Football is Racist

High school, college, and professional football are racist. I’m not the first to express this unpopular opinion and certainly will not be the last. Hopefully, the number of people who recognize how problematic football is will only increase. I have been wanting to and have been asked to do this post for some time. Please read with an especially open mind. Thank you. 

From roughly 1880-1930 instead of watching and participating in football (depending on the season) on a Sunday afternoon after church or lunch, White people lynched Black men and women and watched and participated in their torture.

Of course this parallel between football and lynching has a few eyebrows raised. As it should. The parallel is not perfect by any means, but, nonetheless, it is an important and relevant parallel when we consider the long history of sanctioned violence and discrimination directed at Black United Statesians. Football is also one very important aspect of civil religion in the United States.

Football is racist because predominately rich White people pay to watch impoverished (I’m not just talking about money) men really hurt each other for entertainment. Most of these men are Black. For example, in 2011, 67 percent of NFL players were Black. Players “are owned” by rich White people. Black football players have little-to-no autonomy and control over what they do and little-to-no free speech. Many Black football players were forced or channeled into playing football as “the only option to avoid prison.” Football is extremely disastrous for one’s health.  

These thoughts, and others, are partially illustrated in the image below. This image was designed by a History professor I met on twitter who has since deleted his account, @darrengrem – since that time another use has taken this handle. His website is here.

racism and football copy 2

With the exception of conversations with my dissertation adviser and three or four colleagues/friends and a few family members, the reaction I get when discussing how football is racist is very negative.

Comments I have received in the past include: 

people do not choose to be lynched……but they choose to play football… [sic]

Hello black athletes have the same choice that any other athlete has play the game and make millions or work like the rest of non athletes hmmm let me see that’s a difficult choice NOT

I’m sorry, but your argument is completely ridiculous!

Black people have always been about money. 

They are too rich for me to feel bad. Millions of dollars

wow i really think you need to get out into the world and stop reading. ya know there are millions of blacks that dont play sports and the ones that do choose to, they are not forced they practice and practice just like their hispanic and white counterparts and they have to try out just like everyone else. the single biggest reason for racism today is because people wont let it die. not saying it doesnt exist but its like a scab, keep picking and it keeps getting more sore. how bout just treating people the same, the past is past, move forward

Why are you hating on football? For someone who thinks we should be tolerant and respectful, you are being the total opposite. I like football, and I always have, but it is far from my religion, and I’m really offended by that remark.

These reactions help speak to the blindness and to the inability to have exercises in thinking when it comes to football, and in some cases, these comments speak to racism, pure and simple.

Money does not really matter if you are unable to live happily and healthily.

We must have broader, more abstract concepts of wealth and choice and responsibly.

We cannot use football as an excuse to avoid important conversations about present-day systemic and institutional discrimination.

Black men need to be allowed to go to school and achieve all the greatness they want to achieve.

Black athletes have also spoken out plenty but we have to look for and listen to their voices. 

White people need to face their stereotypes and consider what en masse enjoyment of football suggests about their hopes and fears.

High school, college, and professional football need serious reconsidering.     

I guarantee in 20-40 years, football will be looked at as one of the nation’s all-too-many tragedies. The news is growing daily, if we listen closely. More and more discontent is being raised about football’s racialized and discriminatory nature. Sports were indeed helpful for advancing equality at one point, but today they function as a new kind of plantation, as termed by historians and sociologist. 

Please consult the following sources as starting points for more information: 

“40 Million Dollar Slaves,” with Bomani Jones — Race Scholars at Rice
LWS William C. Rhoden /40 Million Dollar Slaves
Forty Million Dollar Slaves
 (part 1 of 3)

The New Plantation: Black Athletes, College Sports, and Predominantly White NCAA Institutions
Forty Million Dollar Slaves: The Rise, Fall, and Redemption of the Black Athlete

Lawmakers, Obama butt heads on football
The Superbowl, Bob Dylan, and American Civil Religion
Whites See Blacks as Superhuman