YBM Files: Media Treatment of Young Black Athletes
The two most popular sports in the United States are basketball and football while the NFL and NBA are the two most popular sports leagues in not only America, but the world. Both of these leagues have predominantly black athletes and young ones at that. Young people, whether athlete or not, are prone to make mistakes, it's apart of growing up. Unfortunately for these young black athletes their bad decisions sometimes give the media an opportunity to use them as a pinata.
Last time we discussed how the Black athletes of the 60s were more prevalent in social issues. They understood how much influence they had and used it for positive reasons but still received negative treatment from the media. Race played a major part in that and still does in 2014.
Anytime an athlete messes up, the media make sure that athlete's name is drugged through the mud for whatever mistake he made. Before the thought of a second chance is bought up, that athlete will go through weeks, sometimes months, of name-calling and bad headlines.
When Kobe was accused of rape in 2003, his image and name was completely thrown in the dirt. Even when the dust cleared and it was confirmed that it was consensual between Kobe and the Colorado hotel clerk, some outlets and fans still characterized him as a rapist.
Kobe was able to bounce back from that, mainly because he is too great of a player to keep bashing; plus he kept his name clear of any wrongdoing since then, which can be hard for a young black millionaire. But even when you do stay out of trouble and have a clean rap sheet, that one mistake can be your worst--Ray Rice is a prime example of that.
Ray Rice for 6 years was a noble player in the NFL, stayed out of trouble and contributed to the community off the field. Once the news came out that he struck his then-fiance, the world completely turned their back on him. TMZ, which is probably the worst media outlet known to man, made it their job to kill his name by waiting 6 months later to show us something we already knew about, something that Rice was already punished for.
Sometimes I get the vibe that the media pray on the downfall of YBMs just to use them as headlines. The well-being of the athlete is never a concern of the media. Even college athletes must go through this unfair treatment. Cam Newton in 2010 rose to fame with his breakout season, scoring 50 total TDs, but his performance came secondary behind the controversy. Every week Cam name was in the headlines for something, whether it was pay-for-play accusations, his past history at Florida, or sportswriters just attacking his character, labeling him as arrogant and cocky. Many didn't want him to win the Heisman but it was hard to deny the numbers.
Jameis Winston is currently going through what Cam went through, just multiplied by 10. The Noles are currently on a 29-game win streak, Winston is currently undefeated as a starting QB, and the Noles are in the 4-team playoff. According to the media though, none of that matters.
Winston since Week 1 has been the media's star for negative headlines. They look for anything to blast him on, even if it's something small as asking for pictures on Snapchat. Even when he was cleared of all rape allegations that dated back to 2011, some writers still labeled him as a rapist, also pushing for punishment. If the Noles win the championship, I'm sure the media will find something silly to write about instead of how great of a run this has been for Florida State and Winston.
The sad truth is the media controls the perception of these young athletes. They put the bait out there and the piranhas on social media devours it, its an on going cycle. Even though these athletes were, and are, treated unfairly, these athletes must learn to keep their names out of headlines, mainly by stop doing foolish things. The media is out to get you at all times, especially TMZ. If they can find the dirt on you, it will be used against you. I'm sure it's hard for a young man with millions of dollars to stay out of trouble when its temptation around at all times. That's why I asked to my fellow media persons, that instead ostracizing these young men, lets help them grow from their mistakes and become better professionals.