I was talking to a buddy of mine about my pick for our fantasy football season and one of the picks hinges on the fact that Minesota doesnt have a QB… Then as we are talking I look up and ESPN is doing a blast about Brett Favre possibly seeing his shadow and maybeing thinking about letting the packers know if he would take a trade, the starting spot or just hover of the stadium like the Jesus glass at Notre Dame… Saw this article online about how Steven A Smith is making a point to say enough with the Brett coverage and how if it was a black Qb someone would have said “nigga make up your mind already” …. with that in mind… its a good read.
ESPN’s bias in its coverage of white vs. black misbehaving athletes is not merely a product of any paranoid imagination, but can be easily quantified via its website, TV, and radio coverage (see final paragraphs). For a long time Sports On My Mind has been banging this drum and will continue as long as necessary. ESPN’s problem is one of entrenched institutional bias where it is not uncommon that black athletes get TV segments for traffic tickets  while white athletes charged with far more serious crimes get the mandatory minimum coverage.
The “great white pass” has gotten so bad that, thankfully, some voices from within ESPN are finally saying: “enough is enough”. Ignited by ESPN’s ongoing “love affair” with Brett Favre that is even making Tyler Hansbrough jealous, Stephen A. Smith has recently been raising the issue. On Thursday on 1st and 10, Smith gets warmed up:
Smith on Favre: “I want to make it clear to everybody out there that I don’t have a problem with Brett Favre the football player. I know how great he has been. What I have a problem with is what I think has been just this strenuous effort to give this man the benefit of the doubt in every single thing he has done. He is a football player. That is all he is…. Bottom line: He is not infallible, he makes mistakes, he has flip-flopped, he has been inconsistent, he has been selfish, he has been inconsiderate of his teammate in Aaron Rodgers. All of these things come to pass and I believe in my heart that if I had heard that more over the last few months than perhaps I wouldn’t be so diligent and so emotional about Brett Favre. …”
Smith’s comments speak for many who have watched the Favre coverage unfold. As the deification of Favre was reaching epic proportions back in March, SOMM’s D.K. Wilson cited many illustrative examples of this media lovefest which including this one by NFL.com’s Adam Schefter:
“When Packers wide receiver Javon Walker considered holding out of training camp a few years ago, Favre ripped him the way callers to sports talk radio would. Favre didn’t like the idea of a player not honoring his contract the way we don’t like the idea of a player not honoring his contract. Favre spoke for us.”
Leaving many dissenters wondering exactly who “us” were, Schefter pulled a rabbit out of a hat by turning one of sport’s most selfish acts into an incredibly noble Favre moment. As Wilson pointed out, NFL contracts are not guaranteed and Favre broke standard NFL etiquette about protecting teammates. And as fate would have it, Javon Walker would end his holdout, subsequently tear up his knee in the Packers very first game that year, and likely lose untold millions in future earnings. Schefter’s comments are merely one of a slew of examples of twisted Favre-loving coverage.
After Smith’s initial commentary on 1st and 10, partner Skip Bayless rightfully honed in on the broader context fueling Smith’s disdain. Bayless interjected: “I will admit that you are correct that the whitemedia over the years has been a little overprotective of Brett Favre and I’ve said this on this show”. While Smith may have wondered if “a little overprotective” was “a little understated”, he went on to address the larger issue of “The Great White Pass” in mainstream media.
Smith: And that’s the thing… Whether it’s a Roger Clemens or a Mark McGwire, to me it doesn’t have to be about steroids, it’s the same thing that I’m talking about. I’m talking about equitable and fair treatment: not just under the law, but under the guise of the media. You are supposed to cover everybody. If you are talking about Barry Bonds – I know he is considered acerbic and abrasive – but let’s deal with the issues because Clemens was just as popular as Barry Bonds. He is a future Hall of Famer as well, but now that he is walking into the sunset, the heat is coming on him when it should have came on him years earlier. Brett Favre, the heat should have came on him before, why are we waiting until now.
Smith’s question of “why are we waiting until now” is fundamental to understanding how “The Great White Pass” operates. There is a long historical record of mainstream sports media, and especially ESPN, not covering the misdeeds of white athletes — until forced. There is no truer example than Mark McGwire. To this very day few know about 1991 Operation Equine federal steroid sting that implicated Big Mac and many subsequent events were also ignored . Clemens was protected for years until The Mitchell Report, terrible lawyer advice, and his own personal arrogance forced the media into coverage . ESPN reporters often went to absurd lengths to extend benefit of the doubt to Andy Pettitte’s steroid use. Now Favre’s selfishness is finally being exposed because the “benefit-of-the-doubt” fountain has been milked completely dry.
The mainstream sports media will often spend great amounts of resources investigating black athletes suspected of misbehavior (see Barry Bonds, OJ Mayo, Adam Jones), but won’t investigatete, won’t report, and will even blatantly ignore the misbehaving white athlete until absolutely forced by outside entities. (note: the lone exception is The New York Daily News whose steroids I-Team has regularly investigates and exposed white athletes such as McGwire; Giambi; Clemens; Andy Pettitte; Rick Ankiel; Troy Glaus, etc.). And there is no greater purveyor of the great white pass than ESPN. And Smith ends his statement by making this point very clear:
Smith: “I would like to see people point that out including people at this network. That’s right – I said it. As opposed to this love affair with [Brett Favre]… and because of that we just sweep all the selfishness aside. We would point it out about everybody else. Let’s point it out about him, and then you’ve got no problems with me. You’ve got no problems with me if you do that.”
Besides notable exceptions of Sal Paolantonio (on-field) and Jemele Hill (off-field), few ESPN staffers have offered any real critcism of Favre. Smith’s remarks about ESPN come only one day after making similar remarks on the same show, and one week after Smith sounding off in no uncertain terms (see video). Predictably, the bombastic Smith and his claims will be dismissed or marginalized by many who can’t receive a message without approving of its messenger. However, ESPN’s “Great White Pass” is not some subjective opinion – it is a simple fact of how ESPN runs its business. Its viewers and readers — consciously or subconsciously — wish for more positive stories about white athletes and more negative ones about black athletes — and ESPN gives them what they want.
ESPN’s customer service comes in a variety of forms when depicting the misbehaving white athlete. This includes: 1) fewer website articles; 2) different tenor, tone, and length of those articles ; 3) less coverage on their ESPN afternoon shows ; 4) more apologists for those athletes; 5) less racial stereotyping; 6) treatment as an individual and not as part of a racial group or indicative of their “league”; 7) greater explanation of surrounding “context”; and 7) refusal by ESPN to expend its resources to investigate a story further .
Finally, it is impossible to separate ESPN’s “great white pass” from ESPN’s lack of racial diveristy amongst its journalists. A clear pattern has emerged where white writers will rarely investigate or write disparaging articles about white iconic figures until absolutely necessary. And the few criticisms of any kind of figures like Favre or Clemens disproportionately come from black journalists. But that is a subject for another article. Until then, lets hope that other ESPN staffers with more institutional clout than Stephen A. Smith will step up firmly and loudly to help clean ESPN’s own house of its unacceptable biases. Are you listening Chris Berman?