The Fine White Line In Sports Today

How society’s subconscious dictates a bias perception between white and minority athletes

Within our society today, we’ve become very sensitive and more conscious when it comes to certain injustices and social behavior. With all just cause of course. As our country still continues to deal with systemic racism to police brutality, these times are proving to be a vital part in American history. As we look to sports to be a haven where we can escape from all the madness surrounding us, we now see that even our sports leagues are looking to become more judicial with how they deal with incidents that are socially unacceptable. With all of that being said, in our country, in our collegiate leagues and in our professional leagues, as athletes now face stronger punishments for mistakes they make, we’ve come to a point where there is now a visible double standard occurring in the sports ranks where white athletes are given a clear benefit of the doubt in regards to the crimes they commit and allegations posed against them in comparison to if their minority counterparts faced those same situations. When examining information and looking at the biggest sports stories of 2016 so far, we can see that based on race, there are subconscious presumptions within society that literally impact how white and minority athletes are viewed, treated and ultimately reprimanded for crimes.

Don’t let the picture and nice smile above fool you. This young man was at the center of one of the most disgusting acts committed this year by a high profile athlete. His name? Brock Turner. His crime? Rape. The details? He was caught sexual assaulting a woman behind a dumpster who was unconscious. He claimed it was sensual. If it weren’t for two other students stepping up and stopping this despicable act, he probably would have never got caught. Now everyone would think “Oh, he’s getting a good amount of time for this”, “There’s no way he’s catching a break”, Judge Persky who’s an alum from Stanford issued the following sentence…. 6 months….Everyone in this country was thinking, “Wait he’s not serious right?” “No… he can’t be..” His reasoning for the sentence;

“A prison sentence would have a severe impact on him. I think he will not be a danger to others.” Judge Persky

Now let’s look at another case. Brian Banks a promising black football player who was accused of rape at the age of 16. He sat in jail for a total of 6 years before ultimately being released upon a retrial which deemed him to be innocent from the false accusations made by the accuser. So for two young men who have been accused of the same crime at roughly the same age, one gets 6 months in jail and the other loses 6 years of his life in jail with the glaring difference being the race of these men. Due to Brock Turner being white, coming from a “nice” family and being your standard teenager, he received a six month sentence because it was deemed he can’t handle jail while Brian Banks, who probably comes from the inner city and had a rougher life can handle it? The fact that a judge would look at white male who is a defendant in a rape case with the facts being what they were in Brock Turner’s case and make the ruling as he did is truly what is wrong with the pre-notions that this society is built on. Where you come from and how you grow up should never be a deterrent in regards to the judgment you receive especially when you are guilty of a crime. Brock Turner’s potential experience in jail was deemed more of a concern than the aftermath his actions caused to the victim and her family. Brian Banks was seen as a black man who raped a woman, and that’s all that’s needed to throw him jail no matter how it could affect him physically and mentally knowing he was innocent of any wrongdoing. This disturbing critique and perception of Caucasians and minorities is something that must change in order for us to move forward as a country.

As domestic violence becomes a piercing topic of discussion over the past few years and penalties for committing such acts are becoming more harsh, sports leagues are at the forefront in ensuring that their players understand the severity of these cases and they will be held fully accountable for their actions if they commit said crime. At least that’s what we’ve been made to believe. Ray Rice, former Baltimore Ravens running back was caught on camera knocking out his now CURRENT WIFE in the elevator during what it looked like to be a very heated argument. Everyone was shocked and appalled. A woman should never be manhandled in that way for any reason period. As a result of that video, Ray Rice’s life would never be the same again. Cut by the Ravens, hasn’t been in the league, looking to clear his name at any given turn. Ray Rice is on a mission of redemption but the football world doesn’t seem interested to care about his apologies or new found realization of self. His mistake cost him his career. Should he have been suspended for the year for the act he performed? Of course but in the same breath, if the woman he assaulted in that video ended up forgiving him and ultimately marrying him, can we as a society bring ourselves to give him a second chance? That remains to be seen but lets look at the other end of the color spectrum with regards to the issue of domestic violence.

Before last week, I didn’t know who Josh Brown was. Very few people really did. He is the NY Giants kicker who has come into sports media crossfires after it was discovered he was arrested for a domestic violence incident against his wife last year. What even raised more eyebrows, was he only received a one-game suspension from the NFL in regards to the matter. After the Ray Rice incident, the standard punishment that would be bestowed upon anyone who has committed this act was a minimum of 6 games. So why was Josh Brown given the leniency of only one game as his just due? Especially with information coming to light that there have been about 20 separate occasions of domestic violence in his household? The NFL claims to have done their due diligence over the time frame of 10 months to gain all the facts and make their ruling. When it comes to the NFL and their investigations, they must be taken with a grain of salt at times due to all of the overturns we have seen in regards to other big ordeals they have had to deal with over the past 5 years. But with the issue of domestic violence where is the consistency when it comes to issuing standard punishments for offenders in the NFL? All of the facts must be heard in situations like these of course, but because there wasn’t any video documentation, was that the underlying justification for his punishment? The hypocrisy… So is domestic violence a real issue to the NFL or it is an issue that is evaluated on a case by case basis? Again while all the facts must be heard in these cases, if a woman can remember 20 incidents in which she was a victim of violence in her own household at what point do her accounts gain validity and not go unnoticed? Another interesting fact is, the Giants knew exactly the extent of this arrest when they signed him for a 2 year extension earlier this year. Josh Brown calls it a “moment in time”, if there was no Ray Rice video, would his situation just have flown over as a “moment in time?” What frustrates me about this situation is that once again, a white athlete is receiving a pardon for committing an act that his minority counterpart has been exonerated for. While the cases are different, what logical excuse can be used to defend Josh Brown if he was arrested, there is documentation for that and there are multiple occasions in the past in which he has been violent via recollections from his wife? I’m sure his past transgressions were seen as “mistakes” , Situations in time where his emotions got the the best of him and he lost control. Why couldn’t Ray Rice’s incident be deemed the same way? A horrific mistake that he must deal with and learn from?

The reason why it won’t is because at the foundation of this country, we are still living in times where minorities are placed in a societal constraints because of who we are and where we come from. Minorities aren’t afforded the leeway of making mistakes like Ray Rice and Brian Banks and walking away without huge pieces of their lives being taken away from them. Their white counterparts are traditionally looked upon in way in which they their family, upbringing and community are used as means of deflection as why they couldn’t possibly have committed such a crime. This epidemic is seen through out every industry is this country. Minorities are treated with subconscious bias that will hamper how they are judged and critiqued in this country when they commit crimes. Caucasians don’t have to worry about that because society ensures that they get that second chance, minorities aren’t privileged to get. The system we live in now has been in place for years and as a result, minorities will continue to be unjustly treated and not given their just due in the legal process. Brock Turner and Josh Brown are just two situations that highlight these misconceptions. With a system that is so engrained in our society, our culture, how can we change it? Only time will tell.