Racial Bias in Mediated Sports Commentary, Essay Example
Race has long been a defining aspect of the American culture. It has even been engrained into the very foundations of American society, as depicted in the American dream. This issue stems from a long history of slave trade, which played a huge role in the development and growth of the American economy. The impacts and side effect of racism in the society as well as the economy has been the topic of research for the past few decades. Racism has been found to be rooted in almost all aspects of society and human interaction (Fletcher and Dashper 1227). However, sports is one of the most affected facets of human living in modern day entertainment. Modern-day mediated sports commentary depicts facets of racism in the manner in which it depicts athletes from different racial backgrounds.
In analyzing the issue of racism in sports, particularly sports commentary, one has to consider three elements that comprise the total impact it has on society. These include; (1) the manner in which sports commentary is racially biased, (2) the manner in which the athletes understand, interpret and express these racial stereotypes, and (3) how audiences understand, interpret and express these racial stereotypes.
This paper will make use of existing research on racism within sports. The Temporal Nature of Racialized Sport Consumption provides the foundation for this paper’s argument as the authors provide an in-depth look at the manner in which existing opinions and perceptions of races by specific interests groups, especially commentators, within sports has considerably affected the manner in which racism is perceived in modern day sports. Kobach and Porter portray the role that mediated sports programming has on racial sterotypes within society. This article underpins the theory that agents of mediating sports, commentatrs, play a significant role in the formulating racial stereotypes in sports. Price and Wolfers in Racial Discrimination Among NBA Referees postulate that NBA referees play an inportant role in shaping racial steretypes in sports through own-race preferences. In Racial Bias in the NBA: Implications in Betting Markets Larsen, Price and Wolfers offer an intricate view of the implications that racial bias has on betting markets. This depicts the fundamental impacts of racial bias in the NBA.
Racial Bias in Sports Commentary
Owing to the global nature and reach of modern-day sports, the manner in which individuals and groups from different racial backgrounds interact is of utmost importance for the sustenance of international relations. However, the problem of racism in sports has taken a new dimension and form through the sports commentary. Commentary plays an important part of any given form of sports. It essentially influences, if not determine, how the audience perceives each player on the field. For this reason, stereotypes in sports commentary have a considerable influence in the manner in which the audience perceives the player, as well as the game in relation to the given player’s racial background.
Research by Denham, Billings and Halone postulated that there are existing biases within sports commentary that racially differentiates and categorizes athletes. The authors theorize that (a) white athletes are noted for their leadership and intellectual abilities, and (b) black athletes are noted for their “natural talent”. Findings from this research coincide with similar incursions into the issue (Denham, Halone and Billings 316). It was found that black athletes are rarely noted for their intellectual or leadership skills. In the same light, athletes of white descent are not perceived as athletic.
The sports commenters involved in all studies were found to have predetermined expectations of athletes, based on the racial background. White athletes were not expected to match up to the athletic ability black athletes possess. However black athletes were not expected to match up to the intellect and leadership skills possessed by white athletes. These general assumptions were found to be consistent across all forms and types of sports.
The implications of existing stereotypes within the media are far too important to consider. The media is a very powerful modern communication tool. The media in many ways has become the determinant of what is trendy and in fashion. This is owing to the fact that many individuals tend to perceive what is on mass media to be the truth. This is because human psychology is naturally hardwired to follow the majority rule; “if everyone accepts it, it’s okay” (Schmidt and Coe 656). Mass media has the most considerable power of influence as it can tell its audience what to believe to be true or morally/politically correct. The power held by mass media has been depicted in previous research.
According to Denham’s findings, sports commenters are more likely to highlight an athlete’s race rather than the specific genealogical biography of each athlete. It was also found that when four experienced sport commenters were asked to code the races of athletes, they could generally code athletes’ races within two broad categories. This could be achieved with 100% agreement between the coders at the instance of watching the athlete’s telecast videotape. Another interesting finding is that there most commentary does not mention any racial background apart from the two main categories identified by the coders.
Further research states that the media has three instances of exerting pragmatic influence to their audience. These include;
- vindicating their audiences own convictions
- offering advice(Kobach and Potter 1415-1417)
The magnitude of influence a sport broadcaster has in compounded by the fact that the conversation and relationship between the audience and the speaker is asymmetric. This asymmetric nature of communication abates both the audience and the speaker from exercising their justificatory obligations of the statements made. Hive compares this to a similar relationship between scientists and laypeople. Possessing experience and extensive knowledge in a given area automatically validates every claim made by an individual. As such, sports broadcasters perceived to be “experts” in an area have considerable influence on their audiences.
By giving considerable airplay to music and movies that depict violence and guns, it creates the illusion of what is considered cool and/or acceptable by society. This encourages individuals to engage in acts of violence using guns.
Implications of Racial Bias in Sports Commentary
Racial bias in sports commentary has a considerable and lasting effect on society. Owing to the strong influence that the media exerts on the general public, racial bias has become rooted within all forms of sports, affecting all stakeholders’ perceptions of athletes based on racial background. Racial bias in sports commentary has two distinct effects, (1) the manner in which the athletes understand, interpret and express these racial stereotypes, and (2) how audiences understand, interpret and express these racial stereotypes.
Implications on Athletes
Career athletes excel and thrive off creating a name or curving out a niche within the sport. A considerable portion of this is influenced by the manner in which the media portrays them. When sports commentary persistently portrays athletes in a specific manner based on their racial background, the image painted by the sports commentary becomes associated with athletes of similar racial background (Schmidt and Coe 657). As such, athletes assume a public persona imposed by the media, affecting their own perceptions of their racial background and others not of their racial background, relative to their performances.
Mass media therefore compounds the effect of the fact that individuals’ self-concept is derived from their group membership. When an athlete receives positive feedback relating to their performance, these attributes are generally imposed on members of similar racial background. A salient example can be found in the history of Brazil, branded the greatest footballing nation in the world. Pelé and the 1958 Brazilian football team played very attractive football to win Brazil its first World Cup. Brazil would then continue to post a number of impressive performances that lifted to the pedestal of greatest football nation in the world. Ever since then, all Brazilian players have been perceived to be technically superior to players from other nations. For this reason, such players are highly sought after and regards themselves superior.
Implications on Audiences
Mass media is an essential part of communication. It enables individuals, companies and governments convey messages and ideas to many people at a go. However, it is important to consider the fact that mass media, including TV, radio and newspapers, have great influence in shaping people’s ideas. Audiences tend to accept information and claims made by experts, regardless if the fact that this information and claims may be their own opinion (Larsen, Price and Wolfers 5). As such, the expectations of audiences varies greatly relative to the information and ideology perpetuated by mass media. Audiences therefore expect white athletes to display better intellectual and leadership skills, while black athletes are only expected to depict their athletic and physical prowess in the field of play. This is also depicted in sports gambling. The racial composition of a team relative to the racial background of the officials tends to affect the spread of betting (Larsen, Price and Wolfers 5, 6).
One of the counter arguments against the claim that racial bias does exist in mediated sports is pegged around new advancements within sports commentary. Since the beginning of the 2004, there have been a number of programs within the sports industry that have been directed towards addressing racial bias in sports. Recent research depicts that a goring number of colored individuals receive acclaim for their leadership and technical skills. One of the most significant evidences of this can be found in the NBA. An increasing number of colored athletes are being noticed for their leadership skills.
In conclusion, the media has considerable influence on perceptions relating to sports performance and race. There exists racial bias in mediated sports commentary as depicted in the manner in which players of specific racial backgrounds are highlighted and presented to the audience. Most of the racial groupings made by sports commenters can be categorized into two. These grouping form the majority race of most players within sports, in particular outfield sports. The manner in which commenters highlight a player of a given race automatically becomes the benchmark upon which all players of a similar background would be measured. As such, people’s understanding, interpretation and expression of these racial biases predominantly stems from the measure that sports commentary uses to gauge all players.
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Fletcher, Thomas and Katherine Dashper. Diversity, equity and inclusion in sport and leisure. London: Routledge, 2014. Print.
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Kobach, Matthew J and Robert F Potter. “The role of mediated sports programming on implicit racial stereotypes.” Sport in Society: Cultures, Commerce, Media, Politics (2013): 1414-1428. Print.
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Mastro, Dana, et al. “The Wide World of Sports Reporting The Influence of Gender-and Race-Based Expectations on Evaluations of Sports Reporters.” Journalism and Mass Communication Quarterly (2012): 458-474. Print.
Price, Joseph and Justin Wolfers. Racial Discrimination Among NBA Referees. Cambridge: National Bureau of Economic Research, 2007. Electronic Source.
Schmidt, Anthony and Kevin Coe. “Old and New Forms of Racial Bias in Mediated Sports Commentary: The Case of the National Football League Draft.” Journal of Broadcasting & Electronic Media (2014): 655-670. Electronic Source. 2015 February 24. <http://s3.amazonaws.com/academia.edu.documents/35959897/Schmidt___Coe_2014-libre.pdf?AWSAccessKeyId=AKIAJ56TQJRTWSMTNPEA&Expires=1424774981&Signature=TnjYTDHvnvT1jJhmHLH7XTf20bU%3D>.
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