Lebron James, Michael Jordan, Walter Payton– the exceptions to “the rule”. The struggle of minorities in sports. Not everybody falls under the same umbrella as these superstars, so where does that leave all other minorities in sports? Some iconic figures in sports have opened the door for minorities, but just slightly. These pioneers underwent many struggles to overcome a mold they did not fit. These faces are among the athletes that have become pioneers in a fight for racial equality. Racial equality is defined as “an equal regard to all races”. This idea is said to be embraced throughout the sports industry, but the lack of understanding and acceptance of other cultures does not permit that.

Stuart Scott

Who has not heard of that name? Regardless of the knowledge someone has on sports, the name Stuart Scott probably rings some type of bell. Stuart Scott was one of the most well known sportscasters to ever be televised on ESPN and ABC. Although Stuart Scott was not the first African-American sportscaster, he was indeed one of the most iconic sportscasters to ever be seen. Stuart Scott introduced a completely new way to host and televise professional sports. He fused Hip-Hop into his style of hosting and provided a completely different approach to how sports could be viewed. His style of hosting gave a more urban twist to televised television as said by Al Jazeera.

Stuart represented an entire generation of sports fans and sports journalists who watched games through a different prism – a prism shaped by non-mainstream experiences and because he refused to change his style or approach – even when so many critics tried to shame him into doing it – the industry eventually realized how valuable that audience was.

-Al Jazeera

His style of televising sports although greatly embraced, did cause some speculation. His work was criticized because it was said to “lack professionalism” and many blamed that on his racial background. His style was not one that was “wrong,” but due to the inability for it to be understood among others it was not accepted. It is said that people fear what they don’t understand, and in this context it is true. People were intimidated by this new style of commentating and wanted it out. Many encouraged him to set aside his style, and take on the more “normal” style. In this context, “normal” aimed at a more formal style, one that was portrayed mainly as white, or interpreted as such. Although there were many other non-white sportscasters during that time, none of them portrayed a style that veered away from the norm as much as Stuart Scott did. Aside from the barrier that his racial background formed, he managed to not only use it as a motivation, but also to revolutionize the world of sports commentary.

Bill Russell

Bill Russell is what was considered according to  the Professional Basketball Writers Association of America the “Greatest Player in the History of the NBA”. Bill Russell made an image of himself not only as a player, but as a coach. He went to become the first African-American coach to ever coach in the NBA. His career as a coach was not too successful, and that is where we begin to see the difficulty of being a minority and a coach. His coaching was affected due to all the criticism that came from him being a  minority. As a player he was seen as great, but his ability to coach did not meet the expectations set by all other coaches. Clearly, Russell knew the game of basketball well as he won 11 rings, but his talent itself was not enough to overcome the idea that he was simply not good enough to be in the position of a caucasian male. This is due to the cultural atmosphere that was present during his time. The idea was one: white men were an authoritative figure, and blacks were not. That came with misunderstanding from two cultural parties: the white man and the black man. The white male was not accustomed to the idea that a black male could indeed be in power and effectively do so. The black male was not accustomed to the idea of so much control and power being in his hands that when it was there was this confusion on what exactly to do with it.

The Race

There has been an ongoing controversy based on the idea that racism is still a key factor of the sports industry. Although several iconic people such as Stuart Scott and Bill Russell, have attempted to break these social barriers, we can still notice social undertones in sports today. Racism in sports is still evident in the way certain cultural values are neglected. In the Chicago Bulls, for example, it is “frowned” upon to wear headbands, and the players follow. No one is forced to abide, but the headbands are linked to “unprofessionalism”. Players that don’t share that view, are subject to fines or being disqualified from potential signings. The head wear is known to be a characteristic that is a part of street-ball which is primarily played in minority based neighborhoods. The demeaning manner in which headbands are looked with go against the idea of “equality for all”. With the definition, the idea is that equality is given to all races and all that comes with it. Different races come with different cultures and when “accepting” a race, the culture should be as well. I know that there are exceptions in the work force sometimes, but headgear is part of athletic wear and the fact that is looked down upon aims at the idea that there is more to it than simply a lack of “professionalism”.

Sports are said to be more “inclusive” than they were before, and that holds true for their players perhaps(Figure 1), but not in other aspects of sports. The average owner of a NBA team is middle aged or about to be, and with that their mindset comes from a different time era that suggests different norms. The age difference creates a lack of understanding between players and ownership. It is very difficult to conform with players that are mostly minorities when the owner cannot relate or understand most of the players. This is evident with the incident that occurred with the owner of the L.A. Clippers, Donald Sterling. Although this incident occurred in 2014, a time so far from racism, it proves the idea that even decades later someone can still lack the ability to understand other cultures. This social undertone extends to TV announcers and commentators as well. Stuart Scott was said to have revolutionized TV commentating and broaden the spectrum of what is considered commentating, but even then 65% of the commentators are still Caucasian (Figure 2). This suggests that if you are not a pioneer, or hold undeniable talent, you will not make it in the world of sports commentary as easily as a Caucasian.

Figure 1:                                                                      Figure 2:

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The sports industry is one that has undergone a lot of changes, but it is still undeniable that there are racial undertones present within players, coaches, and sports commentary. Its is unrealistic to expect a perfect balance between racial backgrounds, but there is still molds that are yet to be broken. The issue concerned with the lack of racial equality will not be solved until the different cultures and cultural values are not only embraced, but understood as well.