCAA,Â whose laws as of the mid-2000s forbid any offensive branding, specifically with regards to Native Americans. William & Mary, who were originally called the Indians, but had been referring to their teams as just the Tribe for decades, decided to respond to this by simply removing the two feathers from their logo. This somehow complied with the NCAAâ€™s new regulations, allowing them to avoid changing to a less blatantly offensive brand.
In a similarly astounding ruling, the NCAA also saw no issue with the San Diego State Universityâ€™s branding as the Aztecs, deciding that the groupÂ did not meet their definitions of â€œNative Americanâ€?. Thus, the body, in true American fashion, told us that it was okay to celebrate the slaughtering of an entire civilization, as long as it took place outside their borders. I couldnâ€™t put SDSU in the top 10, however, as the name could still be argued as a celebration of a once great culture. The lack of permission given by that culture, though, still smells a bit funky.
On to the topÂ 10â€¦
10. Yuli Gurriel
The Astrosâ€™ Cuban infielder burst on to the RSPR scene back in October when heÂ mocked Japanese-Iranian pitcher Yu Darvish with a slanty-eye gesture and the nickname â€œChinese boyâ€? in Spanishâ€¦all conveniently caught on camera, given that it was during Game 3 of the World Series. This dirtbag certainly has a flair for the big stage. Since then, however, Gurriel has kept himself under control, quietly serving a suspension at the beginning of the next season (the MLB didnâ€™t have the fortitude to suspend him when it counted) and returning to action without incident in April.
9. Curt Schilling
8. Boston Sports Fans
Iâ€™m cheating here by more or less combining the two, but with Schilling being a beloved Boston sports hero and inserting himself into the most recent of many instances of the cityâ€™s fans being pieces of shit, I thought Iâ€™d just lump them together. Boston is the nationâ€™s undisputed hub of racist douchebag fandom, with an impressive list of victims ranging from Bill Russell to P.K. Subban to comedian Michael Che. Leading the charge in town is often the cityâ€™s sports stations, particularly WEEI, which regularly mocks social justice initiatives and political correctness. The Boston Globe, somewhat surprisingly,Â took a real look in the mirror at the end of 2017Â (thatâ€™s an excellent piece, go read it). The most recent blowup was the one that involved everyoneâ€™s favourite scum-spewing whack-job Curt Schilling. Last summer, Baltimore Orioles outfielder Adam Jones publicly brought attention to a group of fans who called him an n-bomb during a ball game. The story got a predictable amount of press, with other baseball players such as Vernon Wells echoing Jonesâ€™ experience that Boston was not a place you wanted to be as a black man. Schilling decided he was qualified to weigh-in, and did so in predictably dense fashion, calling Jonesâ€™ comments â€œbullshitâ€?, and pointing to Jonesâ€™ previous comments about race as evidence that he was some kind of race-baiting rabble-rouser. That being said, the Red Sox organization itself reacted quite well to the Jones incident. In various comments, team officials condemned the actions and acknowledged Bostonâ€™s â€œdeservedâ€? reputation as a racist city based on its past, and immediately banned the offending fan from the ballpark. Theyâ€™ve also just recently announced theyâ€™reÂ finally renaming Yawkey Way, named after the teamâ€™s former owner, who made sure they were the last major league team to integrate. Hopefully, more of the cityâ€™s fans will followÂ suit and revert back to annoying the rest of us solely with â€œTAHM BRADY IS DA GOATâ€? conversations.
7. Any Fanbase Doing the Tomahawk Chop
To rip offÂ a John Oliver bit, how the hell is this still a thing? The three primary offenders for this little bit of stupidity are the Atlanta Braves, the Florida State Seminoles and the Kansas City Chiefs. Each of these squads narrowly dodged their own spot on the RSPRs, but the ignorant tie that binds them together could not be spared. The chop (and its accompanying chant mimicking a Native American cry) is accompanied with all sorts of egregious imagery and behaviour, giving us indelible images of white people imitating Native Americans, such as this:
Needless to say, itâ€™s time to retire the practice. Itâ€™s hard to fathom how 80,000 people doing a choreographed parody of an entire culture is something that still exists.
Worth noting, by the way, is that the NCAA also is totally okay with Florida Stateâ€™s traditions, retaining the name Seminoles (at the blessing of the actual Seminolesâ€™ leadership), and allowing a fully regaled dude to ride a white horse into the stadium and drive his spear into the turf at the beginning of every game. Long story short, the NCAA lags decades behind society on this issue, as well as many others, and so does the tomahawk. If youâ€™re not going to get rid of the Chiefs and Braves nicknames, at theÂ veryÂ leastÂ ditch the chop.
6. European Soccer Fans
Soccer fans in Europe have a long history of being complete and utter dickheads in every way possible, but certain parts of the continent particularly excel in the racist behaviour. FromÂ Serbian fans who jeered a Brazilian player with â€œmonkeyâ€? chantsÂ until he was in tears last year, to a recentÂ incident where a French league referee gave Mario Balotelli a yellow cardÂ in a game when he complained about the racist chants from the opposing teamâ€™s fans. There have been countless incidents involving different countries, with discrimination against black players, Latin players and Jewish people being displayed in recent years. The latter resulted inÂ Legia Warsaw having to play a Champions League game against Real Madrid in an empty stadium. There have been chants, burning effigies, players beingÂ barred from their national team due to suspected racial bias, and even fan-to-player violence. Itâ€™s a mess.
5. Bob McNair
This bigoted old coot is actually on this list twice(more on that later), but he earned his own spot for the infamous â€œwe canâ€™t have the inmates running the prisonâ€? comment about NFL anthem protests. Of course, McNair later delivered a PR-scripted apologyâ€¦just kidding.Â He later recanted his apology, saying he has nothing to regret! This while employing approximately 70 black players to make his money for him. Itâ€™s little wonder Colin Kaepernick is well on his way to successfully suing the NFLâ€™s owners for collusion.
4. Washington Redskins
This not taking the top spot is probably the surprise of the rankings, but life in Skins-ville has been relatively quiet recently, and weâ€™re in the NFL offseason so it isnâ€™t in our faces constantly. A lot of the items on this list have multiple elements to their racism, so while the franchiseâ€™s name is undoubtedly as racist as it gets, thereâ€™s not really a whole lot else on their rap sheet. It also makes the team a particularly frustrating case, because itâ€™s one of the easiest to fix. Unfortunately, the team is run by one of North Americaâ€™s most notorious idiot owners in Dan Snyder, who loves his teamâ€™s brand and the 1960s era â€œCowboys and Indiansâ€? rivalry dynamic that they have with Dallas. Maybe we can start by firing Snyder into the sun, followed by getting the â€˜Skins name off the face of the earth for good.
3. Roger Goodell & The NFL Owners
Now for the topical entry on the list, as Goodell and his cronies rocket up the board thanks to their decision last week to pass a new policy requiring players to be good boys who revere the Star Spangled Banner like theyâ€™re told. Itâ€™s incredible that the leagueâ€™s owners are so ignorant of the value of their players outside of the field of play, and the value of social activism in their product. This most recent decision now threatens the leagueâ€™s business interests both by pissing off a significant portion of the fanbase and upsetting the players enough thatÂ a number of them are making noise about sitting out the upcoming season. The NFLâ€™s days of racial strife areÂ far from over.
2. The Cleveland Indians
Now, the Indians over the Redskins probably qualifies as a surprise to many, but to me, itâ€™s by far the bigger offender. Not only is the nickname completely offside, the club somehow still insists on making use of their outdated, poorly designed caricature of a logo, which is then further reinforced with a name (â€œChief Wahooâ€?, for the uninformed) for the mascot that reduces Native Americans to a complete joke. How this is allowed to continue is astounding, and fans have beenÂ predictably classy in their responseÂ to the increasing noise demanding the mascot and associated behaviours bite the dust.
If this franchise ever wins another World Series, itâ€™ll be a complete and utter embarrassment to the league, though fortunately, karma has gifted them with a title drought that is at 69 years and counting. May it live to see the century mark.
1.Â Ole Miss
This sad excuse for a university is the perfect storm of unacceptable institutional racism, and it flies completely under the radar in most discussions of this ilk. Youâ€™ve got it all here. A whole brand devoted to the Southâ€™s racist, slave-owning past, from the nickname â€œthe Rebelsâ€?, to the Robert E. Lee inspired mascot that represented the University officially until 2003 (and unofficially still), to the clearly confederate inspired colour scheme and motifs. If the University wants to try to move away from the controversy with someÂ half-baked new fictitious mascots, they might want to tell their fans thatâ€™s the plan.
Add on to this the fact that the university employs primarily black athletes in a system that bears more than a few resemblances to the slavery the original â€œRebelsâ€? fought so hard to protect, profiting immensely off of under-compensated African-Americans, and the ties to the old South become particularly hard to swallow. Ole Miss will have a tough time distancing themselves from their traditional past, given that even I have yet to refer to them properly as the University of Mississippi, but itâ€™s something that in 2018 must be done. As it stands, I at least hope that all of the athletes going to represent the school are fully informed of the schoolâ€™s ties to a shameful part of Americaâ€™s distant past. Iâ€™d suggest it might lose them a few dollars in the coffers.