Monday, April 19, 2010

U.S. Race Wars

Have race relations begun to slip in the United States? Has the pendulum begun to swing back? There are enough recent events to suggest that our interracial progress as a society has peaked and is now seeing a plummet.

With the election of a Black president, many people (including myself) felt proud about the progress our country has made in our race relations. Some would like to think that our nation's historic racial problems are in the past. While we have made progress, there is still far to go. The signs of progress have not come without a backlash.

There has been a 15% increase in hate groups on the internet. White militias have increased activity and enrollment. There are racist remarks being hurled at elected officials as they walk on Capitol Hill. It doesn't seem a mere coincidence that these events come at a time when the citizens of the United States have elected their first Black president.

Even the NFL can be cited for its unequal treatment in recent years of Black and White athletes. It is well known that many NFL players have had legal troubles. None are more frequently sensationalized as those of Black players. Perhaps the Black players with legal problems get more public and media scrutiny because they tend to be higher up on the athletic totem. Michael Vick, Pacman Jones, and Plaxico Burress are among the Black players that have faced legal problems and resulting sanctions from the league. They are marquee players among the best at their positions. While Burress and Vick were both convicted and subsequently incarcerated, Pacman Jones was only sentenced to probation after a foolish drunken squirmish. However, Pacman Jones was suspended from the league for a whole year, had his reputation destroyed, and has yet to be picked up by an NFL team.

Race relations in the NFL (and more specifically, Roger Goodell's fair treatment of players across racial lines) will now have a serious test as a marquee White player (Ben Rothlisberger) stands accused of 3 Sexual Assaults.

I am a fan of Big Ben. We are both Miami U alums. I have cheered him on in superbowl successes. Ben is not being prosecuted for the 3 rape allegations, but there are shady circumstances surrounding the dropped charges. Missing security tapes and removal of evidence make Ben seem like he may be guilty. I don't write this because I want to see him suspended from the league. I do believe that he should be treated at least equally to Pacman Jones.

Pacman was accused of abusing alcohol and fighting in public. He was accused of being associated with people who committed crimes. But none of Pacman's accusations were as severe and abhorrent as rape. Neither Pacman or Ben Rothlisberger were incarcerated for crimes but both faced being sanctioned by the league for violating personal conduct policy.

For violating the NFL's personal conduct policy, Mike Vick was suspended indefinitely by Roger Goodell. His suspension ultimately lasted for two years while he served prison time for dog fighting. Plaxico Buress was suspended for the two years he had to spend in jail for shooting himself in the leg in a club (criminal possession of a weapon). Pacman Jones was suspended for over a year and a half for numerous off-field behavior problems. He didn't make it through his first season back without getting a 4 game suspension for fighting with his bodyguard. Based on these precedents, shouldn't Big Ben get at least a 4 game suspension?

Roger Goodell has announced that Rothlisberger violated the personal conduct policy of the NFL, but states that he will not disclose when he plans to rule on any suspension.

So what will Goodell do. The public is watching and so are the players. We want to know if the NFL that is dominated by Black athletes, treats those athletes fairly.

Dog fighting, 'Cheddar Bob' shooting your own dumbass self in the leg, disorderly conduct, and Rape. What would you do if you were Goodell? Do you think there is a racial disparity in legal and organizational policy?


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