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Let’s help research subconscious racism in sports commentary

Aug 1, 2011, 12:30 PM EDT

B.J. Upton AP

We’re all aware of the subtle racism that creeps into sports broadcasts, writing and general fan chatter.  About how the white guy is a hard worker and the black guy is gifted. About how the Latino guy is lazy and the white dude is nursing a hidden injury.  About how you can tell the hustlers from the loafers by the color of their skin.  It’s all so common. Just ask B.J. Upton here. He gets that crap all the time.

But it’s also totally anecdotal.  We point it out when we see it, but just how pervasive is it really?  That’s the question that Seth from is trying to figure out, all scientific-like.

Seth has been tracking this stuff anecdotally for a long time, but now he and a grad student have come up with a way to quantify the instances of subconsciously-racist commentary, and to do it, they need to pay some people to watch a lot of sports and sports news. To that end, they’ve set up a Kickstarter account to grab some donations.  Click here if you’d like to help the project.

I’m very curious to see what this all amounts to.  Sometimes things are worse than we think. Sometimes we see something objectionable — like the subtle racism — and point it out to the point where it becomes overblown.  I’m not sure how this will all cut, but I’d like to find out.

  1. xpensivewinos - Aug 1, 2011 at 12:40 PM

    Lazy is lazy and hard-working is hard-working for a professional athlete and that emanates from the heart. I’m pretty sure those are all the same color.

    • sjhaack - Aug 1, 2011 at 12:53 PM

      To clarify on your point, this is research to determine how the WORDS are used, not how one would describe any particular athlete. Are the words hustle and grit really reserved for the white middle infielder types of the world, or are we just hearing what we want to hear?

    • The Common Man - Aug 1, 2011 at 12:59 PM

      I can’t tell if you’re the most or least self-aware person ever. Either way, don’t ever change.

      • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Aug 1, 2011 at 1:07 PM

        Nah he’s probably middle management. They can see the effort people are/aren’t giving just by watching them.

        /sarcasm off

    • heyblueyoustink - Aug 1, 2011 at 1:17 PM

      Efffort = breakfast+caffiene+ (A) / Amount of ( B ) + Hours of ( C ) x What the hell are you paying me again?

      A= extra sleep or morning workout
      B= A.C.N.P. ( Alcohol Consumed night previous )
      C= ( ummm, let’s call it “patty cake” )

      The Effort at Work Postulate

  2. shaggylocks - Aug 1, 2011 at 12:47 PM

    That Seth from sure is scrappy!

    • kellyb9 - Aug 1, 2011 at 1:06 PM

      Tough to tell without seeing a picture of him.

  3. phrontiersman - Aug 1, 2011 at 12:47 PM

    I chipped in a couple bucks. Who knows? It could ultimately lead to nothing, but I guess I’ve always been a little curious about this whole thing myself. Might as well see if this could lead to anything new.

  4. lampdwellr - Aug 1, 2011 at 3:24 PM

    I still can’t get over the time I heard someone call an Asian pitcher “calculating” on TV. It was…something.

    • The Common Man - Aug 1, 2011 at 3:42 PM

      At least they didn’t say he was “shifty” or “deceptive.”

      • mgflolox - Aug 1, 2011 at 7:58 PM

        Those descriptions only apply to lefthanders.

  5. skids003 - Aug 1, 2011 at 3:55 PM

    To be perfectly honest, I’m sick and tired of the damn PC police telling me what to say, think, and do. This kind of “research” will turn up however these people want it to turn up. Let it go, for crying out loud.

    • The Common Man - Aug 1, 2011 at 4:05 PM

      Who’s telling you what to say, think and do? These people would like to do a study. Its results may be interesting? How does that interfere with how your brain works in any way, shape, or form?

  6. roteschtrimp - Aug 1, 2011 at 4:01 PM

    Lazy prima donnas are lazy prima donnas. They all have a sense of entitlement. BJ Upton refused to play anything but shortstop for a long time. Bobby Abreu, Mike Lieberthal, and Pat Burrell acted as if the Phillies were a country club. The Phils were an also-ran until they got rid of those guys for a bag of beans. Daisuke Matsuzaka is a head case. Have I left any ethnic group out?

    Ever notice how each of the three teams Aaron Rowand has played for have won the World Series shortly after he joined them? Breaking his face on a wall he knew was dangerous says it all. As long as he’s a player, I want him on my team, and when he retires, I want him managing my team!

    Why are the Red Sox perennial contenders? Dirty uniform guys like Youkilis, Pedroia, Gonzales, Crawford, Elsbury, Varitek, and Wakefield–and most of the rest of the roster. They go all out and “will take one for the club.” Phillies the same way, dirty uniform guys.

    Not that there is not unconscious discrimination going on, but calling Bobby Abreu lazy, for instance, isn’t an example of it.

    • The Common Man - Aug 1, 2011 at 4:04 PM

      I would like to play against your team, provided it regularly employs Aaron Rowand.

    • The Common Man - Aug 1, 2011 at 4:10 PM

      On a more serious note, Rowand has only played in two of those World Series, and only got a grand total of 4 PAs in one of them. One reason Philly did so well in 2008 is because they let Rowand go, went with Shane Victorino instead, and Pat Burrell had such a big year. So, yeah, you’re dumb.

      • Mr. Jason "El Bravo" Heyward - Aug 1, 2011 at 5:44 PM

        Yeah but everyone knows Hawaiians are scrappy and articulate gamer ballplayers.

    • b7p19 - Aug 1, 2011 at 4:41 PM

      I was going to start a rant about how Phillies fans STILL blame Bobby Abreu for all things not his fault and credit his departure more than thay credit the play of the MVP caliber players that DID win them the WS, but this sentence is long enough already.

      Also, I’m guessing Eckstein would start at SS for your “team.” Being a WS MVP and all. Oh, and with Eric Byrnes playing left field. That guy used to dive SO MUCH. This is quite a team you’ve put together so far.

  7. humanexcrement - Aug 1, 2011 at 11:46 PM

    This gets the stupid award of the century to me, and worse, it’s almost certainly done by white yuppies from Vermont or Oregon who have never had a genuine friendship with a non-white person in their lives who are more paranoid about racism than the people who actually have to deal with it. They kind of guys who tip a hispanic pizza delivery guy twenty bucks because they feel bad and go out of their way to be disingenuously nice to the one black guy in the bar because they’re terrified of being perceived as racist. It’s something better served by being discussed openly and honestly, not by researching sports commentary and in the depths of paranoia thinking every time some guy says a black player is a gifted athlete it’s because he’s a closet bigot. Hey, let’s all kiss Jackie Robinson’s ass a little more, not for being a great player, but just for being black. That’ll make it all better. Let’s focus on our differences instead of what we have in common and ensure that our interactions are tinged with fear of offending someone. That’s what I call progress.

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