Issue:  Vol. 48 / No. 12 / 22 March 2018

Jock Talk: Sarcastic symbolism


Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton
Print this Page
Send to a Friend
Share on Facebook
Share on Twitter
Share on MySpace!

Note to readers: In honor of this week's Indigenous People's Day, I shall endeavor to navigate this column without mentioning the Washington Racialslurs in the NFL regular season or the Cleveland Sterotypemascots in the MLB playoffs.

Predictably, football nation reacted angrily more to symbols last week than to real causes and injustices.

You remember football, don't you? In the United States it is that battle among plastic-encased behemoths that survives on constant repetitive head injuries and the slobbering devotion of fans, gamblers, and television executives. It is that communal experience that multiple times per week in season brings us together to forget about our families, friends, healthy diets, emotional balance, and other insignificant distractions so that we can focus on what is truly important and vital in our lives.

Football. And more football. Then more football.

What grabbed the headlines in the football world the past few days was a bit of a sexist comment, a corresponding, but more obscure, bit of a racist personal history, and an elected federal official walking out to protest a protest he apparently is incapable of comprehending.

Sounds just about right for America, 2017.

Let's begin in the news conference theater of the absurd. Last Wednesday, October 4, Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton responded to a question posed by Charlotte Observer journalist Jourdan Rodrigue about pass routes by saying, "It's funny to hear a female talk about routes. It's funny."

Funny as in Neanderthal caveman funny.

Newton soon apologized and later attempted to dismiss his remark as being just "sarcasm" – without explaining how he meant his words to be sarcastic or how that would make them inoffensive – but he could not so easily escape the outraged responses, and the loss of an endorsement deal. Football has an embarrassingly not-so-long-ago history of blatant, unfettered sex discrimination, from blocking female reporters' access to athletes to do their jobs to the kind of foul misogynistic workplace "locker room" talk you'd expect only from the unapologetically uncouth and the president. The NFL has taken some notable steps to try to reverse that image, such as hiring female coaches and banning sexual slander, but comments such as Newton's go right there alongside lightly punished domestic assault cases as evidence that the league still has a helluva long road ahead before it can claim victory.

Of course, the rakers did not take long to turn up a bit of muck on Rodrigue, who in 2013 used racial slurs, including the N-word, on a few Twitter postings. She, too, has since apologized, but again – football has an embarrassingly not-so-long-ago history of blatant, unfettered racial discrimination, from treating African-Americans as intellectually unfit to play quarterback, own a team or be a head coach to the kind of foul racist workplace "locker room" talk you'd expect only from Ku Klux Klan members and defenders of the Confederate flag and statues.

In any event, the ongoing theme this football season distinctive from years past has been the prevalence of players protesting racial injustice and rising violence by sitting or kneeling during pre-game performances of the national anthem.

Those who would play to a gullible redneck political base have attacked the protests as anti-military, anti-anthem, anti-flag and anti-American.

Curiously, not a single one of the protesters has expressed a single anti-flag thought. Or an anti-military stance. Or anti-anthem condemnation. Or anti-American sentiment.

Rather, if you listen closer, they actually want America to be great. Not great as in "great again," as in all of the inescapable flaws of the past, but as great as possible for all who live under its protection. As in, free of discrimination and intra-national violence.

On Sunday, however, the vice president spent an estimated $225,000 or so of the taxpayers' money to fly to his home state so he could make a show of walking out after the playing of the anthem at a game between the Indianapolis Colts and the San Francisco 49ers.

Both teams are pathetic this season, incapable of punching their way out of a paper bag as the saying goes, so the veep obviously did not fly to the game hoping to see a good show of athleticism. Obviously he used taxpayer money so that he would have a platform to conduct the kind of protest both he and his boss have portrayed as "disrespectful" and worthy of immediate termination.

So, since he linked his gesture to a protest against the players' protest of racial violence and injustice, one wonders what exactly was he protesting. Demonstrators wishing for a safer, more tolerant and accepting country?

Or perhaps he was protesting the game and the sport themselves. Perhaps he was acknowledging that the teams suck and the sport is a hazard to human health. Perhaps he was trying to tell his millionaire friends that they stage a crappy form of entertainment and was in fact disrespecting the owners themselves.

Let's face it: it's funny to hear politicians talk about football.


Follow The Bay Area Reporter
facebook logo
facebook logo
Newsletter logo
Newsletter logo
ISSUU logo