Embracing Liminal Identity : Uncovering Hidden Diversity : Celebrating Cultural Mobility

5 Racial Controversies Within Professional Sports

Sports are filled with excitement, competition, and controversy. We love to discuss all the great things that happen within the game, but after all it is just a game. Often times, the controversy that come with the excitement is more important than anything that happens on the field. Racism has been a prominent issue in sports since the days of Jackie Robinson. And unfortunately, it still rears its ugly head today. Here is a list of some of the most well-documented racial controversies involving athletes and organizations.

Donald Sterling: Earlier this year, Donald Sterling was at the center of a highly notarized discrimination lawsuit brought upon by the National Basketball Association. At the time, Sterling was the owner of the Los Angeles Clippers and had that position since 1981. Sterling was unknowingly recorded saying discriminatory remarks towards Latinos and African-Americans. After a lengthy process, Sterling was given a lifetime ban from the NBA and was forced to sell the Clippers, although against his will. The team was purchased a few months later for $2 billion.

Photo Courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons (Zennie Abraham)

Photo Courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons (Zennie Abraham)

Mario BalotelliSoccer is arguably the most culturally diverse sport due to its massive popularity throughout the globe. With that come fans who have strong viewpoints. Mario Ballotelli is one of the most well-known names in international soccer. Although he was born in Italy, Balotelli’s parents were immigrants of Ghana. Throughout his career, Balotelli has often been the target of racist remarks due to his skin color. He has even been targeted by his own Italian fans. While training for the World Cup, Balotelli was harassed by spectators and was tormented with racial slurs. He responded by saying, “”These stupid people, they get angry with me, they say horrible things, but I haven’t done anything different from other people.”

Photo Courtesy of Wikipedia

Photo Courtesy of Wikipedia

Wayne SimmondsWayne Simmonds, an African-American hockey player found himself in the middle of perhaps one of the most repulsive racial controversies in modern day sports. During an exhibition game in 2011, a spectator tossed a banana peel in the direction of Simmonds while he was on the ice. Professional hockey is a sport predominantly comprised of white, European players. Simmonds claimed he has been the subject of racial remarks throughout his career, but had never been the subject of an attack like this. The fan who tossed the banana was hit with a $200 fine.

Photo Courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons (Bridget Samuels)

Photo Courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons (Bridget Samuels)

Jeremy LinIt is not uncommon for drunken, naive fans to be at the center of racial issues. But when professionals are to blame, it is even more unsettling. Jeremy Lin once was an noname bench player for the New York Knicks until he emerged as a star. And for sportswriters who enjoy the use of puns, there couldn’t have been a better scenario. “Lin-sanity” and “Lincredible” are just a few of the puns used by writers to describe his tremendous and unexpected play. That is until an columnist took it too far. A few hours after the Knicks lost in a game where Lin played poorly, ESPN used the headline “Chink In The Armor,” which was targeted at Lin’s poor performance. Following this insensitive remark, Lin stated that the derogatory term “chink” had been directed at him during his college career at Harvard. The employee who ran the headline was eventually fired as a result of his inexcusable actions.

Photo Courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons (nikk_la)

Photo Courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons (nikk_la)

Washington RedskinsThe Washington Redskins have been at the center of a numerous allegations claimed the term “Redskins” is a derogatory term directed at Native Americans. Various Native American groups have voiced their complaints against the team’s name by claiming that it is offensive. Team officials deny that the term has any racist meaning by claiming that the name, “honors where we came from, who we are.” As of right now, the team has no plans to change the name and is sticking with their definition of the term. In an effort to hinder the criticism, Redskins owner Dan Snyder recently watched a Redskins game alongside the president of the Navajo Nation.

Photo Courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons (Keith Allison)

Photo Courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons (Keith Allison)

By: Connor Hayden

Connor is currently a Senior at Colorado State University, studying Journalism and Media Communication with a minor in Business Administration. Sports are his ultimate passion and he hopes one day he can find a profession in the field.