White privilege must be acknowledged in athletics
By JOSEPH LANGLEY
Racism is everywhere and it is not subtle: in the working environment, social environment and even learning environment. Even on this nation’s biggest stages, bigotry, racism and white privilege is extremely visual. Calling out acts of racism and acknowledging white privilege is vital to improving society.
Recently, Utah Jazz small forward and guard Kyle Korver came out with an article via “The Players Tribune,” titled “Privileged.” In the article, Korver sites two instances in which he caught himself exemplifying white privilege.
In the first instance, his former teammate Thabo Sefolosha was beaten by police officers outside a Manhattan night club in 2015. Sefolosha suffered a season-ending leg injury from the impact of a police baton. Korver stated he was not aware of the situation until the next morning when he heard about it from the team’s group chat.
Korver said he is not proud of his initial reaction. He said, “What was Thabo doing out at a club on a back-to-back?? Yeah. Not, How’s he doing? Not, What happened during the arrest?? …… I thought, Well, if I’d been in Thabo’s shoes, out at a club late at night, the police wouldn’t have arrested me. Not unless I was doing something wrong. Cringe.”
Sure enough, months later, Thabo was found innocent on all charges and settled his lawsuit with New York City, receiving 4 million dollars. The other example Korver sited occurred just last month, when the Jazz played a home game against the Oklahoma City Thunder.
Oklahoma City star point guard Russell Westbrook was caught on camera jabbering back and forth with a Jazz fan. Korver was asked post game from a reporter if he had seen the incident, which he did not, but added “But you know Russ. He gets into it with the crowd a lot.” Later, it was found out that the fan was screaming degrading and racially charged insults.
Korver ends the article by expressing the importance in white people holding other white people accountable, and the power of listening. Korver summarized his point, saying, “I believe that what’s happening to people of color in this country right now, in 2019 is wrong. The fact that black Americans are more than five times as likely to be incarcerated as white Americans is wrong. The fact that black Americans are more than twice as likely to live in poverty as white Americans is wrong. The fact that black unemployment rates nationally are double that of overall unemployment rates is wrong. The fact that black imprisonment rates for drug charges are almost six times higher nationally than white imprisonment rates for drug charges is wrong. The fact that black Americans own approximately one-tenth of the wealth that white Americans own is wrong. The fact that inequality is built so deeply into so many of our most trusted institutions is wrong. And I believe it’s the responsibility of anyone on the privileged end of those inequalities to help make things right.”
UMW students shared their thoughts on Korver’s article. Junior communications major Alex Caldas said, “White privilege in the NBA exists.The fact that 75 percent of the NBA consists of African Americans, and some fans continue to come to games to support their team yet think it is okay to make racist and crude remarks to the players is outrageously unfair.”
Caldas is right. For a sport that was once all white, the fact that 75 percent of the NBA is now African American shows the impact they have made on the league. That requires respect, not only from other famous people, but from society as a whole. The fact that players face blatant racism at their games proves that society has a long way to go toward treating all people with respect.
Senior art major Ryan Lopez said, “Racism in sports is the equivalent to modern slavery.” This is an interesting point, as one can make this point especially from the story about Russell Westbrook and the Utah Jazz fan. The players are directed to ignore the fans no matter what, no matter how vulgar their words are. Westbrook is a human being however, and like all others will not and should not be treated as anything less than that.
It is apparent that people can learn from Kyle Korver, and take on the responsibility of holding one another accountable when it comes to privilege.